It whispers, gushes and giggles, blushing a shade of serenity so sincere that even MAC can’t coerce it into compact form.
It curls up at the foot of an ambition-laden table set for two, basking in the glow of candles lit by the unknown and fed by youth.
It slips down Taylor Swift’s guitar strings and turns beasts into dreamboats when it falls from the cheeks of beauties named Belle.
It swims in the folds of ephemeral silk and clings to Cinderella’s gown as she glides into the arms of a magical realization: So this is love.
Love — animated and scripted versions of life tell us — is a relatively simple something that can be secured with a kiss or the slaying of a dragon or a glass slipper.
Whose bright idea was it to leave giddy 10-year-old girls sucking on Sour Patch Kids and carelessly swinging their Sketchers over the sticky floor with the impression that this is the definition of love?
The credits roll, and all you have left to go on for the next 10 years is a canker sore and a conviction that merely finding your man equals martial bliss.
What I’ve learned in the time since those starry-eyed, big-screen days is that while love can be all those warm, wispy things, “the end” of those love stories was really just the beginning.
Those scenes were merely eternal adoration in embryo.
We can continue to consume the frosted flakes of fairytales, but let’s not forget the staying power of life’s later years — the span where love lacks sugarcoating but offers more emotional nutrition than the fairytale flakes ever could.
If we’re going to tell a love story, let’s include the part where Cinderella’s frail, wizened frame swims in the gown that once cradled her curves. When she loses her tan leather slipper — the one that never did match the blue pump she put on her left foot this morning — because her mind has sealed the box where she once kept hiding places and color wheels and her children’s names — and even her own name.
When she won’t remember the face of the prince who stoops slowly to replace the shoe he retrieved from under the kitchen sink. When he helps her into her wheelchair because even if her slender legs had the strength to walk, they wouldn’t be able to wonder a block from her castle without getting lost.
And when we tell this tale, let’s emphasize the fact that even as Prince Charming wipes away the mint toothpaste Cinderella thought would hold her hair like Suave, he does so gently, never chiding her for unwitting childlike choices. He cares for the body that bore their children, the hands that served Sunday dinner promptly at 6 and the spirit he cemented himself to 50 years ago.
Show me Prince Charming pushing the wheelchair of a Cinderella who can no longer string together the parts of speech necessary to say, “Thank you.”
Then show me Cinderella seated before that big screen in the sky. You know, the one that displays montages of the most important scenes from our mortal lives. Show me that moment when she watches, for the first time, the way Prince Charming poured her glasses of milk, picked out her clothing, blow-dried her hair and cradled her hand for all those years while her body sat beside him but her spirit couldn’t respond.
There, in that sweet spot in Heaven reserved for her royal soul, she will walk in on something she thought she understood decades ago on the ballroom floor. Something she didn’t have the capacity to understand then. Something Hollywood left on the cutting-room floor:
So this is love.