Board Games & The Brothers Grimm, or, When I believed Happily-Ever-After Meant Tiffany’s and Vera Wang

In 1993, I was 8 and Cadco had just released “The Perfect Wedding” — a simple game where 2-4 giggly girls roll dice to move florescent engagement rings around a heart-shaped board. Each roll brings the future blushing bride to a square labeled “ring,” “dress,” “cake,” “music,” “reception,” “flowers,” “honeymoon,” or “tuxedo” where she then use her allotted budget to assemble the wedding of her prepubescent dreams. I played “The Perfect Wedding” with the same vigor and competitive edge that I approached more weighty games like Clue and Monopoly — I had a clear idea of what I wanted for “the most important day of my life.” I was going to have my red rose bouquet, string quartet, cushion-cut diamond, and sweetheart crinoline-confection of a dress, and I was not willing to compromise.

I had totally forgotten about this game and completely blocked out that phase of my childhood when I used to have “practice” weddings and design my future bridesmaids’ dresses. Today, an unwelcomed flashback through my younger years reminded me that once upon a time, I was a true-blue, diehard, unshakable romantic.

the dress an 8-year old me wanted to get married in

Oh! To go back to the days when I could draw my “soulmate” for you on a piece of paper! To go back to the days when a daydream wrapped in white lace and set to the tune of “Here Comes the Bride” was fantasy enough! How simple young girls are, how pure our vision of love and how ready we are to believe that happily-ever-afters means eternal perfection!

For 17 years “The Perfect Wedding” has been gathering dust in my toy-box (ironically, a 19th century dowry chest), and with it, so has my eight-year-old’s vision of romance ever lasting. I shelved daydreaming about engagement rings and white dresses a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, send me into Tiffany’s and I’ll beeline right to that legacy band, but today I’m what I would call a Pragmatic Romantic.

I don’t envision being swept off my feet anymore by a prince charming type, though, I do believe that a significant other should feel like an escape from the ho-hum of la vie quotidienne. I’d rather have a Prince Albert than a Prince Charming anyway. I can’t draw you a picture of Mr. Right anymore, but I can describe, pretty well, what values/likes/dislikes I’d prefer him to have.  I don’t have delusions of finding my one true soulmate and living out the remainder of my days in trouble-free, blissful peace. I could keep going, but it’s not important. The punchline is that at 24, I’m already more of a Alex Goran than a Natalie Keener.*

the grown-up me prefers an understated Valentino (perhaps in a tea-rose pink?)

Don’t worry, I’m not jaded yet — I’ve got at least another 5 years before I hit jaded. There’s still a romantic in me. I still cry every time Big and Carrie stand on that bridge in Paris and he tells her, “Carrie, you’re the one.”  And I will have red roses at my wedding — I can promise you that much. Whether or not my dress is white, well, the dice have yet to be rolled on that one.

——-

woops! I’m behind schedule… way

When I was 13,  I had my palm read. “You will have many boyfriends,” the psychic told me, “but there will always be one great love, one soulmate for you.” That started the wheels turning. By the time I got home, I had my life-plan all mapped out.  I was going to be married at 25 to that soulmate — ideally, someone I had met at college, hopefully an ivy league college — and towing behind me as I walked down the aisle would be a slew of broken-hearted former lovers.

I hit the 24-mile mark about a month ago and while I was blowing out candles, someone I knew in high school announced her engagement to a guy she met in college. So what about me? What about my schedule… was I engaged at 24, as my life-plan implied? Was there a trail of broken hearts behind me?

Yea…no. Life-plan major Fail.

Why is it that psychics are always so vague? “Boyfriend” and “boy friend”  are homonyms with very different meanings. “Boyfriend” is a term that implies dates, physical and emotional intimacy, lingerie, red roses and the glint of diamonds. “Boy friend” connotes sports bars, sports bras, ball busting, ballgames and platonic nights out. If she had been clearer with her meaning, I would have been better equipped to deal with the next ten years…

I went through college with a 3:1 ratio of male friends to female friends. I spent more time at neighborhood sports bars than I did at Manhattan’s trendy night clubs. By my senior year,  Friday night outings and  foggy Sunday brunches were passed with a group of about 5-7 guys. Girls’ Night Out didn’t exist on my social calendar. The reasons for this were manifold — most of my female friends had boyfriends and were too busy being girlfriends to be friends; it was more fun hanging out with guys because my guy friends and I talked about everything and anything except “boys.”  We’d talk about relationships, if there were ones to talk about, but never was there the ridiculous sharing and analysis of the minute details of a brief conversation with a crush. Guy friends felt safe — they weren’t going to steal my boyfriend.

Yet, while I had a slew of men around me, I managed to make my way through college and most of grad school never having a serious boyfriend. No broken-hearted exes to carry on the train of a white gown. And so, I had to shelf the plan an over-ambitious 13 year old me conjured. The psychic may have been onto something, but I sure would have appreciated it if she had given me a better idea of when this soulmate fella was going to show up.