The Labor of (Royal) Love
In one of the FRIENDS episode, Monica tells Ross that girls probably plan their wedding from the time when they are five. I don’t know if this is true. But I can tell you for sure that all girls without exception dream about a Prince Charming who will suddenly burst into the scene and sweep them off their feet.
And it has to be Prince Charming in every which way. Incredibly handsome, rich, sensitive, brave, virtuous gentleman. Girls don’t dream about the local shopkeeper or the newspaper guy. It’s different with guys of course. Let’s not go there.
Perhaps it is genetic. Perhaps it is conditioning. Even before your milk teeth have fallen out, you are introduced to some of the world’s most popular damsels in distress - Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Cinderella. I still love these stories. They capture a child’s imagination completely. I remember getting stressed out when Cinderella was ill-treated by the evil stepmom. I was terrified when Snow White was sent away to be killed. I loved the dwarfs to death. But the subtle message in the stories – the girls are incredibly beautiful. They have pure, virtuous, noble characters. They take shit from everyone with dignity. When they get into trouble, they are saved by the handsome prince with a kiss.
I remember watching a Korean movie when I was a kid. (I think it was Korean). DD used to screen world movies on some week nights, once a month I guess. The story was about this deaf and dumb guy who comes to work in a village. He stays with a family, and is generally bossed around. Only one girl from that family is kind to him. She is the stepdaughter. At some point, the stepmom conspires to get the stepdaughter married to this ‘stupid’ slave and send her away – so that her own daughter can inherit the property. The stepdaughter is very happy though. She sees this guy as her ideal soul mate. He is respectful towards her; he is kind and hard working; and she believes she will be happy with him. Towards the end of the movie, it is revealed that the dude is actually a prince in hiding, and he regains his throne with his new queen – whom he indeed loves dearly. The stepmom eats her arm out at her failed venture. It was a thrilling movie. The stepmom was not a caricature-type character. Every character was realistic. There was no over the top drama. The chemistry between the subdued stepdaughter and the mute ‘slave’ was so restrained, and so right. I think I was 13-14 when I watched this. I did not sleep for days on end – I had fallen in love with the idea of falling in love.
And then, Pride and Prejudice came along. It did not help matters for me. I tumbled into the world of Darcy and Lizzie. I still maintain that Pride and Prejudice is the best love story I’ve ever read. The thought of a ‘common’ girl arresting the mind and heart of an incredibly rich, arrogant guy – of literally bringing him down to his knees – phew! It is so satiating to the ego. Plus, Lizzie is not like those weakling, virtuous princesses we read about while growing up. She is her own person, with her own opinions, her own ego. She can say ‘no’ to the handsome, rich guy if she feels it is a bad idea. I believe all girls without exception, dream of a Lizzie-like state. Of being pursued. Of being wooed. Of having the power to say no. Of having the power to change one’s mind and say ‘Yes.’
On the real life front, most of our Princes turned out to be boring IT professionals. In my case, my husband and I were best friends for about three years before we decided to tie the knot. I still don’t know what the defining moment was – that made us decide to live with each other. Occasionally, when I ask The Husband about that single magical moment, he admits there was no moment. He apparently got tired of dropping me back home after every 6:30pm show – and felt it would be convenient if we just lived under the same roof. These are the times when I eye the porcelain vase, but the moment passes. I am just so glad to live with a guy who lets me be!
But I never lost the fascination for Mr.Darcy and his ilk. Happy love stories captivate me. So when Prince William’s engagement with Kate Middleton was announced, I was thrilled to bits.
Here was a real-life fairy tale love story. A prince marrying a ‘commoner’. But a modern-day princely romance is really a nightmare. I felt really sorry for the kids. Especially for Kate. I cannot imagine how she put up with the pressure of being the Prince’s girlfriend.
Kate comes from a rich family – they are millionaires. But mind you, self-made millionaires. Kate and the Prince met in college. I believe a friendship blossomed, which turned into love. And that started the Hounding-of-Kate-Middleton by the press and the paparazzi. She was possibly 21-22 at that time. Every time she stepped out, she was photographed and her photos would be splashed on the tabloids – dissecting her dress sense – was it cheap, was it expensive, was it gaudy, was it elegant; judging her body language – was she confident, was she fidgety , was she slumped, was she fit-to-be-a-prince’s-girlfriend...and so on.
At her age, I remember feeling insecure. I am sure all girls go through that (and possibly even guys, but the pressure is more on girls). We are still trying to figure out our way in the world, we are insecure of our bodies, insecure of the way we look – I mean, no matter how good-looking one is, one goes through this phase. Imagine having all the cameras of the world focus on you when you are in your most vulnerable state of mind.
Well, the hounding did not stop with her looks; it spread to every sphere of her life. Her lack of a steady career was criticized in some sections of the media. How the hell do you expect a girl to work peacefully if you kept shoving cameras into her face, and then say mean things about her? Soon, they gave her a title of ‘Waity Katy’ – apparently she lacked ambition to fire a career; and all she did was wait around for Prince William to go down on his knees and propose to her.
Whether rich or poor, a girl in love is like any other girl in love. I am sure there have been many, many nights when Kate has cried herself to sleep. But despite the nearly decade-long hounding, she has shown admirable dignity and poise all through, and a maturity beyond her age. She may not hold a PhD in abstract algebra. She may not have a career as an investment banker or a hot-shot lawyer. She may not even have the mind-numbing charisma of Princess Diana. But what she has is something even more admirable. She is the girl-next-door. She is you and me. In her own quiet way, she has stripped off all the frills – the prince, the palace and everything in between. She has just focused on her love for a boy.
The struggle is not over for Kate. The analysis that followed the engagement of Prince William and Catherine Middleton was even more bizarre. Their wedding is said to bring a cheer to a gloomy country– gloomy because of the economy and the weather. What a pressure on a wedding! Their engagement photographs were analysed and critiqued on BBC. Was the lighting okay? The intimate pose is certainly different from the stiff and cold engagement photos of other royals. Do the photos represent a ‘modern’ day couple as against a ‘royal’ couple? In yet another program, a palace source predicted that the relationship between the Queen and Kate would not be comfortable. It was reported that there could be pressure on Kate to hire a British designer for her wedding gown, as against the Brazil chaps she prefers. And so on and so forth. Phew! Yes, unlike all the storybook romances, falling in love with a prince in real life is nothing but STRESSFUL WORK. I certainly wouldn’t want to be in Kate’s Jimmy Choo!
But still, I miss the feeling of falling in love. And I believe no matter what age, despite the hitched marital status, I will always love the thought that someone could sweep me off my feet.