On fairy tales and storytellers

A small foreword to the article, which I publish below. I wrote it in February, inspired by the info received from a friend, that Modern Love column of NY Times newspaper is quite willing to publish essays on any of the topics relevant to modern love. Anyone can send his article for the editor’s consideration and he would study its compliance with the requirements of the rubric. I received a very polite response a month later, stating that the editor didn’t find my version “right for our needs”, but I thought, why should I discard it? Perhaps you will like it.

Un jour mon prince viendra[1]

When I was a little girl, fairy tales were true. The enchanted world was just a dream away, governed by the wise and the kind. A good old-fashioned villain received just punishment, the virtue of Cinderella – Snow White – Whatever Disney Princess shone bright and Prince Charming came to her rescue. Of course, there were other male characters, but my imagination – as well as the one of 90% women of my age, supposedly, – was taken by the Prince, so immaculate and ideal. The most impressive thing was the fact that Love between the characters happened as simply and deliberately as sunshine or sunset. Once they put their eyes on each other, they never « took them off » and Happy Ever After unfolded as previewed.

This mystery of the laws of magical genre didn’t bother me much, though. Sitting on a sunny terrace of a tiny café in the port of Cassis[2], holding a glass of prosecco and contemplating the sea and passers-by, I didn’t have any of these ideas in my mind. Two and a half weeks of my annual vacation were already behind me, my head was light and careless, I enjoyed my pleasant road trip across Spain and France. I was looking for new sensations, new experience, new breath of fresh air… and another week and a half of my well-earned holiday.

“Je vous vois soucieuse. Laissez-moi vous aider à choisir[3],” I heard a pleasant voice over me.

My French was good enough to accept help of the stranger; moreover local wines deserve being discovered.

Amazingly, I paid no attention to his looks (and usually I really do). I was happy to stumble this way into somebody who would make my day even more pleasant. After having a small talk on dramas of Dostoyevsky (the fact I am Russian popped up quickly) and on legendary Zidane head butt (the Marseillais are crazy about football), I felt surprisingly at ease as if we were long-time friends.

“Have you already seen the calanques[4]?” he smiled in a way a father would smile while talking about his child.

“The calanques? What is it?” I didn’t have a single clue what he was asking about.

He was shocked. I mean it. How could anyone come to the seaside of Provence and completely ignore the existence of this natural beauty?

Of course, he insisted on visiting.

I was equally satisfied with a perspective of having a smart guide over the region. Isn’t it the best way to dive into a country? Into its culture, history, traditions, hidden treasures that only locals are aware of? To keep good memories during “long winter days”?

Who would resist the temptation?

Indeed, the calanques are worth seeing: stretching from the ninth arrondissement of Marseille to the east towards Cassis, this wild and picturesque terrain is a homeland of various unique plants as well as of exceptional maritime getaways.

We spent a whole day talking, laughing, bathing and driving around on his scooter.

“Here, take this – not to soak your dress!” He put off his T-shirt and handed it to me, so that I can wear it over my wet bathing suit.

We met on Friday and we parted on Tuesday. “See you when I see you”. Just like that.

He had to bring his children for a holiday in Switzerland and I had to meet my friend in the airport of Gerona[5] to continue my vacation in Spain. We spent five impossibly wonderful days and forgot about our lives behind. It’s like both of us were 20 years old: we were young, innocent, ready for new discoveries, free of any prejudice and lame experiences. No strings attached. Heart and head light as feather when parting.

Years of dating, several serious relationships and regular intimate conversations with my friends have proven me that my childhood fantasies can not be applied to the “real” life.

I even thought that I might have been dreaming and the whole story was pure fiction born in my romantic mind.

My Prince had a rundown scooter instead of a noble steed, an old helmet instead of a crown and his palace turned into a cabanon[6] after divorce.

It was an extremely pleasant adventure, and I didn’t expect it to continue, taking into account all the circumstances. To be exact, I was already delighted to have lived it, and didn’t much care about the continuation.

Frankly speaking, I feel the urge to explain something here. I don’t know how it happens with you, ladies, but my love relationships never brought me peace. First I was anxious to meet some one, then fascinated by our mutual attraction, later – trying to “guess his thoughts” and to find excuses for sometimes ungentlemanly acts. I was striving to be “cool and relaxed”, but in fact was practically all the time hyper-excited. Yet, it seems now that most of my ex-boyfriends indeed found me cool and relaxed. Maybe too cool even…

These five days that I’ve spent in the heart of Provence were extraordinary: not a second I was doubting my acts. I didn’t think of the past, I didn’t even start to make projects for the future. I had my present time. All the time. It never occurred to me before.

Now I realize that I didn’t even care much about the feelings of my partner in this adventure. We were lucky to have the same, by the way. Who knows whether this text would be possible if not?

The most striking thing for me is that I found out that he was a handsome man only several hours after our casual date! I was so fascinated by this simple discovery! Even now I find no explanation of this temporal “blindness”, but who cares, after all?

I felt confident. I felt serene. I was in peace.

I didn’t want to build the relationship because it was already there. Without any efforts, without a slightest question, whether there is a place for it, natural as breathing and equally intangible. Yet strong, vital and solid in the very heart.

Why did it happen? Why did two people with practically zero possibility to meet manage to do so? Why did I feel at home with a man far from my country, my culture, my language and my entire life? Is it a happy chance or a destiny?

At this very moment I recalled the fairy tales from my childhood. I remembered advice of all my happily married friends:

“You will know it’s Him. I will just know”.

“How would I know? How was it possible at all?” I had the impression that all those previous years of trying, searching and gaining experience there was a scrupulous guy behind me, making detailed notes and finally he was ready to file the case.

As you may guess by my enthusiastic description, “happy ever after” succeeded. I quit my job, “a million girls would kill for”, in a Moscow representative office of one of the most desirable and fairytale High Jewellery houses and moved to a small pretty village in Provence. I left my parents and my friends (luckily they come to visit frequently). In April 2017 we will be celebrating 2 years of our marriage. Passionate, sophisticated, far from being “a bed of roses”, but utterly blissful, and confirmed by vows of the church wedding.

I had been so preoccupied by the “title” of Prince, by the status, by imaginary looks and “garments”…. By the costume, simply put it, rather than the man wearing it. Both literally and figurately. And once you like the costume, you would add other attractive qualities to the ideal sculpture in your head. However, a sculpture will never become a human being. Unless the myth of Pygmalion[7] and Galatea is a historical fact. Or a Greek tale based upon, who knows?

It seems so evident and clear: do what you really want to do, listen to your heart, look at the world with the eyes of love. It is that simple. I bet your mother or grandmother had told you all these “banalities” more than once.

You might think that my story is too sweet, to Saint-Valentine’s-like, too rose-coloured for the world today. You have all the rights. It seems to be so wrong not to share a good experience that worked for me, and could possibly work for someone else. Maybe for you, a reader of these lines?

The simplest things are often the hardest to learn. Now I know that fairy tales ARE true. All the “platitudes” you would find within, actually cite simple conventional wisdom, exaggerated by the maximum extent. All good and evil thoughts have physical form. We are all Fairy Godmothers and Harry Potters with all the wizarding powers in our hands.

Please don’t neglect this essential simplicity; continue reading fairy tales and take pleasure in telling new bedtime stories to your children!

Our new family is working love magic not only for me and my husband, but seems to have a long-range effect: in September 2015 we were invited to a wedding party of our friends, whom we introduced to each other a year before. Maybe, the next couple is being formed as I write….

But this is another story.

[1] Some day my prince will come (Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs, « Classic Disney » soundtrack).

[2] Cassis, Bouches-du-Rhône, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France

[3] “I see you’re hesitating. Let me help you to choose.”

[4] A calanque is a narrow, steep-walled inlet that is developed in limestone, dolomite, or other carbonate strata and found along the Mediterranean coast. The calanques de Marseille is one of France’s great natural beauty areas and has been protected by a national park since 2012.

[5] A city in the northwest of Catalonia in Spain

[6] A shed

[7] Pygmalion is a legendary Greek sculptor, who fell in love with an ivory statue he had created. Thanks to his offerings to Aphrodite, goddess of love in Greek mythology, the statue comes to life and becomes wife of Pygmalion under the name of Galatea.

Read in Russian: О сказках и сказочниках

Открыточный порт Кассиса /// My postcard view of the port of Cassis

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