Yes, I Love The Royal Wedding

My grandmother lived next to me, in the duplex.  We lived in our own lightless world.

Because I had school on the far side of town, and had to get up at 5:30 in the morning to take all the buses to get to school.  Nobody was up.  Walking to the bus was a grim, dim experience, trudging past endless rows of darkened houses; it felt like the world had shut down, and I was the only person alive.

My grandmother was up, though.  She was the only light on in the whole world.

So I walked next door and parked myself next to her, her jigsaw puzzles, and her coffee.  And we’d chat.

My grandmother loved her tabloids.  And I loved to read anything.

So we’d chat about celebrities – “You see what Madonna did?” “Oh yes.” “Well, I don’t see anything wrong with that.” “Neither do I!  She has a right!” – and we’d discuss which papers were good and which were trash (The Star was invariably accurate, The Enquirer was always spreading lies), and we’d debate which celebrity marriages would make it and which would crash.

They weren’t big conversations; just little passing discussions as she was putting together her jigsaw puzzle and I was frantically scrambling to do my homework.

But to a friendless boy who entered a bubble of isolation for two hours on his commute, those tiny discussions were life.

And of course, the crown jewel of our conversations were Diana and Charles.  We loved the royal family, because they were the perfect celebrity – they were born to the lifestyle, so it didn’t seem quite as cruel to look in on them.  They knew the deal: they got to be rich, in exchange for living in a gilded cage.  And the struggles as they tried to be stoic and yet remained relentlessly human were fascinating – they were held to flawless standards, yet griped and bitched and dorked it up despite all that training.

(Now that I think about it, that’s pretty much where my concept that no human is a paragon of virtue comes from, because honestly, with all the pressures applied to the royal family, if you could squeeze the humanity out of someone to make a person conform flawlessly to arbitrary rules, the royal family would do it.  But no; they flailed in the press’s eye all the time, merely by making mistakes that ordinary people wouldn’t have thought twice about.)

And Charles and Diana, well, that was a fairybook gone wrong.  We loved Diana like the tabloids did, we loved the ordinary girl made into a star, and I did not yet understand how relentlessly destructive celebrityhood could be.  I think of Ta-Nehesi Coates’ words on Kanye West: “There’s ample evidence, beyond West, that humans were not built to withstand the weight of celebrity.”

The tale of Diana was unusual and resonant because our journey, the journal of the readers, mirrored Diana’s perfectly.    Usually the tabloids get something dramatically wrong in any story, but in this case everything they got wrong was something that Diana personally believed at the time: that Charles genuinely loved her, that being made into a princess would be a magical goodness, that the tabloids were good and the royal family was something more than a bonsai-contorted remnant of humanity, twisted into position by tradition and remoteness.

And as the reports came in and Charles made his mistakes (“Are you in love?” “Whatever ‘in love’ means,” he said), Diana’s commoner dreams were dashed in real-time with our own hopes so that our heartbreaks were intertwined.

She became the Peoples’ Princess because we had travelled one step behind her.  My grandmother and I knew she had been foolish, but we also had been foolish, and so we forgave her.

But I remember those early days of Diana, back when we were all flush with hope and dreams; I remember getting up with my grandmother at 4:30 in the morning, each of us setting our alarms, to get up early on a school day of all things.  I remember both of us sitting rapt by the television, watching the spectacle quietly, knowing nobody else we knew gave a crap about this wedding but it was a big deal to us and so we watched it in this tiny, dark little pre-morning world that was shared by us and us only.

I was late to school that day.

It was worth it.

And so to this day, I know more about the royals than most people would suspect of me.  Back when I was a punk, with a torn T-shirt and piercings and a regular mosh pit, and I still would spout very firm opinions on Camilla whenever anyone brought it up.   (I’m not excusing what she and Charles did, but honestly, she gets shit on so much for not being Diana, and honestly, who could?)

And now that I’m 48 and a fiercely-liberal science fiction writer, I suspect a lot of my friends will be thrown by my deep and abiding love for the royals.  But I adore the Queen, and I’ve been hoping the best for Harry, and honestly William and Catherine leave me cold but why am I so enwrapped in silly gossip?

I could justify it, but really, it’s just an old habit – one that makes me happy.  I think of my Gramma, and I think of that world we created, and it’s still alive even if only I’m here to sustain it.  (Though to be fair, my wife also harbors this secret love, which is just proof we’re suited for each other.)

So tomorrow, I’ll be getting up early, and turning on our television, and I can’t wait to see what dress Meghan wears.  We’ll be gossiping at the ridiculous hats, and seeing how uncomfortable Charles looks in the role of father as he walks her down the aisle, and it’ll be early with the lights all off and on some level I’ll be nine years old again and having brief talks with my Gramma.

Long live the Queen.

Long live these odd traditions.

1 Comment

  1. Angie
    May 21, 2018

    I think the greatest crime committed in the whole Charles-and-Diana royal wedding mess was that nobody sat Diana down and made sure she understood what she was getting into. It was a political marriage that everyone pretended was a romantic fairytale, and when Diana said “I do” that day, she was nowhere in the same hemisphere as informed consent.

    At the same time, Charles (and Camilla) were screwed over before Diana was ever in the picture. Camilla is very clearly the love of his life, but he wasn’t allowed to marry her. He had to marry a virgin (a helpful, grey-haired man with a connection to the royal house that I forget right now was helpful enough to make that very plain in a TV interview at the time, translating “a young woman of good character” into “she had to be a virgin” for everyone who didn’t quite get it) and Camilla wasn’t. There you go, so sorry, we have this list of vetted young women for you to look over…. Yes, it sucks that Charles wasn’t faithful to his wife, and it sucks more that he wasn’t terribly discreet about it after the first year or three, but seriously, the guy was messed over by a system he had no hope of fighting. If he were The Guy in a romance novel, The Girl would NOT be Diana.

    That whole situation, with all its rules and traditions and ridiculously outmoded requirements and standards, wrecked the lives of everyone involved, no actual villains needed.

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