Saturday, April 30, 2011

What a Difference 30 Years Makes

I was 9 years old in the summer of 1981. I remember it clearly. This was before my love of Duran Duran took hold and I think I still had posters of Ralph Macchio and Lief Garrett on my walls but when you're 9 and you get to watch someone become a princess, you pay attention.

On July 29 I set my alarm so I could get up bright and early to watch a wedding that was happening later in the day in a place I'd never been. If I remember correctly, I was the only one in my house that got up, but a lot of my girlfriends did as well. I can't put my finger on why it was so important to see someone I'd never met get married, but it was so I just left it at that. I made a scrapbook with the photos from the wedding and of the renderings of the dress. I thought it was the coolest thing as a 9 year old who still thought there was a possibility of a prince sweeping me off my feet. Ohhh, that made me laugh just thinking of that, for many reasons! Funny the things you believe when you're a child. I was raised by a single mother so how I believed that for even a second is beyond me.

I watched for hours while Lady Diana readied herself and stepped out of the carriage with her father, wearing a dress that can only be described as a confection and walked down the isle to a life that was cut short. No one could have guessed that day that she only had 16 years to live but we got to watch her do a lot of things in 16 years that were fun to watch for a girl growing up, always keeping her eyes on a princess.

At the age of 9 I didn't understand things like a 19 year old virgin or marrying someone you don't love because it is your duty. I didn't understand having your mistress attend your wedding and having her sit in full view of the bride and I didn't understand a Queen so out of touch that she sat back and watched it all happen figuring keeping a 19 year old under your thumb would be simple. I get that backwards way of thinking now that I'm 40 but that kind of shit wasn't even on my radar screen in 1981.

I was two months shy of turning 12 when Prince William was born in 1982 and even in the throws of my Duran Duran haze I remember watching the news coverage and collecting photos (which I still have) and thinking what a wonderful thing it must be to be born into such a wonderful family (hey, I was 12!) with such a loving mother. I remember the way she always doted on him and sat back and laughed when he ran around being goofy as most toddlers will. It wasn't something that wasn't expected from the royals so it was extra fun to watch her be so hands on with her son and then again with his brother when he came along in 1984.

I remember all too clearly the day she died. It was 1997 and I was working as a restaurant manager and heard the news on the radio as I drove home from my shift smelling like a mixture of turned remoulade and toasted ass. It's been proven over time that no one comes back from "grave" condition so when I heard that I knew she wasn't going to make the night. Truth is, she was probably already dead. I think they waited to release the information of her death until her sons got to the hospital. I stayed up all night watching CNN knowing that at any minute the ticker at the bottom of the screen would change from "Princess Diana in grave condition" to "Princess Diana is dead" and it did, but not until early morning. I cried. I remember being so upset. Not 9/11 upset but just saddened that she died so young and left her boys behind when she seemed to be coming into her own after the divorce.

The day of her funeral, I took off work. I sat in my apartment alone and recorded the majority of the day on VHS. No idea why I did that but I made myself sick watching that whole thing and teared up again when her sons chose to walk behind her casket with her brother, The Duke of Edinburgh and their father, who really didn't have to do it. The day of her funeral is also the day I stopped hating Prince Charles. Camilla Parker Bowles I'm still working on. No matter how hard I try, I just can't get the tampon phone call out of my head.

I collected newspapers and magazines for weeks and made scrapbooks of all of the clippings, just like I'd done when she was married. I was saddened that I'd followed her entire public life and boom, she was dead. It had been very upsetting for me. Even more so now as a mother who can't imagine leaving her babies, I wonder if in her last moments she was tormented knowing she had to do just that.

So, I've followed the princes in a "Oh, look how they're doing" kinda way over the years. I've seen them do incredibly stupid things like dressing up as Hitler for a party and wonderful things like the volunteer work and keeping up with the charities their mother thought important. I knew William was dating Kate Middleton for years but I'm not the type to buy magazines just to watch someone do their shopping or other mundane daily activities. I just think that's creepy but when I heard that after 8 years of dating that they were getting married, I got really excited and knew immediately that I'd be getting up really early in the morning to watch it.

In the end, I ended up doing much more than that. I got in my car at 1:15 in the morning and drove 15 hours in terrible weather, tornado traffic and other odd accidents to get to Nashville to get up at 4 AM to watch it with a friend who seemed to love it as much as I did. She's roughly the same age so it didn't really surprise me but it's nice to have others love what you do even if they can't really explain why either.

We watched the whole thing from start to finish. I'll be honest, I had Princess Diana on my mind the entire time. How could I not? I've always loved Prince William and watching his wedding is different because now I'm doing it as a mother and I can't help but think of how proud she would have been of him on this day and how although they're both royal weddings, how totally different they are. I remember waiting and waiting for Diana to get out of that car with her father and when she stepped out, her confection of a dress followed. It was beautiful and she looked beautiful but it was a lot of dress. Were as when Kate Middleton stepped from her car the dress was a completely different animal. She stepped from the car and the dress said exactly what she wanted it to. Her dress said, "I know what you're thinking of today, but I am NOT Princess Diana!" It worked. I don't think I thought much about that for the rest of the ceremony.

The dresses couldn't have been more different and neither was the day. Diana's wedding day wasn't really about her. She was a child marrying blindly into a business. Kate Middleton planned everything down to her dress which was more Grace Kelly that anything else. She looked beautiful but not in the way that most people expected which is nice. She certainly stood out on her day even in front of her sister who looked amazing and an Abby filled with some of the worst hats I've ever seen.

I mean the only way that hat was a success was if she was trying to draw attention away from her big choppers and HUGE eyeballs. It looked even worse from the back.

So, I had a good trip down memory lane that I enjoyed both with the wedding and visiting friends and places like my old high school in my hometown. I love seeing anyone succeed at something and I think getting what you want in the end after losing your mother at such a young age is a wonderful thing. I feel like we're all their mothers. I don't want to know his or Harry's personal business, I just like knowing that they're doing well and I think they are.

My husband doesn't understand my love of Princess Diana and her sons and why would he? He's 5 years too young and he has a penis. A boy can never understand a 9 year old girl longing to be a princess. Today my two year old while wearing a tutu, wings and carrying a wand turned to me and said (for the first time) "Momma, I'm a princess!" I was thrown off by it because this wedding aside, I'm not the princess type, unless princess's wear a lot of black and have terrible potty mouths. I never thought my daughter would be the type to love all things fluffy and hopefully she won't think someone is coming to save her because I don't want anyone leaving my house allowing someone to do everything for them or waiting for someone to save them from anything but maybe for now, that's OK. Maybe it's OK for her to wish for a Prince to give her a glass slipper. Maybe it's OK to long for a land of make believe where all dreams come true. She'll be hit with the realities of life soon enough. For now it's OK to dream of the fairy tale. Sometimes they come true, don't they?


  1. I so loved your post. That's great you guys did that. Wow, I forgot all about when Princess Di's wedding was..seriously though, she has two young men to be so proud of. Thanks.

  2. I love this post. I was 7 when Diana got married and I remember my mom and I watching it on TV. Both Diana and my mom are gone now. I thought a lot about both of them when I watched Wills' wedding. I think Diana would be so happy to know that her sons are happy and that he married a strong woman that he loves.

  3. i loved this and was happy your got to be here and we did it together!