I’ve always dreamed of a fairy-tale romance: Some day, my stepmother will drug me and I will wake up somewhere strange being kissed by a man in a metal hat. Or I will awaken somewhere strange, surrounded by people of less than average height and feel as though the mice are trying to communicate with me. Or I will turn out to have been a swan, all this time!
So I’m a little disappointed by the Royal Wedding. Prince William and Kate Middleton? Nothing could be further from a fairy tale. Where are the horses swooping out of the night in the middle of storms, the parental opposition, the talking clocks? Where is the sense of randomness, the idea that this could have happened to anyone at all?
I’ve been told to tune into the royal fairy-tale wedding. What fairy tale?
This is the story of a guy who marries a girl he dated in college. If that’s a fairy tale, I’ll go out and buy a Kate Middleton Commemorative Hat, then eat it. Look at it this way: Anyone who knows what hat to wear on an occasion like this has to be disqualified from the fairy-tale narrative. When I see Kate wandering around in those epic hats, I do not feel that anyone could do this. I only wore a hat once in my life, and people kept mistaking me for an enraged sideboard.
Fairy-tale princesses should stick out like sore thumbs, requiring coaching from magical fairy godmothers or godfathers to make it through the ball without embarrassing themselves. Fairy-tale princesses do not know what hat to wear. Fairy-tale princesses do not choose their own stories. Instead, they are out one night singing to the oaks, or talking to the birds, or displaying other signs of mental disturbance, when suddenly someone arrives with a life-changing boon to make everything different.
This is not a fairy tale.
This is just one more incident that provokes my mother to tell me I should have dated more in college.
Viral video is the new fairy tale. Get a million views on YouTube and suddenly you can move your stepsisters into a fancy house and buy all the magical footwear you’ve ever dreamed of. And you gain access to a rarefied world of celebrity to which you, before, imagined that you were utterly and totally unsuited, but once you step out on the red carpet, all eyes turn toward you. It’s random, it sometimes happens, and, in general, it requires no hats. Antoine Dodson is a classic example: His world was transformed by a random concatenation of events — the strange sudden shoulder-tap of fate. Suddenly, he became a star, and he took ownership of his new life — and he’s got a TV series in the can, which is the modern equivalent of a handsome prince. Then again, he got arrested last weekend for possession of marijuana.
Sure, we’re interested in the Will and Kate wedding. Fifty-eight percent of us are tuning in, which is more of us than currently approve of the job the President Obama is doing.
But this is less the fairy-tale wedding than it is the American dream.
After all, there’s something fundamentally democratic about weddings. Statistically, over the course of your life, you are more likely to be married than not. It’s like ignoring the user agreement on iTunes: Almost everyone does it, except a few isolated individuals making confusing stands on principle.
So when the royals do it, it’s democratizing. “We’ve all been there,” we murmur. It would, of course, help if we had a personal staff of hundreds, but we all know how difficult it is to pick out a gown.
If anything, the Kate Middleton story is the American dream. Her parents worked hard, became independently wealthy, and sent her to a good school, where she met a nice boy who still had the majority of his hair, and now they’re going to lunch with the Queen and getting in on a coat of arms.
That’s the American Way. “Once I was a stewardess, and eventually I’ll be the King’s Mother-in-Law!” Why, it makes you proud to be an American, until you remember that the people in question are all British.
But we’re used to that story.
Sure, we’ll watch, all fifty-eight percent of us. But we have to find our fairy tales elsewhere — probably on YouTube.