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Thanks to fairy tales and Disney movies, little girls know with absolute certainty that the prince will always come to the rescue of the princess at the end of the story.

Or at least that’s how every fairy tale we went to bed hearing as children ended.

And so for years we put on our tiaras, laid our impressionable little heads on pillows and drifted off into stress-free slumber with visions of perfect fairy tale endings. Just the stuff dreams are made of.

And this is the point where we owe every man alive an apology.

It’s no wonder men struggle to live up to our expectations. It’s not that our princes are inadequate; it’s that our expectations are not realistic. We expect them to save us from lonely towers, poison apples, and fire-breathing dragons. And we expect them to get that work done in short order on a daily basis while they are facing their own dragons.

We expect them to deliver “happily ever after.”

So, does the stuff of fairy tales really exist? Are there knights in shining armor just looking for a damsel to rescue? Is there really a “happily ever after?”

Recently I spent the day asking both men and a woman if they believed “happily ever after” really exists. The answers were pretty predictable. Many women said no and were adamant about it. A few said yes, but they agreed you have to work for it. I never did get a straight answer from the men. One even said, “I don’t understand the question.”

But the most profound answer came from the mouth of my own little girl, the daughter I had read bedtime fairy tales to years ago. All grown-up now, she put into words what many had not been able to do:

“Of course it exists,” she said over dinner, with a mouth full of spaghetti. “The fact is, everyone is responsible for their own happy. We all have the ability to experience ‘happily ever after’ on a daily basis.”

She’s absolutely right. The truth is, “happily ever after” does exist. But it has nothing to do with being rescued by a handsome prince (although that wouldn’t hurt). It doesn’t hinge on a relationship. It has everything to do with each person finding their own happy.

So how can we experience “happily ever after?”

I have a few thoughts about that.

First, to the gals: Take note - little boys do not grow up to become perfectly built, impeccably groomed men whose only job is to protect us. They come in all shapes and sizes and actually have jobs that have nothing to do with fighting dragons. Most will rescue the person they love if given the chance. They will slay dragons for you. The challenge is you have to communicate that you need them to do that. And we girls aren’t very good at that.

To the guys: Women are not Barbie dolls with legs that never end and flawless makeup. Barbie looked good but her head was empty. Ours are not. We are smart. So put your swords away, we don’t need rescuing (well, maybe we do a little). What we really need is to feel cherished above whatever is taking up most of your time.

All this aside, I refuse to believe that fairy tales are all fantasy. Call me delusional, but there’s a small part of me that still believes – hopes – for that fairy tale experience. After all, I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, so it’s easy to picture a “happily ever after” ending. And I’ll bet that every girl reading this feels the same way.

I’d bet my tiara on it.

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