Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reality: The Cure for a Royal Problem at Home

Paper hat fashion fit
 for a royal wedding
 Three weeks ago, at approximately 1:30pm on a Sunday afternoon, while sitting in the back of a New York City taxi en route to Penn Station, my daughter caught wind, thanks to the TV embedded into the driver’s seatback, that a prince was getting married.

Years of diplomacy with the pink and scantily clad emissaries from Disney went down the municipal drain. The tenuous treaty by which I’d allowed these highnesses into my house in small numbers and with sufficient caveats was blown by the revelation that one of my principle statements was a lie.

“Yes” I admitted, like an outmaneuvered Secretary of State on Meet the Press, “there’d been a cover up.”

Sometimes, a Prince really does find his Princess.

I’d been less than forthcoming about that rare but possible scenario not because I didn’t allow for the possibility of regal love, but because in the context mermaids, sleeping beauties, dwarfs and glass slippers—the world in which many parents and their young children often navigate, marriage is the cure to a damsel’s distress.

Sure marriage is the “happily ever after” conclusion to a lot of literature—Shakespeare’s comedies included--but until they make a line of Midsummer Night’s Dream sippy cups, and my daughters beg to dress up like Bianca from Taming of the Shrew, it’s the princesses and their intoxicating romances that I have tried --sometimes unsuccessfully—to downplay.

“Heidi,” my husband said to my six year old, hoping to help me, “have you ever heard of the Magna Carta?”

Nothing grounds the allure of a royal wedding like an introduction to the seeds of constitutional law, but it was a man doing back flips on a pogo stick that soon took over the TV screen and, thankfully, my daughter’s imagination.

But, more news of the wedding could not be avoided, and finally, on Friday morning, we watched highlights of the ceremony and the recessional and carriage ride through the city streets.

And, amazingly, I finally felt free of the oppression of princesses.

We saw a Prince, groomed, it was clear, to control his emotions and salute or wave to his audience with practiced form. And, there was Kate, or Catherine, as she may be called, but Bonny Kate still the same, looking in her white gown and veil like a young woman more grounded and at ease with her new role than he with his. And, in the bursts of emotion that escaped his disciplined containment, it was clear that it was the Prince who was overwhelmed by his good fortune in marriage.

In the parlance of fairy tales, a spell had been broken in my house. And as is so often the case, it was broken by truth.

Yes, the groom looked handsome in his uniform and chivalrous in his manner, but the spectacle and accompanying scrutiny put fantasy in the hands of reality.

The carriage with horses rode down the street.

“Is this almost over?” my six year old asked.

She’d had enough.

She will probably, like her mother before her, never forget the day she watched her first princess get married.

But, now there’s a real person associated with the word "princess"; a real castle-- looking a bit stern and austere from the outside-- and the real test of the values promoted by the marketers of the princess myth: integrity, honor, discovery, friendship and love.

Perhaps my daughters and I will now turn more to Princess Catherine and less to Snow White.

If so, that’s progress.

The next step will be to continue in this process, and to learn more about actual people, less defined by myth and status, who manage to show integrity, honor, discovery, friendship and love, without a tiara, and without, necessarily, a prince.

Photo credit of royal carriage: Robbie Dale : Wikimedia Commons


Tim Morrissey said...

Your prose - and content - are a thing of beauty. Again, an excellent post, Sarah.

Sonja Sommers-Milbourn said...

Well said, Sarah. Alas, like you, I found our modern fairy tale (amid world news all too soon, all too dark and dreary)....just sweet.