Who doesn’t enjoy a fairy tale ending? Beautiful princess, handsome prince, a white horse, and a lifetime spent in a castle surrounded by a moat … or at least a picket fence.
Ah, but that’s the stuff of Disney. Reality is a far messier proposition, where people forge lives that follow no script, and women not only aren’t being “saved” by perfect men but challenge the very notion that they need rescuing in the first place.
Michelle (Silver) Cove ’91 was so intrigued by the stories of single women in their 30s and 40s — both those who are content to be so and those who would like to change their situation — that she made a documentary about them: “Seeking Happily Ever After,” which she recently screened at Clark.
Cove’s film captures women’s views on love, dating, being single, and searching for Mr. Right while enduring their share of Mr. Wrongs (and not settling for Mr. Good Enough). Through interviews with both friends and strangers, she debunks the stereotype that women are either desperate to get married or too career-driven to commit. The women who speak into her camera reveal that there is no universal truth to any of this — happily-ever-after is both a subjective and elusive construct.
“There’s this sense that everything comes together for a woman once she’s married, that it’s when her life really begins. I’m happily married; I love being married. But there is no ‘moment.’ ”
Cove, who has spent her career in magazine publishing, knew nothing about making a movie when she hit the streets of Boston with a newly purchased video camera on the hunt for women’s stories.
“I was so oblivious about making movies when I started,” she recalls. “But I knew how to tell a story, how to interview, to get underneath. None of that scared me. Once I committed to getting a camera — which was a pretty cheap camera by the way — talking to women came naturally.”
Her interview method was simple and direct.
“I would walk up to a woman and say, ‘I notice you’re not wearing a ring. I’m making a documentary and I’d love to talk to you if you have two minutes,’” she says.
Most were eager to give those two minutes, and more. Indeed, Cove had anticipated a certain amount of rejection, yet instead found these perfect strangers were more than willing to reveal intimate details about their romantic relationships, and discuss, with disarming frankness, the expectations and pressures that family, friends and society in general can place on unmarried women.
“The topic hit the right kind of nerve,” she says. “They said ‘Okay,’ and dropped their guard very quickly. They were so open to answering personal, very challenging questions.”
“Seeking Happily Ever After” is anchored by the story of Jacquie, a single friend of Cove’s, who is filmed going on several dates, one of them hopelessly awkward (“They were two people who shouldn’t be together struggling to find common ground,” Cove says.) Jacquie’s search for love is poignant and funny, and ultimately hopeful.
Cove’s film, which she made with producer Kerry David, has been screened at several festivals, earning the Audience Award at the New York United Film Festival and nominations for Best Female Filmmaker and Best Documentary at Action on International Film Festival. Lionsgate Films is distributing the movie digitally, where it’s available on iTunes, Amazon and Movies on Demand. Promoting the film through college and public screenings, and in media interviews coast to coast, is not a chore, she insists. “This is your baby, and [doing publicity] is working for your baby.”
She’s also written a companion book, “Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (and Finding Lasting Love Along the Way),” which is available at Amazon.com.
Cove began her college career at Tulane University, transferring to Clark for her junior and senior years. The two-year delay was intentional; she wanted to wait until her brother, Eric Silver ’89, had graduated before she enrolled.
“I didn’t want to be Eric’s little sister at Clark,” she says with a laugh. The Connecticut native recalls that years earlier when she was still in high school she and her mother had “discovered” Clark during trips through Worcester. “I always felt sad dropping Eric off because I loved Clark and wanted to stay. I didn’t want to go back to high school.”
By the time she arrived at Clark Cove knew she wanted a career in publishing and took advantage of every opportunity to hone her writing skills, from working at internships at a city magazine and suburban newspaper, to entering, and winning, The Scarlet’s fiction-writing contest.
“I had great teachers and mentors at Clark; it’s where I really started to get my writing chops,” she says.
Cove, who lives with her husband and daughter in Brookline, Mass., is the editor of 614: HBI e-zine, an online magazine targeted for young Jewish women. She’s written and edited for national magazines for the last 15 years, including Psychology Today, Mother Earth News, Girls’ Life and Family Fun. She is also the co-author of the bestselling book “I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict.”
Her next book and film will examine the world of happily working mothers struggling to keep the balance in their lives. “I’m navigating that world now,” she says.