Monday, April 03, 2006

fairy tale, redeemed

“She was our age when she died, you know,” my friend says from the passenger seat. “She was only thirty-six.” Resisting the urge to comment that I’m thirty-five-and-a-half, I stop to consider this for a moment, finally coming to the conclusion that this simply cannot be true. She was so sophisticated, so graceful, so elegant—she had to have been older. But the math adds up. Born in 1961, died in 1997. Thirty-six. I am nearly the same age as was the Princess of Wales. Somewhere in the back of my mind an apprehensive little thought whispers—I’m not old enough to be a princess. But, then again, at the time, neither was she.

We are traveling to Dayton to view the Princess Diana exhibit, though I cannot exactly tell you why except to tell you that I cannot NOT see it. I am drawn to it—indeed, I plan to return with my daughter and another friend, and I’ve not even seen it yet. I am captivated by her story, her beauty, her legend—I entered it as a child and now stand toe to toe with her on some eternal timeline, just as equally in awe as before.

I, who never got up before noon unless under great duress, numbered among the millions who rose in the middle of the night to partake in the spectacle of the Royal Wedding, just four days after my eleventh birthday. I numbered as well among the millions who did the very same in 1997, watching her body travel the very same spectator-lined streets, again drawn by steed, though this time followed by her somber boys, her fallen prince, and her inflammatory younger brother. I cried on both occasions.

As we view the exhibit—the childhood artifacts, the family jewels, the charity work—I attempt in my mind to articulate the allure of Princess Diana, but fail dismally. Indeed, I have never been entirely certain what has drawn me, and millions both like and unlike me, to this woman over the past twenty-five years. By the time we make it through the gallery of dresses, however, I’ve figured it out.

As a thirty-five year old woman (note how I drop the half), I now realize how very young Lady Diana was when she accepted a proposal for marriage and was plunged into the world spotlight. At eleven, nineteen did not seem young at all (though a thirty-two year old prince certainly did cause my preadolescent eyebrow to rise), but in retrospect, I see that she was a child, thrown to the wolves, and we, the world, watched with intense scrutiny and insatiable appetites as she struggled to navigate growing up in front of an audience of millions.

But navigate it she did, and you see it nowhere more clearly than in the dress gallery. Somewhere between twenty-six and thirty-six, Diana became a woman. She shed the flounce and fluff, she shed the idiot prince, she shed the eating disorder and intense insecurity, and she finally came into herself. You can see it in the photographs; you can see it in the dresses. Just like my friend and I, commenting that we have finally, for the first time in our lives, become comfortable with our selves and our bodies and have stopped hiding them but instead have started dressing with a confidence that shows the confidence within, you see the change in Diana through the change in her wardrobe. It is as stunning as the dresses themselves.

Diana was the epitome of the fairy tale, the fairy tale gone wrong, and the fairy tale redeemed. For all her failings, and there admittedly were many, she amazed the world with her tenacious resilience and humble fortitude, and remained Royalty in more than merely name.

Suddenly, thirty-six doesn’t seem all that bad. I know I will be in good company. But I won’t look nearly as good in an evening gown…

Sigh.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

"I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us."
This is an excerpt from the movie Little Princess.

I like this quote and thought of it, after reading your recent blog.
Recently, I came across your blog. May I just give you a round of applause!!!!! It is so captivating and thought provoking. I wish you the best of luck, on getting published one day! Keep on typing away all your amazing thoughts and ideas.

lorie said...

I love the quote-- I'll have to check out the movie!

Thanks so much for the kind words--I appreciate them very much!

Anonymous said...

here is the complete quote and link to the web about the movie

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113670/quotes

Miss Minchin: Don't tell me you still fancy yourself a princess? Child, look around you! Or better yet, look in the mirror.

Sara Crewe: I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren't pretty, or smart, or young. They're still princesses. All of us. Didn't your father ever tell you that? Didn't he?

Anonymous said...

Lorie,
Once again, I feel like you are writting for me, and to me!! You are such a prolific writer... I always appreciate your REALNESS!! Thank God for you Lorie!!
Hugs,
Christa

michaela said...

wow!

this is my first visit to the inside of Lorie's "head" and its very interesting in there...good writing and thought provocating insights! Michaela

lorie said...

thanks, michaela!

hope you are well!

Hyperion said...

You're not a princess, Lorie, you're a queen!

lorie said...

gosh, thanks! that's awfully sweet, although i kinda like not having the responsibility of not being queen! (:))