My generation is often referred to as Generation Y, or the Millennials, and while some given definitions (self-entitlement) are valid, I like to call my generation, and arguably my parent’s generation, something else.
I like to call us the fairy tale generation, plagued with unrealistic expectations of a human’s role in society based on their gender.
Also, a miscategorization of women based on appearance.
Before I could read, I would lie in crisp Barbie sheets, surrounded by princess dolls and listen to stories about damsels in distress rescued by a prince, their true love.
I fell asleep imagining grand ballrooms and sparkling dresses similar to those in the box at the foot of my bed, and from a young age, I kept a mental folder, planning my wedding.
Sometimes, I would dance around the kitchen, bare feet to the linoleum floors, twirling in a tutu to Elvis Presley and pretending the kitchen was a ballroom and my invisible dance partner was my prince.
None of these things are particularly unfamiliar to other girls my age.
I was introduced to every princess movie, and I thought I would grow up to be a petite, beautiful young woman with unrealistically large blue eyes and very, very long hair. (Rapunzel was my favorite.)
As I got older, I thought I had to be meek, vulnerable and weak if I was going to find Prince Charming, and the list of expectations I held of him weren’t anywhere near as long as the one I had for myself.
You see, up until recently, the princes in those films and in all of those bedtime stories lacked character; they were so lacking in substance; not that they were bad people. There was no way to know.
I really didn’t expect much from a boy, except that he rescue me.
In all of those films, he just kind of steps onto the scene, gives the doe-eyed damsel in distress a winning smile, fights and defeats the villain, and then sweeps the damsel off her feet to ride off into the sunset.
Fairytales stole my self-worth and they warped my idea of the real world into something that cripples me, if I’m being honest, even now.
As I grew up, I would look at myself in the mirror and I didn’t live up.
I’m 5-7 — significantly taller than Ariel when she gets her legs — my hair is frizzy and slow to grow, and my eyes are a murky, pond-sludge-esque green.
I didn’t know for the longest time that a woman could get a job, save money, buy a house, and live happily on her own until she found a suitable partner.
I thought I would be living at home until I was 27, until Mr. Right showed up at my door or threw pebbles at my window.
As I got older and my ambition grew, I was surprised to realize I liked more than domestic activities. I felt trapped.
Women shouldn’t feel trapped just because they find they’re talented.
Women shouldn’t feel worthless when they find that they’re worth more than just being housewives.
Despite this, I have every intention of getting married and every intention of having children, and if I am so blessed, I have every intention of being a stay-at-home mom for at least a short period of time.
But over the years, I have realized that’s because that is where my heart lies. I’ve thought about it long and hard, weighed the consequences and thought about where I want my story to end. I want it to be with my husband and children.
But I don’t think that’s every woman’s destiny.
I think women should have a say in what they do for the rest of their lives, and I don’t think taking someone else’s last name should be required.
As I got older, coming to this realization that love doesn’t come as easily as the stories tell you was heartbreaking.
I use “heartbreaking” in its truest sense. Realizing that I wasn’t going to just walk into a perfect relationship broke me, and I had to put myself back together.
Putting myself back together made me realize what a real woman can be, and the possibilities a real woman can be aside from the fairy-tale definition and snagging a man.
Putting myself back together made me realize the kind of man I deserve, someone who will dance with me in our kitchen one day. Someone who will respect my decision to stay home or not. Someone who isn’t threatened by what I choose to call myself.
The process of mending my own shocked, disappointed and broken heart taught me how strong I really am, and how much better it feels to star as my own hero.