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Every week, in addition to my Wednesday Bad Advice column featuring questions from you, the readers, I’ll be doing a Thursday advice column for fictional characters, celebrities, and anyone else who didn’t ask for it. If you have suggestions for characters or celebrities you’d like me to give Bad Advice to, send them to the email address above!
Dear Bad Advice,
I’ve only just entered this world and I’m already a celebrity. There’s not much I can do about it because it’s in my blood. How should I deal with the attention?
– Royal Growing Pains
This is going to sound like bad advice, but let your freak flag fly.
Let’s face it, there are people in this world who are going to hate you no matter what you do. (And this might sound crazy, but that’s not a problem specific to royal babies. It’s a commoner problem, too.) I mean, look: you’ve only been here a few days but you’ve already ignited the ire of pro-choice feminists who don’t like that you were called a “baby” in the womb. Your mom gets a combination of reflexive adoration and reflexive hate from strangers all around the world, and a lot of the reflexive hate is coming from people who only hate her because so many other people love her. Naming you was a complex problem of finding a moniker your parents liked that wouldn’t remind anyone of disappointing monarchs from a century or more ago. Pleasing people is going to be…complicated.
So it’s going to be easy to fall down a spiral of self-doubting anxiety if you try to please them all. You’re going to fall down that spiral, hard, if you even try to appear to be what people want you to be, because people all through your life are going to want you to be whatever’s most convenient for them — maybe humble and pliable and amiable, or maybe nasty and spoiled and rude, if it gets them a good story.
My obvious advice? Don’t try to be the world’s best prince. Don’t try to match anyone’s image of what you should be. Just follow the rules of common decency (common — like us commoners, who often only have common decency to get by on!) and the rest will be okay. The haters will hate, but then again you were never going to change their minds. The press is going to be like a bully to you: dogging your every move, making you doubt every action, constantly challenging your self-worth, making you feel as if there’s no safe place from their judgment. Don’t let a bully tell you who you are. Even a royal prince can learn to be himself.
In the classic romantic comedy Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn plays a frazzled princess who never got to have a childhood because of the diplomatic duties pressing on her and the duty to maintain a spotless public reputation. She escapes for a day of carefree adventure in Rome, and along the way falls in love with the broke journalist played by Gregory Peck (who wouldn’t?). She does return to the palace and her duty — but when you see her at the end of the movie, once more slipping on the mask of the irreproachable princess, you see in the sparkle in her eyes, and her new assertiveness, that she’s gained a new sense of herself that came entirely from within, and not from what people told her she was or ought to be.
The antics Audrey got up to in Roman Holiday hardly seem scandalous now, and I’m not using the movie as an encouragement to go on a raging bender. But the point is, if you want to know who you are — whether you’re a royal, or a commoner — you have to remove yourself for a time from the people who tell you what to be, and listen to yourself. Sometimes that makes you notice some people in your life were bullies when you’d never even realized it before.
Much as the press attention on you will never quite go away, the world will never be rid of bullies. We all have them in our lives. Some of them are transitory figures, people who will torment us for a short period and then fade out of our lives. Others are temporary bullies — a bully for a short time who reforms and stops bullying. Still others will be bullies you’ll have to combat your whole life. Don’t torment yourself by trying to change them. When you know who you are, you’ll find an inner strength to just shut them out when they try to tell you you’re no good. And that’s like shining a light on a boogey man and watching him transform into a harmless mothball.