Edited By Julie C. Garlen and Jennifer A. Sandlin
Part Four: Teaching Ourselves
Teaching Ourselves p a r t f o u r “But he was Your Prince Charming!” Accounting for the End of “Ever After” with a Divorce Fairytale shannon dahmes puechner Marriage is a story we explicitly tell together: the transfiguration of girl into bride cannot be accomplished alone but requires the actions of magical others. When vows are spoken, it is a promise made not only to one’s spouse, but also to everyone who bears witness. It is a promise to step into certain cultural narratives and to uphold and live out the categories that help us understand each other. I had not fully realized the ways that others were bound up in the story of my marriage until hap- pily ever after proved to be false. I soon discovered that my divorce wasn’t just about me; the problem of my unwritten identity also created profound anxiety for others. I had expected that it would be difficult for me to share the news with every- one I knew. I was grieving and I was ashamed. But I had not anticipated the anxieties my dissolution would produce in others. My mother was merely the first of many to implore, “What happened? He was your prince charming. …” The assertion of the fairytale-ness of my marriage was almost always followed by the same litany of questions: “Did he cheat? Did he beat you? Did he gamble? Did he drink?” While these interrogations did not position me directly as the false/failed/ fallen princess, the...
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