When I was a young girl, my Aunt Mary who lived in London, would send me a package of books every Christmas. Through these wonderful stories I was exposed to what were then the children’s “classics”: Aesop’s Fables, Nursery Rhymes, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, Robin Hood, The Three Musketeers, Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and . . . yes . . . Cinderella. I loved the stories, and when I had my own children I read them those same tales. My grandchildren, and their generation, do not enjoy reading such books as much. The culture and literature, as so many things, have changed.
Time passed, and one day a long time ago, my daughter called.
“Don’t ever read Cinderella to any granddaughter of yours!” She hotly opined. “There is no Cinderella, and no Prince!”
Oh, oh! It seemed that her latest relationship had gone sour! A Prince who was really a Toad? Nevertheless, I have yet to meet a young woman in love who does not believe, even at the very back of her mind, that she is Cinderella and that her chosen man is a Prince. This is precisely why weddings have become the elaborate affairs that they are as every bride wants to believe that she is a Princess, even if only for that day!
I was eight years old in 1951 when my parents took us to the home of their friends who lived on the first floor of a swank apartment in Cairo from where we were to enjoy a frontal view of the wedding procession passing by. King Farouk of Egypt was getting married to his second wife, Narriman Sadek. Narriman was a commoner, and it was hoped that she would give Farouk the heir that he so desired, one which his first wife had not granted him. The motorcade drove by and “Cinderella of the Nile,” as she was called, waved at us and at the crowds gathered to ululate and celebrate the royal event. I was so excited and waved back hard and long! That was my first experience with a Royal Wedding.
My second Royal Wedding was in 1956. That one was dubbed “The Wedding of the Century!” Through magazines that displayed every glamorous part of that fairy-tale wedding, we saw Grace Kelly, an actress whom we all loved, become Princess Grace of Monaco married to Prince Rainier. It was such a romantic and beautiful story!
When I was sixteen, another fairy-tale wedding took place in Tehran as Reza Pahlavi, the Shah of Iran, married the beautiful commoner Farah Diba. Again, as in King Farouk’s case, his first wife had not endowed him with an heir to the Peacock Throne, and, therefore, he chose a second wife. My parents couldn’t stop talking about that event as they were friends with the gorgeous sisters of the Shah and had attended many parties with him present. And again, the pictures of that ostentatious Royal Wedding were in every magazine and newspaper across the world.
In 1981, having just immigrated to the United States from London, my mother excitedly called to remind me to watch The Wedding on television the next day, which would have been very early in Virginia considering the six-hour difference. Of course, I woke up and ran down to our one television in the basement to watch Diana Spencer become Princess Diana of Wales, wife to Prince Charles, the heir to the British Throne. And wasn’t that a most beautiful fairy-tale wedding!
Obviously, and judging from the Royal weddings mentioned herein, Cinderella did indeed exist, at least for the few! I doubt that Narriman, Grace, Farah, or Diana ever thought that they would become a Princess, a Queen, an Empress or any Royalty. But, they did!
Here, in the United States, we do not have Royals. We had a revolution and ousted British Royalty from our shores. Our Royalty have become our Hollywood stars. However, there is no doubt that Jackie Kennedy was our Camelot Princess with her elegance, poise and charm. Michelle Obama is a very close second as she, too, possesses all the elegance, poise and charm to shine as a royal Princess.
And now it is 2017. Our President is Donald Trump who married the Slovenian Melania in 2005. Leaving aside all the incredible controversy surrounding this Presidency – such that I have never experienced in my lifetime – there is no doubt that Melania’s story is a perfect Cinderella fairy-tale. How else to describe an ordinary young woman, from an ordinary Yugoslavian family, who had the same aspirations that so many young women have of starring on the runways and appearing on magazine covers, and who ends up marrying an American businessman who then makes her the First Lady of the United States of America? It is, undoubtedly, a Cinderella story as no other. Quite unbelievable, isn’t it?
However, while being bedazzled by Hollywood, or by Cinderella weddings and stories, one cannot forget that these are the trappings of Roman-esque extravaganza. One would hope that the glittering images which tickle our fantasies are merely temporary highs that do not detract us from the grave perils that our planet is facing. While Cinderella movies and fairy-tales do transform themselves on rare occasions from the realm of fantasy to that of reality, and while little girls will continue to believe that one day they’ll meet a Prince who will carry them off to “happily ever after,” the experiences of life tell us that rude awakenings are in store for most of us, whether we are male or female. It is only a wise outlook, a mature stance and a sense of humor that can sustain us after the ball is over, after the clock chimes strike midnight, and after the music stops. But then, life without fantasies and Cinderella fairy-tales would be so horrifyingly dismal and gloomy. Like any good cook would tell you: a dish without any spices, would be bland and tasteless. Young, or old, we all need to spice up our lives, and so, indeed, does our troubled world!
I wish you a fairy-tale kind of day!