It's been 13 years to the day and I still can't do it.
I can't watch any show about Princess Diana without crying. And I've watched a ton of them...and another one just now (some 2007 rerun on The Biography Channel). If you weren't aware, she died 13 years ago, today, in Paris...after what is still considered by many people, very suspicious circumstances. But I don't think I'll go into that here...instead I'll try to tell you why I cry.
I don't really know how, living in New Jersey, and way before 200 channels on my television set...I somehow was mesmerized by a lithe shy creature all the way over in England by the name of Diana Spencer. Now I never bought People magazine or tabloids or watched "Entertainment Tonight" all that often, but somehow the whole fairytale princess thing captured me and held me fast.
I've always had a thing for England...I don't know why but I do. All the rock groups I loved were British groups, all the accents I could do were English (okay, I could do only one and probably not the greatest...but that didn't stop me), all the shows I loved..."Monty Python's Flying Circus", "To the Manor Born", "'Allo 'Allo!", "Doctor in the House", and countless others, were English. So, to love a real-live royal romance...in England...by a girl who was only a half a year younger than me -- well, was pretty much a given.
And it wasn't only me who found this whole dream-come-true fantasy fascinating...the whole world was transfixed and caught up in it, too. One can only speculate that Diana, with her cocked head and down-glancing ways, was just a glimmer of something magical yet to come. Hollywood way back when had a name for it: "It". Clara Bow was coined "The It Girl" back in the 1920s. And after that - you either had "It"...or you didn't.
I think Diana had "It" right from the start...and everyone knew it.
In the very wee hours of Wednesday morning on the 29th of July 1981, me...and a "few friends" - estimated at over 750,000,000 of us, sat enthralled, anxiously awaiting a ceremony the likes of which most of us had never bore witness to before. The only thing remotely in that realm was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953...and I wasn't around back then. This was, by far, the grandest spectacle I had ever seen in my life: a mere girl was going to be wed...a mere girl who would be Queen one day. Wow! All right before my eyes.
Now, I don't know about you...times have changed...but when I was little I wanted to grow up to be a princess one day. Princess and ballerina came first...writer came later. I would dream of having my Prince Charming sweeping me off my feet and then living happily in the lap of luxury forever after. We didn't have a lot of money growing up...so becoming a princess seemed one way to strike it rich (this was way before the lottery, too). But it wasn't just about the money...it was about the dresses and the balls, the kissing and the "grown-up" stuff grown-ups didn't talk about back then...and knowing which fork out a seemingly endless array of forks...was which. This was what being a princess meant to me when I was very, very young.
Then I grew up and realized I could never be a princess...but here was Diana...MY Diana...stepping up to bat for me...and millions of other long disillusioned "once upon a time" little girls...who were now, like me, expected to have grown up and out of all that fairy-tale nonsense.
But as we are all too aware, her dreams of being a ruling figurehead monarch of the British Empire never came to be...but the unimposing princess, like that ugly duckling in that other fairytale, transformed into a glorious swan instead. And she was adored by millions along the way. Her journey could have ended with just being content to be waited upon hand and foot and rolling her eyes at every daily function she had to partake in to appease the "little people" she would someday rule so she could keep taking those month-long vacations at Balmoral. But...she didn't. She made friends with all the "little people" instead, graciously shaking their hands in the endless lines they queued up in -- and made each of them think they were just as important as she was. Her humanitarian causes were legendary. Who could forget her walking through the minefield in Angola or touching AIDS victims who, at the time, were still shunned and ridiculed by a great deal of the population? Those images ended up being much more synonymous with Diana than that 25-foot train of her bridal gown ever could.
And, on that tragic night in that fateful Paris tunnel...it all came to a screeching halt.
The "People's Princess" was no more.
Tears are welling up in my eyes as I'm typing this. Tears shed for a person I've never met. Tears shed for a person who was chose to step out from the self-indulgent, grand facade opulence of her world...and step into the real world and lives of those less fortunate...and into the hearts of people...just like me.