December 3, 2012

There they are! (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

There are two kinds of people in the world.

People who respond to the news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting with a groan and a shrug, and people who are right now parading through the streets of Twitter shouting, in a close paraphrase of Key and Peele, “THEY’RE HAVING A BABY! THEY’RE GOING TO RAISE IT AND FEED IT AND CHANGE IT AND DRESS IT UP LIKE A ROYAL PEAPOD! THEY ARE GOING TO DRESS IT IN LITTLE ROMPERS WITH LION INSIGNIAS AND PLAY IT RECORDINGS OF CHURCHILL SPEECHES! WE ARE HAVING A TINY CONSTITUTIONAL MONARCH!” 

I was going to be in the latter group, but frankly they scare me a little. There is right now a mob of maternal ladies running past my window aggressively compiling lists of names and knitting baby booties. I do not know how this happened. “We’re going over there right now!” they are shouting. “We’re going over there and making certain Kate drinks hot soup!” “I’m coming too, to bat alcoholic drinks out of her hands!” There’s a Twitter account already for the Royal Fetus. It is all very alarming.

The past few months have been what one blogger described as “every woman’s nightmare.” This puts it mildly. I often wake up in a cold sweat from dreams where the entire commonwealth and many Americans have been clawing through all pictures of me from the past several months to see if I look pregnant yet. “YOU ARE GETTING NO YOUNGER!” they shout. “At the rate you’re going, Will’s child will never remember him with hair!” But at least I get to wake up.

The Royals have always been the one tabloid story that you felt no guilt for paying attention to. You were supposed to pay attention. That was why they existed: a set of fishtank people whose milestones you could watch and shout at and celebrate and taunt your own offspring with when they came home for holidays. (“Why haven’t you found a nice man? Kate Middleton found a nice man.”) They turn the whole country into nervous grandparents. “When are you going to have children?” becomes “We need MORE ROYALS!” It combines the time-honored practice of pressuring young people to have babies with a vague feeling of patriotism. It is the perfect cocktail.

Under similar conditions of pressure, pandas have forgotten how to reproduce entirely, requiring laborious demonstrations from zookeepers. And even then it does not work.

So congratulations to the royals! They have done what the panda couldn’t. And good luck through the rest of the ride. If they can handle the worldwide baby frenzy, being pelted with booties and parenting guidebooks whenever they stroll outdoors, the terrible twos will be no trouble at all.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.