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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Soapbox: Royal Weddings vs The Paper Bag Princess

My mother was pregnant with me at the same time that Queen Elizabeth was pregnant with the future Prince Charles. [I remember her telling me years later how she envied the Queen's flattering maternity wardrobe.] Prince Charles was born Nov 14th.  I hung on for a later November arrival that year. As a young girl I was sort of vaguely intrigued by this non-connection between me and the bonny young prince.
I didn't dream of being a princess or anything like that. I merely noticed his life more than I might have otherwise because we were so close in age. It has been interesting to follow the ups and downs of his life, so different from mine.  I have always noticed the fact that his life as a real-life prince in a real castle did not resemble any fairy tale I remembered.  His castle did not protect him from the temptations, or the failings, or the grief of so-called ordinary folk.  I remember his highly touted royal romance and "storybook" wedding.
Now I watch as the world seems so eager to share in this next royal wedding, his son's. Is it because there is a small child within us that wants to be innocent and believe in fairy tale endings?  Is it because we can, perhaps only in that moment, convince ourselves that "happily ever after" is out there waiting for each of us? I think "happily ever after" IS waiting for each of us. BUT, I like to take a much wider our view of what "happily ever after" means.  I have tried to teach my children to be open to a wider view.  I too was divorced when I attended my first child's wedding. I wonder what Prince Charles has said to his son before the wedding as I struggled with what advice I could share with my child.

In 1992 I feel in love with a story called "The Paper Bag Princess" by Robert Munsch.  According to Munsch's official website, the story was born in response to his wife asking why the princess couldn't just once rescue the prince. Some people accused me of liking the story because it was "feminist." It tells the story of a princess with very different values, expectations, and aspirations than the traditional fairy tale princess.  THAT is why I love it.  Because it raises wider possibilities. I try to teach myself and my children and my miscellaneous munchkins and gremlins that it is up to each of us to discover what OUR "happily ever after" looks like. Then, to recognize our individual responsibility to work to make that happen, not just passively wait for "happily ever after" to simply arrive at our door.

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