Special notice: The writers we are celebrating in today’s post — best-selling novelist Jane Green and expat blogger Karen Van Drie — have kindly agreed to “come in” and respond to your comments and questions on the topic of the hour: yesterday’s royal wedding. Don’t be shy!
A cheery hello to you all. We have a special treat in store for Displaced Nation readers: a royal wedding-themed party in honor of two expat writers — one an acclaimed author, the other an acclaimed blogger — who take very different views of yesterday’s “wedding of the century.”
Jane Green is the author of a dozen novels dealing with real women, real life, and all the things life throws at them. She is also an expat. Born in London — she spent her early career as a writer of women’s features for the Daily Express — she now lives in Connecticut with her husband, six children, and assorted pets.
Karen Van Drie is an American who decided to travel the world after her youngest daughter left for college. Based in Istanbul and Prague, she travels extensively and records her observations in her award-winning blog, Empty Nest Expat. The blog was called out last year in the Wall Street Journal as a “fun read for anyone looking for reassurance that change can be a wonderful thing.”
No in-betweens, even (especially?) among expats
Vogue magazine editor Alexandra Shulman observed that Britain’s “wedding of the century” divided the British nation into lovers and loathers — so was a “perfect Marmite moment.”
Well, she could have been talking about the Displaced Nation just as well as the British nation. Over the past few weeks, we English-speaking expats and repats have divided into two opposing camps.
If anything, we tend to be even more passionate about our views because of the distance factor.
GREEN: “A modern fairytale”
As explained in an April 13 blog post on her newly released e-book for ABC News* on three generations of royal love stories, Jane Green knew little about Kate and William before starting her research but came away impressed:
I loved discovering just how unusual William and Kate are: grounded, humble, and thoroughly modern, eschewing much of the pomp and circumstance that surrounded the wedding of Charles and Diana.
Her book, which blends text, video, still images and interactive features, celebrates Kate for achieving the seemingly impossible feat of bringing an age-old fairytale up to date.
VAN DRIE: “If princesses didn’t exist…”
In the overheated countdown to the Big Day, Karen Van Drie resurrected a post she had written in February about the evolution of her personal views on royals, especially princesses.
Van Drie was prompted to write on this topic during a week-long visit to Sweden, where she noticed that the Swedish Royal Palace gift shop was packed out with tourists snapping up merchandise related to last year’s wedding between Princess Victoria and her personal trainer, Daniel Westling.
Somewhat to her surprise, Van Drie could not get into the spirit. This apathy marked a change from her twenties when she’d fallen head over heels for the fairy tale of Prince Charles and Lady Diana and studied every detail of their royal wedding. When she got married herself, she asked the florist to reproduce Diana’s bouquet exactly.
What’s more, after reading an article about the Swedish Republican Association, Van Drie decided they were thought leaders on the subject of monarchy elimination. She wondered aloud on her blog:
If princesses didn’t exist, what would young women dream of being? Could it likely be a healthier idea for humanity and relationships? A more realistic idea? Can you imagine people of the future laughing at us for even allowing the idea of undemocratic monarchies to exist? For needing the “idea” of princesses?
Where do you stand?
Dear readers, it’s your turn now. While we put out the bunting, pour glasses of Pimms, make pots of tea, and prepare plates of crustless cucumber sandwiches, scones, and Tiffin, for our feast in honor of Green and Van Drie, we’re hoping you will tell us: what do you see when you look at the relationship between William and Kate close up? Do you share Green’s picture of a modern fairytale, or are you more inclined to Van Drie’s notion of a gothic horror story?
* A Modern Fairytale is ABC’s first e-book and Green’s first-ever work of nonfiction. It is available through top etailers — Apple’s iBookstore, Kindle, Nook, etc. — and through the new ABC Video Bookstore app.
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Thank you, Jane, and thank you, Karen, for agreeing to come in and engage on a more profound level about some of the issues yesterday’s wedding raises. I know that many people will be tempted to call Jane a romantic and Karen a killjoy for their views, but personally I am interested in the far more engaging question about whether we should be celebrating fairytale stories for women in the modern world.
I have to admit to being torn.
On the one hand, if I go with Karen’s view that we’ve outgrown princesses, some part of me wonders if we’ll be suppressing a tribal instinct to worship certain human beings simply because of their birth. On the other hand, it does bother me that we’re so interested in Kate for being the perfect consort to a prince. I mean, couldn’t she think of anything more stimulating to do with her life? She’s a bright and well-educated woman…
Couple of thoughts on this one…
Do agree that there is something slightly…odd…about bestowing great status on someone just because of the virtue of their birth, however, watching the ceremony yesterday, couldn’t help but feel a surge of pride: it has been a very long time since I have been reminded of all that is great about England, and I truly saw, and felt it yesterday, and the importance of those traditions continuing.
As for being the wife of the future King of England somehow selling out, I suspect that in fact it is a tremendous amount of work. Were she to just shuffle behind him as he went about his duties, that would be one thing, but she will be taking on many charitable commitments, and my guess is she will work hard at them in much the way Diana did. Diana could have just appeared at glamorous luncheons and spoken for a while, but instead she trooped over minefields in large goggles and truly brought attention to charities that would have otherwise been ignored.
Jane — as another Brit in Connecticut, I know exactly what you mean. I was distinctly lukewarm about this wedding, and wasn’t even going to watch it. Royalty, divine right, privileged status by birth in the 21st century? How anachronistic can you get? But ML thought it would be a great idea to get up at 4:30 a.m., watch it live, and tweet about it — and in the end I agreed. You have to admire her powers of persuasion.
So we got up early, and a funny thing happened. ML and I switched places. She thought that the wedding was a bit of a let down, and I became a royalist again. I’m not sure what did it — the pomp, the pageantry, the Abbey and its 1000-year history. Perhaps it was W&K’s choice of ‘Jerusalem’ — a hymn that you have to be English to fully appreciate, and which has been banned over the years for being not religious enough and too nationalistic, and therefore only suitable for the oiks at Last Night of the Proms. The Dean of Southwark might want to rethink his policy on that now.
I do know, however, that my change of heart had nothing to do with the fairytale element that seems to have fueled the wedding hysteria on this side of the pond. It goes much deeper than that — who I am, where I come from. Genetic memory, if you like. As the saying goes, You can take the girl out of England…
Jane, I can see what you mean about the charitable work, and I don’t for one minute think that it’s easy. On the contrary, I imagine that it gets repetitive after a while, shaking hands, giving speeches, staging photo ops to shed light on particular causes, etc.
But even that kind of “career” has limits, imho, and I notice that most of the brighter people, after a while, start chafing at the bit.
As I recall, Diana was pushing the limits of her role in trooping over minefields in large goggles, as she was drawing attention to a highly political cause. The more politicized her interests became, the more of a “loose cannon” she became. (Not a great metaphor, I know, for someone who was anti-landmines.)
I lived in Japan for a time, and most of us felt sorry for Masako Owada — such a bright, well-educated woman, who had the potential for going far in Japan’s foreign service — when she married the crown prince. (It turned out we were right, as she’s found the life stifling and has been suffering from depression of late.)
Heck, sometimes I even feel sorry for Queen Elizabeth’s sons, and most non-Brits I know agree with me. Charles, for instance, is 62 and has never had a proper job. We find it bizarre, and more than a little emasculating for him, that the queen continues to hog the top job into her mid-eighties.
Prince Edward tried to branch out by forming his own production company but ended up in hot water over whether he was using his royal connections for financial gain. Eventually, he resigned to concentrate on official duties and support the queen for her Golden Jubilee. The company has since been dissolved. How would you like to be nearly 50 years old and still have your parents telling you what to do and where to go?
For Kate, it’s all a novelty at this point, and it seems she has some aptitude for meeting and greeting people. But she’s only 29. Is she going to be happy supporting William and their charities for years and years and years to come? I can’t say I envy her that fate…
There is something about ‘Jerusalem’, isn’t there? I’m entering my eighth month in England, after moving here from New York–to finish what they call ‘sixth form’, and ideally, go to university. And, after an initial six or so months of grey, unremarkable disappointment–perhaps brought on by the grey, unremarkable weather which stretched from September to late March–‘Jerusalem’, coming through the radio on Easter morning, resurrected my enthusiasm for things English.
I think, by extrapolation, the Royal Wedding, and what it stands for, is part of the reason I’m here. Should we celebrate Kate for marrying a prince? Perhaps not Kate herself. But the girls at my school who came in on Friday, sporting wedding dresses and tiaras can attest that the idea of becoming a princess is still appealing. (even though we have seen the deeply serious drawbacks) And Kate happens to be the woman who ascended to this hallowed state. We should perhaps see her, not as an ordinary person, elevated, but as a grounding addition to the Royal family.
Should we, then, aspire to be princesses? Perhaps not, but the ideal seems deeply embedded in our culture. It does us no harm to pile into cafeterias and stand on tables, holding our breath as a woman becomes a dream. And as we know, ‘princessing’ is a many-faceted skill: Kate will have to be judicious, poised, discreet, well-dressed, thin, beautiful, intelligent, philanthropic. And yes, ‘thin’,’beautiful’ and ‘well-dressed’ seem a bit superficial: but image is crucial to most women under the public eye.
On Friday, a rather politically vociferous boy in my year asked me if I would like to join him in an anti-monarchy protest. And though I consider myself a ‘modern young woman’, who appreciates the benefits of democracy, I did not scruple to say ‘no’. It seems bizarre that dignitaries and celebrities should, united, beseech God to ‘save’ a diminutive woman in a buttercup yellow hat. But so be it. England is England for its cobweb-encrusted madness.
Jane, for me the charity is the key. I really see it that as long as our modern day princesses are using their powers for good, then they are relevant.
The princesses here in the Netherlands are not just spokespeople, they are all very accomplished women in their own right. Princess Maxima was a successful investment banker in the US before she met and married Willem-Alexander, the Crown Prince. Now much of her work is focused on immigration and integration (as a migrant herself), and she is a UN representative for finance in developing countries. Not to mention that she is about the most glamorous woman in the entire country and a mother to three small girls. I don’t know where she finds the time for it all!
I’m excited to see what Kate does next. I hope she has taken a deep breath.
Thank you for coming in: our first youthful participant! Having lived in the UK for nearly a decade, I know what you & Kate mean about Jerusalem. And I’m a lifelong admirer of British eccentricity — or as you put it, so much more poetically, “cobweb-encrusted madness.” In fact, that’s the number one thing that I miss about England now that I’ve repatriated to the United States.
But for me — and it actually took watching Friday’s wedding to crystallize this in my mind — there is something a little creepy about keeping the British monarchy in this day and age, given that they lack any power (see Anastasia’s remark below).
Brits are the kind of people who love animals (have you ever seen the queen with her horses or corgis?) but also kill them — with tremendous panache (the fox hunt). And I think that this attitude extends to the monarchy these days. In essence, they keep these people in gilded cages and admire them and pay for them to wear elaborate costumes and jewelry. But they also won’t hesitate to take shots at them — as a kind of blood sport.
It’s one of those cultural contrasts that you almost have to be born with to accept (again, see K Allison).
For me, one of the main takeaways from this wedding is how “tribal” certain emotions are. Kate Allison and I went into it with me feeling nostalgic for my youth in England (like you, I was displaced there as a young woman) and with her (she is a Brit now displaced to Connecticut) saying she admired Jerry Seinfeld for having the temerity to call the April 29 nuptials a circus — on British TV no less. (Hmmm… “Circus”: another good animal metaphor.)
But we came out of the event, as Kate Allison mentions, with positions reversed. She felt “incredibly English,” whereas I felt “incredibly American.” In fact, I walked around the Union Square area of New York (where I now live) thanking God I didn’t live in the UK any more. Go figure! (Of course there are many many Americans who are fanatical about British royalty, but I would maintain it’s because they’ve never lived there.)
Watching Catherine & William’s wedding yesterday made me think about what an over-the-top farce Diana and Charles’ wedding was. I can just imagine her talking to the dress designer: “Big! Bigger! Huge!” as they added more and more meringe and truffle to it. She was excited at he prospect of marrying a prince, not marrying THAT prince. She was obviously caught up in the day, the ceremony, like a little girl who wants to put tons of makeup on to prove that she’s grown-up, when we grown-ups know that less is more.
Catherine, on the other hand, seems to be in love with her prince. Enough that she didn’t need the fluff and the sparkle to make her statement. I saw a girl marrying her man. It was all so understated and just right. Even though it was at Westminster Abbey, it seemed like a small country church, with the trees and the flowers. Driving to the Abbey in a car, (okay, a nice car!) made it all the more quaint (if quaint is possible on such a scale). Diana’s wedding was a circus. Catherine’s was intimate and “real”. Catherine and William are “us” …
Elizabeth – Funny you should say that, about Diana being excited to marry any old prince. I remember just after the engagement in February 1981, there were lots of TV interviews with people who had known her in her childhood…well, earlier childhood, to be accurate. One of them was with a shopkeeper, I think, and he said he’d been teasing Diana when she was younger, ribbing her about this boy and that boy, when are we going to see you get married — that sort of thing. And she’d said something like, “No, I’m not interested — it’s Westminster Abbey for me or nothing.” This exchange appeared to have taken place before she started dating Charles.
It’s something I often thought about afterward, as it became evident that the fairytale wasn’t so magical after all.
@Elizabeth (Not That One) & @K Allison
Maybe it’s because I’m a contrarian, but I feel the need to defend Diana. Not that I think she was perfect — far from it — but I don’t think it’s fair to blame her for aspiring to be part of a fairytale and then feeling let down when she couldn’t write the script in the way she wanted. That’s pretty common for women in their 20s, especially if they’ve led sheltered lives. No, we don’t all aspire to marry real princes, but then we’re not born into old aristocratic families in Britain who associate with royals as a matter of course.
Plus it wasn’t just Diana, it was all of us, who fell for the fairy tale hook, line and sinker. As Karen Van Drie says in her post, she was in her twenties then and couldn’t get enough of the wedding details, Diana pix, etc. She also remembers being deeply disappointed when it didn’t work out:
The way I see it, we can respond to this imploding of the fairy tale in one of two ways. One is do as Karen has done, and question whether we should be encouraging women to become princesses at all. The other is to shove all of that under the carpet and pin your hopes on Kate having a happy ending with William. As New York Times TV critic Alessandra Stanley put it today: “…this royal union is a do-over for the one between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer in 1981 that was presented as a gossamer fairy tale and turned out to be a horror story.”
@Elizabeth (Not That One) & @K Allison (cont’d)
Actually, I have one more point to add. Yesterday I noticed on one of the American channels — I think it was TLC — that Diana was being compared unfavorably with Kate by comparing the clips of when their engagements were announced. The commentator pointed out that even at that early moment, Diana was interrupting Charles and seeking the limelight, whereas Kate was more deferential, allowing William to assume center stage.
Goodness, is that the point we’ve all reached in our thinking after 30 years — that the “lesson” of Diana is to hide your light under a bushel? Apparently, Kate will get it right compared to her husband’s mother because she understands the age-old lesson that you don’t upstage your man. You might think of something before he does but you manoeuvre the situation to make him think it was his idea, not yours…
Poor Diana, so immature to the ways of men (especially royal men). She ended up a termagent. Whereas Kate, she knows her place: behind William, not in front of him. As Prince Charles himself said last night, the royals are lucky to have her.
I think though, it is so easy to forget that Diana WAS, effectively, a little girl, and one that was indulging in a fairytale romance with a man she had admired as a child, and whom she had met less than a dozen times during their courtship.
It was also the eighties, and as ghastly and dated as it all looks now, it was very much of its time, and very much the wedding that a little girl, dreaming of a perfect marriage to a perfect prince, might have wanted back then.
Hello, everyone! What a fantastic discussion. I want to thank our hostesses at the Displaced Nation for making it possible. I love discussing this because I think these questions are so central to women’s lives and what we admire.
Before I say anything about the royals, may I honor the Brits for their big day yesterday. What a pageant! Britain looked fantastic, all those Union Jacks fluttering above the street move my soul, the whole thing was beautifully organized and carried off with precision, and the British people showed off their civilized selves as the carefully moved down the street behind the British bobbies toward Buckingham Palace with complete order. The dresses were gorgeous (especially Kate’s!), her mother’s and her mother-in-law’s. All those crazy hats were so fun to experience as a viewer. There’s a reason so many people care – the Brits do it all best!
I also have to honor Prince William’s great taste in women. Kate Middleton is a superstar. Her poise was spectacular yesterday. One tiny example: I was in London in March of 2010 and was standing outside Westminster Abbey gazing up at that spectacular building, when at that precise moment, the bells started pealing. That sound is so gorgeous and so joyous it moved to tears! She held her emotions all in magnificently. And those bells are just one tiny thing that would tug at one’s heart, there had to be many more. It struck me as jarringly odd to hear that sophisticated, capable woman referred to as a commoner during the broadcast. What an odd way to think about people!
As Mary Lea mentioned, I loved the princess fairy tale when Charles and Diana married. It would have gone mentally unchallenged had they not gone through that messy divorce causing me to lose my faith in what I call “the Truman Show” of contemporary monarchy fairy-tales.
That doesn’t mean I wasn’t watching yesterday, I was. I’m female! How could I not? I wish there were more opportunities for gorgeous dresses in our lives, not less. But what I would like to ask readers to do with me is think about this: how could we get our fix for story, fashion, glamour, and romance without elevating people above other people through birth via monarchy. We as humans, especially women, have a deep-seated need for fashion, glamour, and romance! I suggest we’re creative as a species. There has to be a way to achieve those things without saying one person was born “higher” than another. I think that is a concept that future humans will giggle at our expense that 21st century humans not only willingly did that but celebrated it!
What role or job would little girls dream of being that could involve story, romance, fashion, and glamour that didn’t involve monarchy? What could they be if princesses didn’t exist? Might it be something more achievable?
Thank you, Karen, for coming in. I appreciate that you are not anti-Kate or anti-British (as you say, they do these pageants best), but I do want to ask you something. I noticed that you tweeted yesterday: “I don’t believe in slavery. Why would I believe in monarchy?” That was a very provocative statement. Can you explain a little more?
When we look back at the institution of slavery, aren’t we all a little horrified that it happened? One set of human beings actively saying that some people are lower than us and should work on our behalf for free? You can read all kinds of human opinion from back then of folks who thought making one human being lower than another was perfectly normal! Do any of us believe they were right? I think not. We shake our heads in wonder today that anyone ever thought like that.
So why is humanity still in the business of elevating one set of human beings over another? Is it not as odd to do it through monarchy as it is odd to do it through slavery? Do we honestly believe that the people who serve as kings, queens, princes, and princesses are better than the rest of humanity and anyone without royal birth should be “lower?” Five centuries from now, they’re going to be laughing at us for *willingly* continuing these crazy traditions!
Interestingly, Maureen Dowd devoted her Sunday New York Times column to the enduring popularity of the Cinderella fairytale while noting that a Disney-like happy ending — which we all wanted for Diana and now want for Kate — is a relatively recent development:
Dowd goes on to discuss Charlotte Brontë’s “plain Jane” version of the tale — quite literally, as her heroine was named Jane Eyre — which is now in cinemas again. According to Dowd, Jane’s story show us that you don’t necessarily have to be beautiful to get your man. Despite overwhelming obstacles, Jane gets Rochester in the end:
My main takeaway? Disney has a lot to answer for!
Thanks for this, Karen and Jane, and all. It’s such a big topic (and far-wheeling discussion, above) I won’t have time to do it justice in this comment.
Just wanted to say though, that as a person with two princess-themed projects in development (including one about my own wedding in a palace built for a particularly brainy Ottoman princess) plus I am author of another essay about having tea with a princess and having had dinner with another, I have experienced both the appeal and the backlash that princesses draw today.
Once in a New York writing critique group I was handed back an essay about the tea — uncommented upon by some members, a form of protest that they even had to contemplate the topic. I recall thinking how outrageous it was, given that one of the writers who refused to make notes on my pages had that very evening shared a piece fantasizing about performing oral sex on a well known child actor. (I commented on the child sex scene, as if it were worthy of my attention. I don’t condone the practice AT ALL. Yet, participating in the critique regardless of our own judgments on the topic is the deal of the critique group….but apparently the corrupting thought of princesses seemed to override that logic for several other writers.)
Two other things: 1) I’m personally experiencing the backlash-fascination spectrum in reverse order, having been raised in a virulent no-princesses zone. Three girls in the house, no pink, no lace, no crowns or princes. Any incoming Barbie dolls (a toy that might be princesslike) were passed off to St. Vincent DePaul at the earliest opportunity. So, I admit my associations don’t match the majority of reactions to princesses.
2) For me, princesses represent power — and as an archaeologist, in the historical ones I’ve got projects about or inspired by, including the women of the sultan’s harem and the Byzantine princess who built Constantinople’s largest and richest church and *forced* the emperor to learn from her pioneering of the Byzantine architectural style/top her with the Haghia Sophia, I am intrigued by them because they had access to resources the rest of women of their day did not. That means what they could accomplish was superlative — and also a baseline for what the most visible of women might have been able to do. I’m interested in women leaders and what they make of their opportunities.
I’m not sold on the need for princesses as role models in the modern day because we have a lot of good models available, and I don’t agree that women need to marry ‘well’ or be subservient/deferential to a man in order to succeed. I’m not a fan of pink or taffeta or many of the other things people associate with princesses.
This has been a good reminder that the idea of a princess is very loaded and my own associations do not match the majority’s (pro or con) so I have my work cut out for me ahead, when I even mention the word in relation to my work!
PS If anyone’s interested here are links to some of my writing & projects about princesses:
TEA WITH THE PRINCESS
TYING THE KNOT, OTTOMAN PRINCESS STYLE, essay page 136
LIKE AN OTTOMAN PRINCESS (scrapbook for enhanced ebook)
Anastasia, I look forward to reading your work. And I would never want to censor your princess projects (censorship goes against everything I believe in). Indeed, one of the pleasures of this discussion is talking about archetypes women respond to and admire. I’m just asking if there is a way to dream about love, romance, fashion, glamour and all of the wonderful parts of the fairy tale without monarchy, which means, by extension, princesses. What new archetypes could we as humans create that include all of the things women love without saying one tiny part of humanity is actually more important or “worthy” than another?
I will take a crack at suggesting a real-life role model for the fairy-tale-without-monarchy. A few days ago, I wrote about India Hicks for this blog. Prince Charles is her second cousin and she is 512th in line for the throne. She was one of Princess Diana’s bridesmaids.
But unlike Diana and Kate, Hicks has chosen to lead life on her own terms. For a start, she has expatriated herself to a small island in the Bahamas, where she is leading a different sort of life, without the pomp. She has a partner, David Flint Wood, but they’ve never married despite having four kids. She runs a successful interior design business and is developing her own brand, to which she’ll be introducing a jewelry line this month.
I was genuinely curious as to why Hicks would emerge as a commentator for this royal wedding, but as mentioned in the post, I think she felt nostalgic for her youth and enjoyed teaming up with her mother (who was a bridesmaid for Princess Elizabeth) on various shows, including an interview with Barbara Walters.
But has India Hicks given up glamour? Hell, no! In my view, she’s far more beautiful than either Diana or Kate Middleton. Part of that is physical but the other part is that she comes across as being her own person.
What’s more, Hicks wants “in” to the displaced nation. She tweeted us the sweetest note (which we loved so much we added it to our sidebar). This is just conjecture on my part, but I think that by taking the road less (or do I mean more?) traveled by, Hicks is much more aware of the spectrum of life’s possibilities, than your typical European aristocrat.
It’s further interesting to note that when asked who she admired in history by the Wall Street Journal, Hicks mentioned Cleopatra, as she “didn’t take crap from anyone…was intelligent and witty, known for her abilities, and was a good stateswoman.”
As we all know, Cleopatra was glamour personified!
What’s being respected in the community is changed over years. In this century what makes you powerful is your ability influence people, output something valuable and make a positive change. Today, titles are ignored and individual stories are more attractive.
As a child, I’ve never dreamed myself as a princess or any monarch’s consort or any monarch. These titles represent nothing valuable but being lucky enough to enjoy a class and its privileges while feeding yourself with civil taxes. In this age, where monarch do have very limited operating power, the chances are low for new generations to dream of fairy tales as well. The motivation behind my thoughts may be due to my left-wing attitude, my earlier education and my family who never sympathized anything about monarchy; but it’s clear that we have more powerful female role models today such as scientists, engineers, business women, philosophers and politicians. Many to name who are leaving valuable stuff compared to a fairy tale princess.
As a side thought, it’s a shame that we still have kings and queens today. It’s truly a discrimination.
India Hicks is a terrific example! Another example of getting a great guy, keeping the glamour, yet doing it on her own terms is Goldie Hawn. Oprah Winfrey expanded my view of glamour. Agreeing with Bercu, I find the ability to influence people in a positive way is what I admire in the 21st century.
The glamour role models beyond princess were so few and far between in my childhood: Jane Goodall (she could have been from Mars so shocking was her exotic life) and Nancy Drew. Condaleezza Rice never gave up one moment of glamour as Secretary of State. Indeed, she reveled in it.
Any other examples? It’s amazing how role models influence us. As women become more able to define their own lives, the princess fantasy may fade because we are heavily influenced by the other choices out there.
For that matter, what about Nigella Lawson? (I’m still thinking British.) She’s far more glam than I imagine Mrs Beeton was! And very much her own woman…
Actually, I’m curious about Goldie Hawn. Why did she get such a ringing endorsement from Oprah? Oh, and Oprah herself: that’s another one!
Oh, I meant Goldie was exciting in approaching her life and her industry on her own terms. And Oprah expanded my image of glamour beyond the usual demographics. It’s that creative vision of herself that has brought out the best of her humanity. What would the world be like if all women could have such a creative vision?
I do think Karen has a point. Women are truly marching ahead, both in schools and in the workplace, and the presence of a prince to accomplish their dreams is growing less and less necessary – I say this as the author of many novels, who has both paid for, and paved, her own path.
Incidentally, what made Kate/Catherine Middleton so beautiful on her wedding day, is not her hair, make-up or dress, but the same thing that makes all of us beautiful, white gowns or not: comfort in our skin.
I love your remark about being comfortable in one’s own skin. That’s probably one of the hardest things for us women to achieve, don’t you think? So when one of us has that comfort, it really stands out!
Bravo Jane! Well said too, about Kate’s comfort with herself. I have no complaints about either of those ladies. Remember when Diana changed the world by publicly touching an AIDS victim? That was such a big deal. She also taught me all about the land mine issue. What I adored about her is she often met and honored humanity at their weakest, rather than at their strongest. I am sure Kate will teach me things too.
Jane, this is where your books where women play with different roles make such a difference! The stories that we tell about ourselves as women, read about ourselves as women help us imagine our future. You literally are helping to create the creative vision. For years, princess was the only role out there with great fashion and a great guy. It makes me excited to think what options women will have 100 years from now after a couple generations of thinking beyond one role.
I predict Kate will be a huge success and I must admit, after years of arguing against the monarchy, I found myself quite moved by the Royal Wedding. Kate is not Diana; she has known William for years and they have many mutual friends in common – as someone else who met her husband at University and married him in her late 20s, I can confirm that this is a fairly successful recipe for marriage. She knows what she is getting into; she has definitely chosen it, not had it chosen for her; and she seems like a level-headed person who can hopefully cope with the attention. I think William will be supportive of her in whatever she chooses to do with her position as well. It’s not a ‘fairy tale’ in that I don’t feel envious of her exactly – it’s a pretty awful life and who on earth would want those Royals as in-laws? – but I do feel that she is with the man she loves and that makes it romantic enough for me. As a Brit living on Long Island, it’s made me feel much more positive about the UK I left behind – and even homesick for the first time in two years.
LOL at your comment: “who on earth would want those Royals as in-laws?” The other day I was reading Andrew Morton’s article in the Daily Telegraph on what lies ahead for Kate (he has a new book out: William and Catherine: Their Lives, Their Wedding), and was struck by his trenchant comment:
Morton goes on to provide some examples of the “quaint but abstruse” royal traditions this newly minted member of the Royal Family will have to get used to:
* Don’t try to pet any of the Queen’s corgis; she doesn’t like it.
* At meal times, keep an eagle eye on the Duke of Edinburgh: plates are cleared by the servants the moment he has finished eating.
* When staying at Balmoral, avoid certain paths used by other members of the family for their daily walks.
* Never sit on the chair once occupied by the late Queen Mary.
What’s more, Kate will no longer be guarded by her own family, who until the wedding formed a “silent praetorian guard” around her.
To me, it sounds comparable to what Masako Owada got herself into — though surely nothing could be as bad as the Japanese Imperial Household Agency, reputed to be the biggest sticklers for protocol the world has ever known.
Like you, I don’t envy anyone that fate!
Here’s another voice on the debate. A voice I’ve long admired, even though he’s been dead for years. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman talks about his father teaching him the folly of elevating one sort of human over another. It is in the second video, called “Honors.” http://tinyurl.com/6y9wx43