When I was a little girl of seven, I swallowed the “Prince Charming” myth whole. I cried watching the movie Sleeping Beauty, because I wanted my own prince to come. Then adolescence happened and I found myself a wallflower– not only at socials but in everyday life as well. Few friends and no dates. I had one good friend who was best friends with someone else which somehow negated our relationship. I was painfully shy and full of anxieties. College was a little better. I had my first boyfriend, a run of relationships that mostly went nowhere fast and, again, few friends. High school peers were marrying off. My brief brush with marriage to a Sri Lankan ended when he went back home, promising to return. He never did.
And then it happened, totally out of the blue and beyond my control, I fell in love with an older, West Indian woman at work. I became obsessed with a relationship that was never to be and nearly lost my job in the process. Unable to handle such feelings on so many levels, I went free fall into a downward spiral of depression and psychosis, commonly called a nervous breakdown. It lasted for years. But I still believed in love and Prince Charming (in this case, “Queen” Charming). For years I lived in the netherworld of mental illness, locked in isolation. I explored being gay but like my college relationships, all failed. I will never know the truth of all that happened between the West Indian woman and me. After testing many medications before arriving at the right cocktail, years of therapy taught me about my own fears of love and how to love. I was diagnosed Bipolar but treated as if I had Asperger’s as well, since I could not decipher what in hell’s name was going on in social relationships. I was not officially diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder until some 30 years later.
One day I grew strong enough to stand up to life. For the first time, I could think of what I wanted in a person and look for it. After all I had been through, I still believed in the “Prince Charming” myth. But he never found me. I found him. He didn’t sweep off my feet. I swept him into my arms. I understood him because he was Aspie like me. I knew if I did not make a move he never would. So, with heart-pounding fear, I asked him out and then he asked me out, and we bumbled along and married 4 years later, after I basically said “now or never.”
We remain happily married almost 24 years later. And so came “happily ever after.” But not exactly as I expected. For one thing there were fights which I hated. I had to learn that this was normal. Then, when my best friend died a few months after my father died, both of cancer, it hit me for the first time. There was no “happily ever after.” I realized that marriage either ended in divorce or death. Both dire. And that one of us was going to lose the other except in the unlikely event we both died together. How could I have been so stupid and not have seen this before??
Today my love for my husband runs deep and I realize I am closer to him than to any other human I have ever loved. I live in terror of something happening to him. As we both approach old age every good moment becomes a treasure I try to engrave on my memory. My husband has blossomed into an empathic, caring clinical social worker. He now expresses his deep affection towards me. Even I, who had a hard time recognizing love, can see this. He still teases me relentlessly. This is his way of showing love. I understand that because my father was the same way. But my husband delights in getting away with teasing me. “What joy!” he said one morning, as he played some mischief on me. “I love this “love thing’!” he said. I never thought he would say that or turn out to be so affectionate and loving. Just as I never thought I would find love. And when I looked at him with love in my heart that morning after the teasing stopped, he said, “What?” We still have trouble interpreting expressions and are still shy of eye contact even with each other. I said what I had read long ago that a child had written. When two people in love look at each other, stars come out of their eyes. A wonderful image that comes as close to “happily ever after” as one can get.