While visiting Disney World's Magic Kingdom, I resisted the urge to meet Prince Charming. Rumor had it, he could be found working in Cinderella's Castle Gift Shop hawking costume jewelry, but I knew my son would never let me live it down if I did happen to have a close encounter of the Prince-Charming kind. Besides, Jack would not be caught dead in Cinderella's Castle. "That's girls' stuff," he complained when we strolled past on our way from Splash Mountain to Space Mountain. Okay, fine. So I didn't meet the man who has taunted me most of my life as the epitome of manhood against which all other men would pale.
Actually, my Prince Charming criteria has changed of late. Living happily-ever-after with a man who is sponging off a royal trust fund, breaking spells by means of a kiss and slaying the occasional dragon is not my ideal anymore. In my Do-Over Life, I'm establishing new criteria.
Not too long ago, my friend George gave me a list of attributes that I should stick to when considering my next beau: "Concentrate only strong, well educated, rich, and—most important—kind and caring men." George is one of the happiliest married men I know, so I value his opinion on relationships. And his list seems fairly basic. (I like the "rich" part, but of course that's relative. I mean, are we talkin' Warren Buffet rich, or just normal I've-been-funding-my-401K-since-age-twenty-five kinda wealthy? I'll settle for "has a job and is financially responsible.")
My P-C list has certainly shifted since I was last single. In my thirties, I was interested in being with a guy who was fun, liberal, creative and smart. I suppose I considered the fact that I might have children with this man, but honestly, that wasn't top of mind while I was dating back then. As it happened, I did marry a man who was/is a good father, and who has contributed in many ways to creating a beautiful, intelligent, healthy child. And in my thirties, I thought if there were attributes in a man that didn't quite align with my ideals, they could be amended over time. People change and mature. In the best of relationships, couples grow together, even if their interests diverge from time to time. But when it came down to it, the most important aspect I was seeking in a relationship was security. That was my folly.
Unlike Cinderella (or Snow White or Sleeping Beauty), the assurance of happily ever after is not so simple as being whisked off to the castle. Sure, the castle provides stability, but even with servants to wait on you hand and glass-slippered foot, "home" doesn't insure that you will never feel alone again. And that is what often happens in relationships, even though we are physically present with our spouses, we may still feel alone. That feeling is of our own making.
Jack, however, at age nine, already has this aspect of relationships figured out. While at dinner last week with my friend, Tom, Jack brought up the fact that his Dad and I are divorcing. "How do you feel about that?" asked Tom. "It's okay," Jack said. "They are happier now and they don't fight anymore." He paused before adding, "You know, being married doesn't make you happy."*
So taking a cue from my wise-beyond-his-years son, I am doing the good practice (Buddhist or otherwise) to become a happy person on my own. In Do-Over mode, I'm still in flux. I believe one must be solid in her convictions, view of the world and purpose before entering into a relationship that's based on more than make believe. In other words, until I define who I am at this point in my life, there's no way I can determine who my next Prince Charming could be. So better to wait for a while—not slumber, mind you—but tidy the garret and hone my talents talking to woodland creatures and such, because, right now, even if the most charming of men stood before me with my shoe in his hand, I probably wouldn't recognize him.
* Hand to God, Jack said this. You can ask Tom Wages if you don't believe me.