Kate Middleton: A Royal Role Model?Meredith Carroll
There was a time last year when my husband and I thought we’d be walking our daughter down the aisle at her wedding as she clutched her Barney doll instead of a bouquet of flowers. The purple dinosaur phase in her life was intense and showed no signs of abating. Ever.
It did, of course, and the swiftness with which it ended was surprising. It was in early December that my daughter got a Cinderella book, and then a few weeks later a gift of some dress-up accessories. From that moment on she was constantly bejeweling herself with a shiny plastic silver purse, bangle bracelets, clip-on earrings and necklace, prancing around in the accompanying “glass slippers” (which look suspiciously like plastic stripper shoes) while yelling, “Wait, don’t go! Come back!” like the Prince shouts to Cinderella at the stroke of midnight. Instead of staying with him and coming clean about her true identity, she goes back to her house to clean up after her messy, lazy entitled family.
As Kate Middleton prepares to wed her prince in just a few hours, I wonder if the real life princess will be a better role model than her fairy tale counterparts. The jury is still out.
As much as I’ve been aching to dress my daughter up in a tiara and gown since birth, I deliberately hadn’t pushed the princess thing for a while. While I, too, was into Cinderella et. al. as a kid, they weren’t nearly the industry that they are today. Today, the Disney Princesses are the equivalent of their own Justice League of America: A bunch of larger than life Barbie-like figures who don’t really belong in the same room, but who have been shoved together for no other reason than to seemingly convince little girls that they’re part of a very exclusive and important team, and that they’re much more powerful as a unit than they are individually, and there is endless merchandise available for sale to prove it. Still, I can’t deny my kid looks cute waving a scepter like she’s trying desperately to shake something off the tip.
As we read Cinderella, Snow White, The Princess and the Frog and Sleeping Beauty over and over each day in full regalia, I try to decide what my daughter is actually learning. That despite drawing the short stick in life, Cinderella is painfully nice, bordering on being a doormat, to those who constantly mistreat her? She’s also kind to animals, if not a little odd or delusional about her relationship with them. That she dances with someone for an hour or two and is immediately ready to devote her life to him, but is too ashamed to tell him that her dress is borrowed? And she inexplicably invites the people who enslaved her to her wedding. Although they were no-shows, it makes me feel better to think she might have seated them by the kitchen or the band.
Sure, Kate Middleton went to college and is being hailed as having worked at a real job. But when you dig a bit deeper, the jobs she held seemed more ceremonial than anything else. She certainly won’t be the first woman to stop working before she got married. If you read the wedding announcements in the Style section of the New York Times on Sundays, you’ll often note the bride is mentioned at having worked at Company X “until recently.” That, to me, is code for, she’s marrying up and will not have to lift a finger ever again other than during a manicure.
There’s no doubt Kate will be active in charities, as is, I believe, her actual royal obligation. But to me, a strong princess role model will also have a voice and not hide in her husband’s shadow. She’ll show that a woman in a position of power in the 21st century can set the trends instead of follow them. While Princess Diana was active in many charities, her personal life was too much of a disaster for me to point to her as anyone I would want my daughter to grow to be like
As my daughter begs me for a broom and mop so she can emulate Cinderella and Snow White cleaning up for and caring for everyone but themselves, I really do hope that Kate Middleton will distinguish herself among the royals as someone little girls can aspire to be — and I don’t mean the marrying into royalty part; that’s just silly. It would seem a shame to have all this attention on the monarchy and have it be wasted forever on talk of jewels and dresses when a strong young woman can make a statement of much greater importance.
How do you think Kate Middleton will fare in the annals of history?
Image: Meredith Carroll