*Before breaking news of Bin Laden’s death rescued us from hourly reports of all things royal, I watched for the umpteenth time television footage of the official post-wedding kiss and asked myself: Wouldn’t it be something if it turned out that Prince William and Kate Middleton got married because they actually loved one another?
I’m not saying they don’t. But at the risk of sounding rude or uncouth, I’m thinking how wild it would be if, before the world’s prying eyes, William, 28, and Kate, 29, actually found in one another that Mighty Love the Spinners sing about. What if each of them holds the key that fit the other’s lock? What if one is yin to the other’s yang?
Wouldn’t it be a hoot if, behind those ceremonial smiles, these two lovebirds possessed a lucid comprehension regarding the mechanics of a healthy and loving connection? What if they either instinctively knew or somehow learned that a substantial relationship doesn’t survive on love or sex alone, that open and honest communication and respect for self and partner are paramount.
What if they walked down that aisle, to the collective sighs and groans of a gaping world, carrying the invaluable information that a love affair endures when compromise and patience are integral components?
It is quite the concept, the notion of the royal couple heartily grasping that a marriage gets to such coveted realms as Always and ‘Til Death Do Us Part by taking one day at a time. But what if, of all people, these guys–forgive me, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge–whose wedding was right out of the pages of a Golden Book, know that a successful union doesn’t just happen, like a fairy tale?
Because that’s precisely the reason an estimated one to three billion of us globally watched these two jump the proverbial bejeweled broom. As a society, we’re really into the fairy tale that marriage alone manifests love and understanding. No matter what the reality is, we hold onto that idea as if it were a healthy kidney.
It’s understandable. Unwittingly, the indoctrination begins at childhood, with all those storybook fables about knights and good guys and white horses and frogs, which, when kissed, magically become able-bodied, responsible men who love unconditionally, and devoted maidens who remain loyal, loving and supportive through thin and thinnest. (Question: is there any record of a former frog being a cheater, or are those all simply dogs?)
Over the centuries, details of the story have altered–the horse could be a car or a fighter jet, the shining armor could be Armani or sagging jeans and the Good Guy is often a Bad Boy. Ever present, however, is the hypothesis that the mere taking of a vow is going to going to make everything all right.
As proof, we roll out examples of parents and others who, after a zillion years, remain married. Ignore the fact that for some of those couples the misery set in long ago, that each of them privately blames the other for kidnapping their hopes and dreams. Merely staying together has to count for something, right?
As I write this, out of Camelot comes word that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, after 25 years of marriage, have separated. God bless ’em.
To be sure, marriage is one of the most significant, life-changing events one can embark upon. For most of us, it is considered the ultimate commitment. But many of us continue to buy into “Happily ever after,” without bothering to read the fine print: whether or not you’re married, the serious, committed relationship takes all that stuff I mentioned above. Lord knows I’m no master of these things. But at least I know the difference.
Before you dive onto the notion that I’ve got something against marriage, let me assure you I don’t (I have an equally ardent opinion about drivers who are quick to honk their horns, but that’s another story). It’s ill-marrying people, not the institution, who give marriage a bad name.
That said, if I am utterly honest, I have to say that deep, deep, deep down inside, I believe in the nutritional value of Gummy Bears more than I believe in Happily Ever After for William and Kate. But what does a tough ol’ frog like me really know? They seem like sweet people and they look good together. I’m rooting for them. Gribbit.
Steven Ivory, journalist and author of the essay collection Fool In Love (Simon & Schuster), has covered popular culture for magazines, newspapers, radio and TV for more than 30 years. Respond to him via [email protected].