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Life as Performance Art

 Harry and Megs recalled a conversation Mother had with me over half a century ago.  I don’t know what brought it on, although it was probably a long-winded telephone monologue from her friend Juanita. Juanita would call several times a week, usually when she was unhappy. Mother sat me down and said that in all relationships, couples disagree and sometimes argue. But then there are two different ways couples handle their differences. The first is that they close the windows and lock the doors, then turn up the radio so no one else can hear them. Never in front of the children. The second type open the windows and go at it full volume so that everyone knows all the bad stuff happening in their lives.
    Her observations were a tad more long-winded than my father who simply said, “Never tell anyone your business because it is none of their business.”
    Father’s advice went out the window with the advent of television and an afternoon game show, Queen for a Day, moved from radio to living black and white.  Each time the host, Jack Bailey, would interview several contestants who were expected to tell everything about their horrible home life and then say that if they just had this appliance or that service, life would be wonderful and they would feel like they were a queen for the day.  The audience voted, using a device called the Applause-o-meter, and usually the woman with the most horrific story won.  Of course, the whole nation knew of her problems.
    Eventually that program went off the air, only to be replaced by Phil Donahue’s talk show. Celebrity guests were invited to “tell all”about what was happening in their life. At first it was salacious, but it began losing audiences an faded away. Hard on his heals came Maury Povich and then Oprah. Same format, same sort of revealing scandalous secrets. In due course, the bottom dropped out of all respectability with flamboyantly trashy Jerry Springer Show. 
     For the most part, all of the programs were tasteless and tacky, and appealed primarily to those who wanted the horrible hot gossip of someone else’s life, just to feel better about themselves.  Some viewers could say, “Well, at least I’m not as bad as XYZ.”   When it came to Jerry Springer, even diehard fans might lie through their teeth and say they had never heard of him, much less watched him.  What I find really spooky is not the guests who were on air; it was the producers and writers who could find them in the first place.
    Mother’s observations about the way couples disagree and fight came to mind when I read a few snippets of Prince Harry’s latest tell-all, “Spare.”  Why open the windows so the whole world-wide neighborhood gets to hear about private family business?  It is either narcissistic behavior or a quest for big royalty checks.
    I burst out laughing when he told of how the monarchy could be toxic.  You think?  Seriously?   He comes from a long line of  toxic royals across most of Europe who have planned and plotted their way to gain and maintain power. Many of them were quite happily whacking members of their own family, sometimes in brutal ways, to wear the crown.  There was the wicked uncle who locked his two nephews in the Tower and let them starve to death, just so he could usurp the throne. Or, Good Queen Bess (Elizabeth I) who had her cousin Mary’s head lopped off.   Several of the Georges played musical beds. The list goes on. The lucky ones who fell afoul of whoever was on the throne were sent off to a convent or exiled out of the country. The rest of the royals were probably people we wouldn’t want for next door neighbors.  If you want to read more murder and mayhem, a good starting point is The Hollow Crown. I doubt Harry will have much luck converting his family into all playing nicely together.
    From my experiences, Meg seems sufficiently toxic in her own right, and  too similar to several of my aunts for comfort. A couple of them were all right, like the flap the Flapper and the Teacher.  Then there was the Toxic One.  If life was ticking along too pleasantly, we could always count on Toxic Aunt to lob a few verbal hand grenades to stir things up.
      Nor do I understand how publicizing every possible or real slight does any good. Apparently, someone criticized another and used the word “rude.”  Someone dared to point a finger at another person.  The curtains in a room did not allow enough light.  Oh my!  How traumatic!
     The easiest thing in the world is to take a look at others and smirk at their follies and foibles. The hardest thing is to look at ourselves in the mirror and honestly admit that we aren’t much different. In fact, the only differences are the scale and publicity. One of the Windsor’s points a finger at another, and it makes the news.  Trust me, back when I was in elementary school if I did that to my sister (or she to me) on a short drive, no one would give two raps.  The Olds might possibly say that if we didn’t settle down, they were going to turn the car around and we were going home.
     If you find the endless, ongoing, tedious saga of the Windsor drama disheartening, keep one thing in mind.  We all have chapters in our life that we would prefer are never published. None of us love it when someone decides to recite the inventory of our blunders.  That is where Mother’s advice comes to mind:  Decide whether you want to be a person or couple who closes the windows so keep things private or throw them open to let everyone know your personal business.  That is why those who remain in England, those of the  keep the castle windows shut philosophy,  are not responding.
     Meg and Harry will probably make a fortune in royalties and interviews. Even bottom tier writers like me will make money off of them. But money is not everything, and this whole saga of the Unmerry Women of Windsor will be very costly for them. Already they have created such a schism between themselves and their families that it may never be repaired.  For any of us who have ever endured an estrangement from others, we know the emotional toll that takes.  Often it is the direct result of opening the windows so everyone can hear the juicy details of family stuff.
     It comes with another cost as well. It is one we should keep in mind before we speak or write about personal matters. No matter how much money anyone rakes in or the publicity it generates, one of these days I suspect they will look in the mirror and realize they have lost the respect of many people. Worse, they will have lost a lot of self-respect.
     Even though they are in an entirely different league from you and me, there is a lesson to be learned here. Do we want to be the windows open, or windows closed sort of person?

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