RDC Instructor Joan Crate examines what lies beyond “happily ever after” in her latest book of poetry

There’s something about weddings that make even commonsensical women gush about finding a “princess” dress and walking up the aisle with their “knight in shining armor,” said author Joan Crate.

Joan Crate

There’s something about weddings that make even commonsensical women gush about finding a “princess” dress and walking up the aisle with their “knight in shining armor,” said author Joan Crate.

Otherwise, how can one explain the glut of popular reality TV shows that tease viewers with the promise of happily-ever-after, such as The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, A Wedding Story, Say Yes to the Dress, and others?

“You would, absolutely, think that women would be beyond that right now,” said Crate, referring to the women’s movement that tried to liberate females from the idea they can be saved though marriage.

But the Red Deer College English instructor believes the more women have had to slog it out in the real world as single moms and working drones, the more there’s been a “backlash.”

And the modern form of escapism seems to be the same as the very earliest form; dreaming of a fairy-tale wedding.

Crate riffs on the marriage mythology in her latest book of poetry, subUrban Legends. She examines what lies beyond the youthful promise of “happily every after” with the help of iconic fairy-tale character, Snow White, who makes frequent appearances in Crate’s poems to learn a thing or two about the non-storybook world.

Through the course of Crate’s book, published by Calgary’s Freehand Books, the princess discovers there’s no such thing as permanent happiness in her marriage to Prince Charming. But she also finds it’s no picnic moving out of the castle.

In Snow White Finds Herself, the heroine discovers leaving her marriage doesn’t make her blissful: “Sure, her apartment is free of her husband’s heavy footfalls, but it feels empty, the toilet won’t stop running, and already there’s a stain on the floor.” Crate wanted to puncture the myth that women are much better off leaving dissatisfying marriages and fending for themselves.

For one thing, studies have shown divorced females, especially single mothers, suffer a significant income drop.

Prince Charming, or perhaps Snow White’s absent father, is skewered in the It’s the Same Old Story, about inconstant men “abandoning kingdoms, family commitments,” skipping child-support payments, and leaving behind wounded progeny.

In the poem Mangoes, the fairy-tale princess sums up everything she ever learned from apples: “skin wrinkles, looks can be deceiving, expect the bitter with the sweet, and always watch out for worms.”

But Crate believes Snow White’s greatest lesson is learning to cook with scraps, or making something out of the hand she is dealt.

Winter is the other inspiration behind Crate’s third book of poetry. The author, who spends half the week living in Calgary, where her husband now works, said she wiped out on a sheet of sidewalk ice — “It was one of those falls where my feet were above my head and I went down hard” — and had plenty of time, during recuperation, to let her imagination wander about living in a cold country.

“There’s always so much snow…”

Crate’s subUrban Legends, a collection of 64 poems, is available at SunWorks in Red Deer for $16.95.


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