I noticed a sweatshirt on WILDFOX while I was shopping online the other night that said ‘Happily Ever After is Expensive.’ My first though was, yes it is! But when I really started to think about it, I realized the phrase poses an interesting question: Does it really have to be expensive?
When we explore the concept of ‘happily ever after’ in fairy tales, there are two thoughts that come to mind. The first is that it’s a fairy tale and by definition the main characters have to live happily ever. The second one is, of course they live happily ever after, they’re rich! The main characters in fairy tales are almost always royalty or at least marry into royalty by the end of the story. The prince and princess live in a castle, wear fabulous clothing and jewels, eat the finest foods, and are surrounded by servants who cater to their every whim.
But does living in a castle, dining on delicacies, drinking expensive wine, and having all the money you could ever possibly want really bring you happiness? Is it that simple?
Think about the celebrities who seem to have everything they could ever want. Millions of dollars, adoring fans, worldwide notoriety. Think about how many of them turned to drugs or alcohol in order to self medicate due to issues we can’t even fathom that come with stardom. Are they happy? What about people who work around the clock because they are drowning in debt from purchasing everything they think they need to achieve the American Dream? What is the point of having a giant home or an impressive sports car if you don’t have any time to enjoy them? The truth is well known but seldom believed: Money doesn’t buy happiness.
A few months ago I stumbled upon the concept of minimalism and have been obsessed with the basic principles ever since. I used to think the idea of minimalism was, well, more minimalistic. I had visions of bare bones living where you sleep on the floor of a studio apartment, have almost no worldly possessions, and wear the same outfit every day. After doing a little research, however, I found out I was completely wrong.
Yes, there are minimalists out there that pride themselves on owning next to nothing, but the underlying message of this misunderstood lifestyle is not to deprived yourself of possessions. Minimalism teaches you to make time and space in your life for the people and activities that you love. Instead of chasing after a huge house (our modern day castle), the latest tech gadget, and designer clothes, you would actually be much happier seeking time with family and friends, hobbies you enjoy, and new adventures.
Disney’s Shrek and Fiona are a perfect example of living a more minimalist life. Fiona is a princess, so she and Shrek could live in a palace and enjoy the perks of being wealthy, but they are perfectly happy living in their tiny shack, surrounded by a swamp, with their three children. They don’t need fancy possessions to feel fulfilled; it is more important for them to spend time together as a family and keep in touch with friends (I mean come on, who doesn’t want to spend more time with Donkey?) Compared to other fairy tale romances, I believe Shrek and Fiona have a better relationship and marriage because of their priorities. They were friends before they became a couple and they share the same values. After all, Cinderella married a man (who just happened to be a handsome prince) that she danced with once. Sleeping Beauty married a man she kissed one time (also a prince). But that’s where their stories end, and I think that speaks volumes. Looks and wealth does not a great marriage make.
Does Happily Ever After have to be expensive? The answer is an unequivocal no, because the things that truly give our lives value aren’t things at all.