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Dear Matt, How are you planning to celebrate the Royal Wedding? – Monique
With any luck, I’ll be celebrating the Royal Wedding on my couch in my Union Jack onesie with a pint of warm bitter, an oven bag fitted snugly over my head and cinched tightly around my neck. It’s not that I’m anti-royals, entirely. I love both King Floyd and the Queen of Soul. And not for nothing did I name my kids “Prince” and “Jermajesty.”
But as a proud American, I thought we were supposed to have knocked off the throne-sniffing some two and a half centuries ago. Our forefathers did not fight and die so that we could obsess over whether Kate Middleton is wearing Sophie Cranston (I Google’d that. I swear on the grave of John Paul Jones — the Revolutionary War hero, not the Led Zeppelin bassist — that I have no idea who Sophie Cranston is).
It’s not that I’m anti-elitist, either. I rather think Britain could use a little more elitism these days, since nearly every time they pop onto our radar, it’s merely to remind us that they are a sad empire in decline. They used to rule the world, inflicting their once good taste upon it, exporting everything from Milton to Kipling. Now they pretty much just pack off Katie Price or Victoria Beckham and call it a day. Though on occasion, they might still send us a Downton Abbey, to at least keep our PBS-watching Anglophile middlebrows enthralled. The latter feel smarter when gorging on lost-grandeur propaganda. In fact, there will always be a certain breed of insecure American who, if you even speak with the accent of a Mary Poppins chimney sweep, will attempt to insert a “Sir” or “Dame” before your name, and will automatically assume that you have 30 IQ points on them.
In reality, England is largely a country of beaten men. Yes, they occasionally get their blood up about some imagined American atrocity, disapproval of us being their national pastime, as they clock our every move like an obsessive ex-girlfriend, or even worse, like Canadians. But for the most part, they are quietly biding time until demography and immigration finish off what’s left of them, as they offer desperate prayers in their empty cathedrals that their children’s children will be able to get into the madrassa of their choice.
So if you expect me to be entranced by this gaggle of royal stiffs whose only salient characteristic is their heredity, it’s not going to happen. America, too, had its impoverished version of royalty – the Kennedys. A family which, as Vanity Fair seems intent on reminding us in their near monthly cover stories on the subject, freed the slaves and died for our sins, when not drowning girls, testifying in date-rape trials, and killing Marilyn Monroe. But at least the Kennedys had better teeth and hair than the Royals do. Plus, they were good for a few unintentional laughs, as anyone who ever heard Patrick Kennedy speak or saw Teddy waddle around a beach with his shirt off knows.
The Royal Family, by contrast, tends to only be interesting through marriage. If Sarah Ferguson wasn’t photographed getting her sausage toes sucked in the tabloids, or Diana wasn’t upchucking her figgy pudding or throwing herself down a flight of stairs to get her ice cube of a husband’s attention, what are we left with? Queen Elizabeth, who hasn’t said or done anything interesting since before the advent of television? Prince Charles, who can drone for days on end about his organic carrot garden or how Islam is a religion of peace or about his essential roles in the National Hedgelaying Society or the Specialist Cheesemakers Association (Blessed are the Cheesemakers!)? At least Prince Harry isn’t above getting sozzled and dressing up like a Nazi every now and then. If the Royal Family has no real function, but costs roughly $80 million a year to upkeep, shouldn’t they be required to entertain us? My Jewish friends wanted to string up Harry. Whereas, I just wanted to tell him, “Hey, at least you tried.”
I don’t mean to take anything away from two young kids in love. Here’s wishing William and Kate all the happiness in the world, and a healthy heir to perpetuate the fraud. And here’s hoping that the next generation will finally find a way to do what their progenitors haven’t quite mustered — namely, to justify the existence of the Royal Family.
Dear Matt, The world’s oldest man just recently died at 114 years old. When asked his secret to longevity he said, “Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face. Every change is good.” Do you embrace this? – Marcus J.
Not even a little. What the hell kind of attitude is that? Half the fun of becoming an old man is gaining free license to complain about the constantly changing world around you. I’m not even an old man yet, and I’m already way ahead on that score.
I’m happy for our recently departed friend, and trust he lived a rich and full life. But change, just for the sake of it, isn’t necessarily good, and he was old enough to have known better. This morning when I woke up, for instance, I was wearing pajama bottoms and a beat-up t-shirt. This afternoon, I changed into skinny jeans and a Brooks Brothers Fun Shirt. That was a fictional illustration. But see? A vivid example of a really unadvisable change.
From our communications to our entertainments to our marriages to our food, we now live in a world that is based almost entirely on convenience, instant gratification and disposability, one that prizes newness and change at the expense of almost everything else, from beauty to experience to wisdom. This year, we might even like the same things we liked last year, but chances are, we now like them faster and dumber. Maybe we should stop worshiping change just because we’re bored. Maybe it’s time to stop obsessing over whether the iPad3 will have the 2 GHz dual-core CPU, and to start valuing things with more lasting qualities, whether old or new.
In fact, I’ll see our old friend, just as a corrective to his destructive notion, by stipulating that all change is bad. I understand that he made it to 114, and I’ve only made it to 40, but who are you going to believe? I’m still here, and he isn’t — he made a very short-sighted change by expiring. Maybe if he’d stuck to the old ways, he’d still be alive today. Besides, the last change that was essential to our way of living occurred in 1956 – the year Nick McKay of Helmac Products invented the lint-remover roller. It’s pretty much been busywork ever since.
Matt Labash is a senior writer with the Weekly Standard magazine. His book, “Fly Fishing With Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys,” is now available in paperback from Simon and Schuster. Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here.