(Wedding photo of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles at Buckingham Palace, 1922, from here.)
This Friday, I will be setting my alarm for 3am. Why? Because THE MOST IMPORTANT WEDDING OF ALL TIME OMGWTF is happening (maybe you’ve heard?) and Mama Malice is inexplicably, out-of-characterly excited about it. She’s been breathlessly following every development since Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement, and while she hasn’t bought commemorative tea towels, she hasn’t wasted a moment speculating on her dress, his uniform, the Queen’s hat.
Meanwhile, I’m not very interested. They’re strangers, it’s a wedding, meh. But I’m still getting up, and here’s why.
Allow me to lay some history on your asses: Mama Malice was born in 1950, in a small town in Pennsylvania. She was a teenager in the sixties and moved to Los Angeles in the seventies. I think we can all agree that those decades were a pretty turbulent time in American history, and also HELLO DIFFERENT IDEAS OF WHAT IT MEANT TO BE A WOMAN. We girls today receive vastly different messages about what it means to be a woman, but can you imagine being a small child in the June Cleaver era, a hormonal teenager as birth control became an option, and then a young adult in the big city of LA when the tide turned towards free love? That’s a super-simplistic overview, I know, but JEEZ, complete 180. It gives me whiplash just thinking about it.
So that’s confusing. And you’d think that when she had a daughter, she’d be raised with all the conflicting messages her mother had absorbed throughout her life, right? Nope. When I was born, I was my parents first child and the first grandchild with the Malice surname. I was very much the little princess, the continuation of the dynasty. My mother dressed me like a doll, no matter how inappropriate frills and lace were for the Australian desert. I had the pink bedroom, the dozens of handmade porcelain dolls. No doubt I was expected to be every inch the little blonde princess.
You can see that I’m really not kidding about the dresses.
I’m really, really not kidding about the dresses. Also pictured: My dad and my great-grandmother. I wish I remembered her more, but I only met her this once.
But from the second I learned to talk, my parents realised that this was not who I was. And yes, they were startled. No, it probably wasn’t ideal. But rather than force me back into the demure lace dresses when I wanted to wear, say, a rainbow striped dress with a fishing hat, or shiny leggings with a tie-front shirt (complete with a picture of a fish sailing a boat) and a ratty fake fur jacket, they let me be who I was. Even when “who I was” turned out not to be Cinderella but a four year old Edie Beale or Jem or a banana in a tracksuit.
I was never made to wear a dress when I wanted to wear pants like so many of my peers; if it was weather and age appropriate, I was good to go. I was given beautiful jewellery for birthdays and Christmas, but I was never forced to wear it or made to feel bad for preferring fifty cent glitter bracelets. My parents filled my bedroom with antique furniture and watched as I covered it with fake flowers, colourful scarves, strings of bells. I was forced into ballet as a child, but was never stopped from also climbing trees and running around like a wild monster. When I was a teenager, Mama Malice never once made me feel like having a boyfriend was a requirement for being a happy person. All of these things, things directly contradicted by the “princess” mold, have made me the person I am. And the person I am is awesome.
I’ll be 27 this year. Most of my childhood friends are married or in relationships, with children and normal, grown-up jobs. I am on a slightly different path, and I’m constantly surprised when my friends tell me how much pressure their mothers put on them to get married & start popping out grandbabies. I’ve never felt that, never been made to feel inadequate because I didn’t follow the traditional script. Because I’m not a princess, even though I think a small part of my mother would have liked me to be. She’d have liked a slightly more docile, traditionally feminine daughter–but she got me instead. I wasn’t always an easy kid to have. But I don’t think she’s ever felt shortchanged.
So yes, even though I don’t care about it, I’m going to sit on the couch with my mother as she waits to see if Kate Middleton shows up to her wedding in a horse-drawn carriage (she hopes so). Because out of all the ways she could have chosen to live out her princess fantasies, she’s doing it this way. Not by forcing or guilting her daughter into being anyone other than who she is, but through the televised wedding of two strangers. That’s a good deal.
And you know what? There are worse ways to spend a couple hours than speculating about the Queen’s hat.