Saturday, September 01, 2007

Diana, Revisited

I remember Diana’s death ten years ago as a fascinating Rorschach test of the fundamental difference between men and women. Virtually every man I know thought the car-crash death of Britain’s People’s Princess was a sad thing, especially for her children, gave the matter a sincere 30-second tisk-tisk and went back to whatever it was they’d been doing. Virtually every woman I know felt as if she’d been kicked in the stomach and was riveted for days to the spectacle of flowers and keening that followed. The men didn’t get what the women were so bent out of shape about, and the women didn’t understand how the men could be so cold.

I was never what you’d call a Diana freak, but I liked her very much. I thought she was sweet, genuine and a snappy dresser. I liked that she went out of her way to physically touch people with AIDS at a time when the general public viewed them as lepers. I liked how fierce she was about protecting her boys from the media, and the way she goosed the royals with her openness and independence. And I fondly remembered her fairytale wedding, which I watched on a tiny black & white TV in the Third Avenue office of a small investment company I worked for back then. The one man in the office didn’t pay much attention. The other two women and I sat together and cooed

Of course, as the years passed and the continuum of Diana gossip painted a nasty portrait of the poor-little-rich-girl reality that hid behind the façade, women everywhere were forced to acknowledge that the fairytale was just that. Diana was indeed a real-life Cinderella, but she never got to live happily ever after. All of us who, much to our surprise, wanted to believe that at least one woman had gotten to live the classic fantasy, were crushed when it all went sour. When this hoodwinked innocent, this tender mother, this hungry lover, was killed trying to escape the relentless public eye, well, we cried for our own flattened dreams as much as for her grim end. And we were shocked by the depth of our own sadness. The men didn’t understand why we cried, because they hadn’t been raised on the scripture of ridiculous girl dreams.

Now, a decade later, only a shade of that sadness remains, at least for me. So much else has happened since 1997; lost fairytales seem the least of our problems. But I still feel moved to note this melancholy anniversary. True fairytale princesses don’t come along very often. I’m glad I had a chance to watch Diana shine. I wish she’d had the chance to make a better dream come true.

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