A narcissistic analysis of royal wedding buzz

When I need an essentialized and skeptical point of view, I can usually count on my father. I regard him as a reliable indicator of a general public reaction to a given cultural blip. He knows, of course, about the upcoming nuptials of Wills and Kate (but is likely not on a first name basis with the pair, and would probably say ‘Prince William.’) He also knows that every woman in his family is planning on gathering with girlfriends at a terribly indecent hour to watch the wedding broadcast live. This confuses him. He has a way of speaking in italics and asks us repeatedly, “What on Earth do you wanna watch that for?

This puts me on the defensive. I do care about the wedding, and I am more than a little excited for my all-girls’ sleepover on Thursday night to watch not only the ceremony itself, but the hours of coverage preceding it. The media has offered up slide shows of Kate Middleton’s fashion evolution, William growing up, royal brides of the past and timelines of the royal couple’s courtship, and I have clicked on pretty much all of them. It isn’t simply curiosity, or boredom, or merely a guilty pleasure – I care, and I want to know.

It isn’t an entirely guiltless impulse, to be sure. I feel like I should perhaps be less transfixed by this wedding. I vaguely regret the fact that I am more likely to read news items on Kate’s possibly bitchy sister than on, say, the war in Libya. I grapple with questions of whether, as a feminist, it is appropriate to so eagerly anticipate a fairy tale wedding. Whereas I am being pressured by the pop cultural and commercial side to click everything pertaining to the royal couple that I come across in every form, I also feel a slight pressure from some of my intelligent, and irreverent friends and favored publications – that seem to be aligned with my dad, asking slightly judgmentally, “What on Earth do you wanna watch that for?”

Many people seem to be intrigued by the idea of princess-hood in the modern world. We live in a commercial culture inundated with princess imagery. Princesses are in our movies, our stores, and our happy meals. Still, there are not too many flesh-and-blood princesses pervading our everyday lives. Most people in my generation remember Diana’s death more clearly than her life. Some people have opined that it is this subconscious craving for a real-life princess story that has made the entire mythology of the royal wedding so hypnotizing – that the literal manifestation of a girlhood fantasy is too much to resist. I think there probably is some power in this argument, but I don’t want to be a princess, and most of the people I know don’t either. Ultimately, I don’t think the allure of the upcoming wedding is about a fantasy, or even about each of our ability to envision ourselves within it. It isn’t about William and Kate, and it certainly isn’t about the antiquated monarchy of England. It is about each of us, and the way we envision our own personal narratives.

My own royal wedding fervor relates ultimately to my desire to situate myself in the story. Not the story of the wedding itself, but of my watching it. Throughout life, I have heard or seen intermittent references to Diana and Charles’ wedding in 1981. I think it was the most viewed television event of all time, or something like that. My mom used to tell me that she woke up at 4:00a.m., at age 20, to watch it - and that if it weren’t for Diana’s unfathomably puffy dress, the rest of the decade’s wedding gowns may have all been a bit more deflated. She has relayed both the memory and the joke countless times. But, the thing is, that story is never about Diana – it is about my mom.

And, so, I too want to grasp a moment of relative cultural and historical importance and insert it into my own biography. I want to tell my own daughter that I went to a sleepover the night of Princess Catherine’s wedding, and I want to show her a silly photo of my friends and I wearing plastic tiaras before it began (which, by the way, my friend Lindsay has already purchased.) I want to tell a story years from now about how tired I was the next day at work, because I’d forgotten to take the day off. It will be a reference point – a silly, arbitrary reference point – but perhaps the woman I am speaking with will have a royal wedding story of her own. This is not the most major cultural or historical event that I have or even will witness in my life – but unlike so many major events, this one is scheduled ahead of time.

I suppose there is something very deliberate about planning for nostalgia in the future. Perhaps by envisioning future conversations I could possibly have about Wills and Kate’s wedding, I will merely be fulfilling my own trite prophesies. But the wedding broadcasts will reach millions of viewers, and I’d rather embrace those connections than boycott them. Friday morning’s spectacle will be mentioned for a very long time – there is something rare and special about having the power and freedom to create my own memory of it.