Few things are more boring than having to listen to someone newly in love go on and on about the many ways their new soul mate is the most wonderful person to ever walk the earth. Except, perhaps, having to listen to the same person catalog their former beloved’s endless list of unforgivable faults once they have fallen out of love.
I adored Rodgers & Hammerstein’s musical version of Cinderella when I saw it on TV as a little girl. I thought Lesley Ann Warren was the most gorgeous princess ever, and the music was just as lovely. I especially remember a song that Cinderella and the Prince sang to one another, titled: “Do I Love You Because You’re Beautiful?” The refrain continued with a follow-up to the title line, “or are you beautiful because I love you?”
The rest of the lyrics are:
“Am I making believe I see in you, a girl too lovely (man too perfect) to be really true?
Do I want you because you’re wonderful, or are you wonderful because I want you?
Are you the sweet invention of a lover’s dream, or are you really as wonderful as you seem?“
These are all reasonable questions, which, apparently, Cinderella and the Prince answered in the negative. Nope – no new-love bias going on here. We’re both perfectly, beautifully wonderful.
The King and Queen sing the same song to their son later in the play, trying to caution him to slow things down a bit. Fat lot of good that did. Twelve bongs of the clock and one glass slipper later, Cinderella and the Prince were headed for the altar.
We humans are funny. When in the heady, dizzying throes of new love, we have no room for reason, logic or reality. Our hearts rule our heads, and The Chosen One has nothing but wonderful qualities. These are magnified all out of proportion when filtered by the rose-colored glasses of love.
- Reasonable intelligence is genius.
- A decent sense of humor is rapier-like wit.
- Passable good looks become fabulous beauty.
Later, when the bloom is off the rose, all of those person’s faults, real or imagined, assume gigantic proportions. We rip off our rose-colored glasses and put on shit-shades.
- That little way she has of wrinkling her nose, so cute at first, becomes a tic so annoying she’s practically deformed.
- His laid-back attitude toward life, so calming in the early years, is now more proof that he is an unmotivated slacker who will never get anywhere in this world.
This tendency to flip-flop perceptions is funny when viewed from outside the relationship. When children are involved in the breakup, however, it has devastating results. People convince themselves, out of anger and hurt, that their ex is Satan incarnate. Soon they genuinely believe it. The person they once couldn’t live without, is now considered unfit to be in the same room with the children they created together.
Fractured and mix-and-match households are the new norm in society. This makes it critically important for people to try to see their exes in a more realistic light. They may not want to admit it, but for the sake of their kids they need to keep reminding themselves: their ex is the same person they once valued above all others, even if it didn’t work out between them. They CHOSE him or her to be the father or mother of their children.
It’s always better for kids if parents concentrate on them after a breakup, instead of their love lives. This is doubly true when a parent has shown they can’t be trusted to choose a mate wisely. Someone who insists that their ex has absolutely no redeeming social value is also admitting to being a horrible judge of people.
Those we love are probably not truly as wonderful as they first seem, but neither are all of their good qualities merely the sweet invention of a lover’s dream. Reality is somewhere in the middle of these extremes, even after love has gone and the fairy tale ends.
NBC won’t allow replay of the original Cinderella TV show, the old meanies, but have a listen to the Broadway cast version.