At a basic level, it’s peculiar, really, this obsession we have with people who are politically powerful, or wealthy beyond the imagination of avarice, or famous because of athletic or acting abilities, or even an accident of birth. Aside from those one or two or three differences from the rest of us mere mortal peons, most of those people are pretty ordinary people. Just like us. Some are celebrated because of their accomplishments, yes --- although even there, our society demonstrates a frequently bizarre skewing of what is truly a valuable accomplishment worthy of being lauded --- but some are celebrated simply for being born who they are. And in modern times --- bizarrely and pathetically --- some are celebrated simply because they are celebrated.
I think the why of it is not too difficult to understand, actually, because, as a writer, I not only experience that Desire for Celebration, I feed into it, too. And the why of it is simply this: we love the fantasy. The fantasy of fame, or fortune, or just livin’ the dream, as they say. Most of us need a little illusion in our otherwise fairly prosaic lives, and the images of a wedding halfway around the world between two otherwise pretty ordinary people fills that particular bill quite nicely.
Now, the cold, hard reality is, I suspect the American girlfriend will find that being a British royal is not always everything it’s cracked up to be. But if she’s wise, or if those already in the know have the slightest good sense or compassion, she may already have been given some kind of understanding about the gilded cage she’s just willingly walked into. I hope so, for her sake. The latch did swing shut and lock behind her with ponderous finality a mere couple of days ago. On the one hand, it’s a pretty nice gilded cage, with a lot to recommend it. But on the other hand… well, maybe not. Certainly, it’s not for everyone, and not everyone has been able to successfully make a go of it. (We also seem to have a lurid fascination for that, too: watching human train wrecks in slow motion is another one of humanity’s less easily understandable and less charitable obsessions.)
But we all look for a little magic in our lives. Thoreau wrote that ‘most men live lives of quiet desperation,’ and I think that’s --- tragically --- very true, especially nowadays, when, for most of us, our entire mental and physical energies aren’t devoted 24/7 to fundamental subsistence activities like hunting and gathering to stay alive for just one more day. So we look for that magic in those around us, or in books, or in films. We want that little piece of illusion. Although even there, Orson Welles once said that to find the happily ever after, it depended on where you were prepared to stop the story. Not end it, just stop telling it, which I think was both excellent distinction and very astute observation on his part.
So I don’t begrudge the British royal and his American girlfriend their moment in the sun. Nor do I scorn the people who travelled all the way to the UK to get a twelve-second glimpse of the happy couple as they rode by in their carriage. Or the people who roused at an ungodly hour to see the thing live on TV.
After all, everyone needs those moments of magic and fantasy in their lives.
So congrats, Harry and Meghan… and thanks for the fantasy.