Sunday, September 12, 2010
My Diana Years
Lady Diana Spencer became engaged to Prince Charles on February 24, 1981. She was nineteen. I had just turned twelve. I had never heard of her before the engagement was announced, but she immediately captured my adolescent imagination.
Diana was young, pretty, a bit fleshy. She seemed very accessible to me, the way many impossibilities seem accessible to Americans, especially the young ones. I suspect it comes from being told we can be anything we want to be, if we work hard enough. That's a load of carp really. All the hard work in the world was not going to make me a tall, leggy, blond. Or, a princess. But, that did not stop twelve-year-old me from dreaming.
From the moment I saw her in that blue suit, showing off that gigantic sapphire ring, I wanted to know everything about her. What she ate (very little, as it turned out), what she read (very little, as it turned out), what her life was like down to the minutest detail. And then, I wanted to live that life too. So, I thought. I was twelve. And a hopeless romantic. What did I know?
She was pretty. He was rich, and titled. What could go wrong?
The Royal Wedding was in July, 1981. There was an eight hour time difference between my suburban California home, and St. Paul's Cathedral in London, but it was summer and there was no school, so I stayed up all night to watch every second. You might have been able to pull me away, if the house were on fire, but only maybe. There was something about that day. The combination of my youthful fancy, the sleep deprivation, and the pageantry of it all that just caught me up. It felt like magic.
And, in a way, for me, it was. The next day, I cleaned my room. This was not a small thing. My mother was of the attitude, that it was my room, and I could keep it however I wanted, as long as it did not escape past the door and into the hallway. You can imagine the chaos. But, all of a sudden, I wanted to be tidy, and take care of my things. I wanted to grow up. A nineteen year old English girl got married and I stopped being a little girl. A bit dramatic, I know. I mentioned I was twelve, right?
All through that following year, I saved my money to buy books about her, that were nothing more than photographs really. I wore those pages out, dreaming. There was on in particular, Princess by Robert Lacey, that also had quite a bit of text. I devoured every word. I can still remember the smell of the paper.
It didn't take too long to out grow being twelve. And, while I maintained an interest in Diana gossip (for lack of a better word), the first blush of adolescent fantasy began to fade with talk of eating disorders, infidelity, and obsessive phone calls to other women's husbands. I grew up. I moved on.
Diana, died on August 31, 1997. She was thirty-six. I was twenty-eight. I heard the news on the television, as I was unpacking all of my worldly possessions from moving boxes. I had just bought my first house. I was handed the keys that very day. I felt like such a grown up.
At the risk of sounding like a melodramatic twelve year old, it seemed appropriate to me that I should share this day with her. She was with me when I left the little-girl-me behind, and she left, just as I had reached a milestone of adulthood. I was, of course, more than prepared to move on without her, but it was still sad.
As I was unpacking, I found all of those old Diana books in a box. A few days earlier, as I was packing for the move, I seriously considered throwing them away. I felt kind of silly still holding onto them. But, I could not part with them. And, I was glad I didn't. Silly or not, I loved those books. They were such a part of my growing up. I have them still. Well, my mom has them, in a box in her basement. (Did you hear that mom? You have the times of my life in a box in your basement. Think of that the next time you threaten to throw out anything we won't come get.)
I still think of Diana occasionally. Neither of our lives were like we dreamed they would be in 1981. But, I like my fairy tale ending, even if Hubband is not rich and titled.