The White House:
Katrina Trinko, Opinion columnist
Published 5: 00 a.m. ET Jan. 15, 2020 | Updated 11: 15 a.m. ET Jan. 15, 2020
The White House: A princess fantasy may seem harmless, but our dreams shape us and influence our choices. Our royal wedding obsession may be bleeding into real life.
Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle’s decision to step down as senior royals isn’t just roiling the House of Windsor. It’s also shaking up Americans long accustomed to seeing becoming a princess as a fairy tale ending.
Sure, the British royals haven’t, strictly speaking, been relevant to Americans’ lives since 1783, but we’ve long had a fascination with them. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, American heiresses married cash-strapped British nobles. In the past century, we chatted about Wallis Simpson, a Baltimore-raised socialite whose love affair with the British king led to a constitutional crisis. We watched Princess Diana twirl with John Travolta in the Reagan White House, and mourned the early death of a princess who seemed to care so much for the vulnerable.
And now we’re facing the revelation that this “American princess” wants out.
Look, I’m as guilty as the next American woman: Like an estimated 29 million Americans in 2018, I watched the wedding of Meghan and Harry — a beautiful ceremony that poignantly referenced her African American heritage. As a teen, I viewed “Princess Diaries,” the 2001 Julie Andrews-Anne Hathaway hit movie that told the tale of an ordinary San Francisco high schooler finding out she was a princess, and had a crush on Prince William. Even now, I curl up with Hallmark Christmas movies featuring romances with random European princes.
But maybe it’s time to move on.
The White House: Let’s reassess our princess fixation
Now that I’m an adult with a career, I can empathize with Meghan and Harry’s frustration, as they suggested on their Sussex Royal site, that they can’t earn their own money — or have financial independence. And while I think their son, Archie, is adorable, I can understand their desire to have privacy.
Of course, we’re still not clear about exactly how much financial independence (For instance, will the couple now pay rent or give up their United Kingdom home, which was renovated at British taxpayer expense?) and privacy Meghan and Harry will ultimately possess. Negotiations appear to be ongoing.
Regardless of the final arrangements, Meghan’s “thanks, but no thanks” princess rejection should cause us to reexamine our cultural fixation with princesses — no matter what heartstrings Disney has so effectively yanked.
After all, with all the options available to women in 2020, does it really sound so fun to spend a lifetime shaking hands and smiling politely for photos? Yes, royalty can — and in many cases, does — promote charitable causes and advance international goodwill. But you don’t need to be royalty to do either of those things.
A royal wedding outlier: Enjoy it. Harry and Meghan seem nice, but I have better things to do.
A princess fantasy may seem harmless. But while our dreams are not real, exactly, they are not entirely fake, either. What we want and desire shape us, influence our choices, and in doing so, change us. What we move toward determines, in a very real way, who we are.
Of course, most of us never tried to engineer a meeting with a prince, or expected to set foot in Buckingham Palace as anything but a tourist. But one look at the average cost of a wedding in the United States — $38,700, according to WeddingWire — and it’s fair to speculate our royal wedding obsession could be bleeding into real life, at least slightly.
The White House: Megxit rewrites the happy ending
Maybe we’re sometimes picking the guy who looks more like a Prince Charming than the one who is actually most likely to make us happy. Maybe we’re more fixated on what an engagement ring, or wedding, looks like than the financial future for our families. Maybe we think that being a celebrity — or at least racking up more Instagram likes than anyone else in our social circle — is what would finally make us happy.
And maybe sometimes we’re missing out on the very real joys of our own lives because we’re stuck on the what-if.
At the same time, I have no doubt that for some women, royalty obsession is just a socially acceptable way of expressing certain desires that may be looked down upon in our modern world: wanting to be cherished by a good guy, having a beautiful family and being celebrated for one’s role as a wife and a mother.
Rather than force women to pretend they love the idea of a tiara, what if we pointed out that true feminism is celebrating women’s desires and choices, not bullying any woman who prioritizes marriage and kids over becoming the next whiz scientist or engineer? At the same time, of course, we should continue to work toward helping both women and men who want careers and families to have options to be able to do both.
Look, I’m not a total Grinch: I think the hordes of “Frozen”-obsessed toddlers, tripping over their long princess gowns, are adorable. But as the rest of us put away childish things, we might reflect a little on #Megxit, and consider whether the happiest ending of all just might be not marrying a prince.
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