Special announcement from TDN: ML Awanohara and Kate Allison will be live-tweeting the Royal Wedding from a displaced perspective. Join us from 5:00 a.m. EST, using the hash tag: #DNRW
On Sunday night I decided to indulge in nostalgia for my misspent youth in England. I watched a couple of TLC programs showing footage from the wedding of Charles and Diana on July 29, 1981.
I was there as a displaced American. Well, I wasn’t in London but at a street party in an East Anglian town.
To be honest, I have only the haziest recollection of how I spent the day: who attended the fete, what we talked about, what we ate. Part of the reason is my exceedingly poor memory.
But I think the lapse is also due to having been displaced so many times since then — to Japan, back to England, and now back to my native United States. England’s royal wedding no longer stands out in my memory compared to other landmark events I’ve observed, such as the marriage of Masako Iwada to Japan’s Crown Prince.
Always a bridesmaid, never a bride
I was therefore particularly taken with the TLC special Untold Stories of a Royal Bridesmaid, featuring model, interior design entrepreneur — and expat — India Hicks.
I kept wondering: does Hicks actually remember that hot day at the end of July 30 years ago? True, she was a bridesmaid for Princess Diana — but she was also only 13 at the time.
And, unlike many of the participants in that Royal Wedding, Hicks has moved on since, quite literally: she has put down roots on a three-mile-long fishing island in the Bahamas, where she lives with her family in a plantation-style oceanfront house.
Indeed, at 43, Hicks is living life on her own terms, a novel concept for a female who was born in the Royal Family orbit (Prince Charles is her second cousin and godfather, and she is 512th in line for the throne). As the New York Times pointed out in its profile of Hicks last month:
For many years, Ms. Hicks distanced herself from the royal circles that surrounded her childhood, focusing on developing her profession.
What’s more — and the Times didn’t point this out — she and her lifelong partner, David Flint Wood, have never bothered to marry, despite having had four children together.
Hicks may have been one of the two bridesmaids assigned to keep track of Diana’s 25-foot-long train, but she doesn’t appear to like weddings much, or else I assume she would have designed one for herself …
A most unroyal royal
I ask you, does this sound like something an heir to the British throne, however remote, would say:
I’d liked to have lived as Cleopatra. She didn’t take any crap from anyone, had lots of children out of wedlock, was intelligent and witty, known for her abilities and was a good stateswoman. I like most that she didn’t take any crap.
It’s what Hicks told the Wall Street Journal in an interview just a few days ago. You go, girl, as we say in the States…
So what’s in it for her besides money — and a higher profile for her brand, which is branching out next month to include jewelry? Not to mention her sense of duty (these are her people, after all).
British people are wont to say that the Royal Wedding provides a good excuse for a day off and a party. But for us displaced people, these affairs are a little different.
For Hicks as for many of the rest of us under equivalent circumstances, I suspect the wedding of Wills and Kate provides a good excuse to:
1) Indulge in a spot of nostalgia.
As Hicks remarks on her TLC special: “I think it will bring back memories that perhaps I’ve forgotten.”
As already mentioned, we displaced types can relate. The desire to recapture your youth intensifies if you are no longer living in your home (or adopted home) country.
2) Spend time in the home country.
As mentioned, Hicks has opted for the life of an expat, far from the madding crowds.
But, while retreating to a Caribbean island may sound like a dream come true, I imagine it has its dull moments, when one longs for a tad more intellectual and social stimulation.
Covering the Royal Wedding provides Hicks with the pretext for hanging out in her native land a little more and for introducing herself to such people as Diana’s wedding dress designer, David Emanuel. (The two haven’t met since 1981.)
3) Reconnect with family.
Living far away from one’s family is another penalty of the expat life, which tends to get steeper with time — especially for women who are close to their mothers.
By becoming a Royal Wedding pundit, Hicks has had the opportunity to reminisce about the good old days with her mother, Lady Pamela Hicks, for several of her TV specials.
A daughter of Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India (hence her daughter’s first name), Lady Hicks was herself a bridesmaid to Queen Elizabeth.
I particularly enjoyed the moment on the TLC special when mere and fille pull their respective bridesmaids’ dresses out of the boxes and compare them. Hicks thinks her mother’s looks more classical, while hers is dated — a product of the frilly 1980s.
* * *
On the “bridesmaid” special, the time that Hicks seems most enthused about revealing her stories is when she picks up the Halcyon Days china pot that Diana gave to all her bridesmaids, containing a silk worm that helped to produce The Dress. Hicks holds up the little white cocoon and gives it a rattle.
For that single instant, she looks as though she’s been transported back in her island home, having taken the road less (or more?) traveled by…and to which she will be jolly glad to return on April 30.
Question: In your experience as a displaced person, do events in one’s home (or adopted home) country — whether private or public — induce an overblown sense of nostalgia? I’d love to hear your stories.
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