Friday, April 29, 2011

Princesses

I said I wasn't going to write about the royal wedding this morning because that's all everyone is talking about and I hate when a. I can't add anything new to a conversation and b. when people talk the living shit out of something. I found that I just can't be cynical about this. Something about watching the spectacle made me happy. It was sweet and pretty and they seem like genuine people. I was much happier about this royal wedding than than I was at the first one.

I still remember Charles and Diana's wedding, though I think I was only about seven. It absolutely enraged me. It was the stupidest wedding I'd ever seen. Everything about it was infuriatingly wrong.

The only reason I saw it at all was because it took place on the same morning as the Chincoteague Pony Swim. I'd been going through a horse phase where all I wanted to do was read books about horses and then fill drawing pads with marker sketches of disproportionate equines. Most of my pictures looked the same: horses running, horses grazing, horses standing around. The only thing that differentiated them was the colors and patterns of the horses' coats, which was something I took very seriously. I'd just read Misty of Chincoteague, which remains one of my favorite children's books to this day, and I'd become enamored with the idea of seeing the wild ponies of Assateague swim across the channel when my plastic Breyer Misty splashing around in the bathtub got old. My grandparents decided that we lived close enough that they may as well take me to the real Pony Swim and I about lost my mind with excitement. They told me far too soon in advance that we were going, so I did nothing but think about it and wish the day would finally arrive. That was the longest damned summer. It was like July would never end and all I wanted to do was see those wild, spotted ponies paddling away from their island home to civilization.

While I counted the days until the Pony Swim, the rest of the world counted the days until the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, which I felt was idiotic. I mean, how could that compare to wild ponies in the water? My grandmother got together with a small group of friends one night a week. They called it "Club" though they did no sorts of club-like activities. They'd make me go to bed while they sat in our living room gossiping, bitching and drinking black coffee and eating pistachio Dream Whip cake. I liked to pretend like I was sleeping while eavesdropping because usually I'd hear some interesting tidbits, but that summer all those bitties talked about was that stupid wedding and I was so sick of hearing about that Lady Di. 


To arrive in Chincoteague on time, because the ponies swam early, we had to get up at four 'o' clock in the morning. That was the earliest I'd ever gotten up, except for the time I had a stomach virus. Those things always seem to hit you pre-dawn for some reason. Even when we went crabbing in the first pink lights of morning, we didn't have to get up at four am. Waking in the middle of the night gave the whole trip a greater sense of adventure for me. I remember my grandfather frying sausage links in the kitchen and filling a huge Army thermos with steaming coffee for the road, while my grandmother had the television on. After she'd gotten me in shorts and a tee shirt and saw to it that my Keds were tied, she sat me down in front of the TV set.


"Look," she said, "This is the wedding of a prince and a princess, just like in the fairytale stories you love."

I did love fairytales very much. When I wasn't reading books about horses, I had my head in a thick volume of Grimms and what I think grown-ups don't realize is that those stories' appeal lies in their violence. I liked the gory parts, because, as all children are to some extent, I was a savage. Savage though I was, I still liked a good princess every now and then, especially if she'd gone through some hardship and been made to clean or go on an epic quest to rescue someone. The princesses I remember didn't sit around in their castles much. I liked to play princesses with my friend K and sure, we'd don old silky nightgowns and top ourselves with tiaras, but after we were appropriately dressed, we had dragons to slay, jealous witches to outsmart and kingdoms to save and this type of girl is what I had in mind when I heard the word princess. Naturally then, I was suddenly a little more interested in this wedding than I previously had been. Maybe there was also the possibility of an evil faerie swooping in and wreaking havoc on the celebration or maybe I'd get lucky and someone would start cutting off chunks of her feet to fit into teeny shoes and all of it would be captured on the CBS morning news. Even I would have to admit that that beat a pony swim.


Did not happen. That wedding was immensely disappointing. The best part of it was the horse drawn carriages.


First of all Princess Diana looked nothing like a princess, save her lovely diamond tiara. Her dress was a big, round, biscuit shaped poof that she could barely walk in, much less kill a dragon and break a spell in. She looked meek and pitiful too, but worst of all was her haircut. It was short and feathered. Everyone knows that princesses do not, under any circumstances (except for Rapunzel and that was an emergency) cut their hair off. Princesses have long hair and they wear it in braids or loosely flowing and entwined with wildflowers. Period. No other hairstyles are permitted.


I couldn't even believe how ugly Prince Charles was and don't even get me started on the Queen. That woman looked nothing like a Queen. She was an old lady in a hat. Ridiculous. The only redeeming thing about this royal wedding nonsense was that there were lots and lots of horses in all different colors. 


The funniest thing is that when I look back I can remember my wild excitement for the pony swim, but I barely remember it. The image I have in my head of the ponies is faded, full of blurred hooves, overcast, humid and wet, yet I remember in stark detail the royal wedding.


Throughout my childhood I continued to be irritated by Princess Diana's hair and outfits. It really bugged me that she looked like all the teachers at my school and ladies who worked at the bank in town and gave me lollipops. I went through a phase of writing letters to famous people, some of which I actually sent, and I wrote to Princess Diana telling her that she needed to grow out her hair and get rid of the ugly suits. She needed to wear her crown all the time and get herself some pretty dresses preferably with velvet and corseted bodices. I'm hoping that this is one of the letters that never got sent. It's no wonder the poor woman had an eating disorder and I really hope I didn't have a hand in that.


When I was about nine, I got to go to a Renaissance faire. Yes, I went wearing an old silky nightgown as a dress and several strands of beads that my grandmother had worn in the sixties. My tiara was firmly bobby pinned atop my head and I believed that my period attire was quite accurate and appropriate. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. The Renaissance faire was way better than the pony swim and I remember it far more distinctly. Now, this was how it was done. There was even a wedding of a prince and princess, neither of whom were ugly and the princess did not wear suits or have short, feathered hair. I promptly went home and wrote Princess Diana another letter suggesting that she visit the Renaissance faire for an example of how she should be presenting herself. I hope that I sent this one and that she read it and howled with laughter.


From what I hear about Princess Diana's life, she probably didn't howl with laughter as often as she ought to have. I was just a little kid who didn't understand the world when I tried to impose my ideas of what a princess should be upon her. I had no idea that the rest of the world had done the same thing, only on a greater and more insidious scale and that it had hurt a sweet and innocent girl who only wanted to be loved. I grew up to admire Princess Diana's humanitarian work and I came to understand, especially after her death that she was one of the princesses in the fairytales I loved so much who had undergone hardships and who had fought dragons, though hers were more figurative. She would have been very happy today. 

As I watched the wedding myself, I tried to see it through my seven year old eyes. I think the seven year old me would have approved very much of Princess Catherine, and not just for her long, dark hair. This is a princess, I think, who could break a spell and save a kingdom.


There were horses too. Lots of them, black with white blazed faces, prancing, heads tossed magnificently and pulling at their reins.

12 comments:

Lara said...

Today, your post and mine couldn't have been more different! I have such fond memories of Diana's wedding. In spite of her short hair, I thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world. But it sounds like you and I agree that in the long run she was a wonderful woman who was in way over her head.

DiaryofWhy said...

I didn't watch the wedding, but this is a beautifully written story.

Laurie said...

I loved Diana. We were the same age, and I never had any interest in the Royal Family until she came along. They probably still don't appreciate to this day how lucky they were to have her. The way they treated her, what they did to her life and the short burst of happiness, independance and strength that she was able to salvage before her devistating death were in my thoughts as I watched the wedding this morning and saw the warmth and love of their mother in William and Harry. I'm happy to say that Will and Kate's story looks like it will have a much happier outcome, and know that she is smiling down on them today and always.

Jean_Phx said...

I love the pony penning at Chincoteague/Assateague Islands. My Mother used to take us there in the summers for a vacation and the boys weren't allowed to come. I don't think they really wanted to - but, my sister and I loved thinking that they didn't know what they were missing. And, I thought that the wedding was beautiful - I hope that family doesn't break her.

Melanie said...

I love the thought of Diana visiting the Renaissance Faire for ideas on how to present herself. You crack me up!!!

Miss Kitty said...

Posts like this remind me of why I love your writing so much. WL, you inspire me every time I check in. If I could write even half this well, this heart-wrenchingly, this gut-bustingly (?) funny, I'd be happy.

Lots of changes going on at Educated & Poor, not the least of which is I'm leaving Division II University AND teaching in general. I know there's a lot going on in the Lawns world as well. I'll catch up with you as I read a little at a time. Stop in some time, & set a spell. :-)

(((hugs)))
Miss Kitty

Jen said...

What I liked best about the wedding this morning, was that you can tell they are genuinely in love. It radiates in everything they did today.

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the post..thank you!

L.

Kerry said...

I thought Diana was gorgeous. I loved her wardrobe, most of the time, though I wasn't always thrilled with the hats. I felt bad for her when things went so sour. And then of course the terrible car crash...

At least she got a royal wedding and a prince, even if he was ugly. I hope Kate does better. I think she did amazingly well yesterday, especially given that she didn't grow up in royalty.

I had a thing for ponies as a kid, too. I read all the horse books, too. Ten-year-old-me would have been *green* with jealousy that you got to see the pony swim! I didn't think the island and the ponies were real for a lot of years, though.

Plume said...

Funny, I always was bummed by Diana short hairs too!
For me, it's not only princesses that are supposed to have long hairs, you just have to have long hair to be a "real" girl, period.
My mother always said that Diana was a beautiful woman, and I never realy agreed, perhaps it's tha "80's" look of her.
Oh, and I watched the wedding too.

Anonymous said...

I turned the TV on to watch the wedding as a cynic and ended up shedding some happy tears. It was beautiful.

Horses - did you notice the gorgeous black horse who ditched his rider and hauled ass back to his stables? He appears briefly next to the royal carriage.

http://blogs.equisearch.com/horsehealth/2011/04/29/royal-wedding-horse-household-cavalry/

Maureen

Amy said...

I love this! I am a faithful (though often delayed) reader and a fan of all your writing. But this is the best thing you've written in some time!

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