Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Romance requires mystery

The upcoming royal wedding isn't garnering the interest among Americans that the wedding of the late Diana, Princess of Wales to Prince Charles did:
How fascinated are Americans with Prince William’s and Kate Middleton’s nuptials next week? According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll, not very. Only 6 percent have been following news about the wedding very closely, and an additional 22 percent are following it somewhat closely.

Women are paying much more attention to the wedding than are men, particularly older women. A third of women under 40 are following news of the wedding at least somewhat closely, as are more than 4 in 10 women who are 40 or older. In comparison, half of men are not following news of the wedding at all. “It’s their British thing; it’s their custom,” Edward Rakas, 57, of Colchester, Conn., said in a follow-up interview after the poll was completed. “I guess they enjoy it, but it’s just not something I’m interested in.”
Some political commentators are speculating that the American media is manufacturing the lack of interest in the wedding out of loyalty to President Obama, who wasn't invited; that seems like a stretch to me, especially since some of the people I've seen express a total lack of interest are, like me, quite conservative and completely unconcerned about whether or not this or that political figure made the cut for what is not a state affair.

In fact, I've seen at least one other Catholic female blogger express (on Facebook, so I can't link to it) a lack of interest in this wedding despite her long-ago interest for the wedding of Charles and Diana. I, myself, was enamored of that royal wedding, watching as much coverage as I could and collecting newspaper articles about it (yes, it was that long ago--there were still newspapers). But perhaps the explanation is simple: I was a teenaged girl then, and perhaps royal weddings are only interesting to teenaged girls here in America.

There is one other possibility, but it's so politically incorrect that I hesitate to mention it. Years ago, a Catholic friend of mine commented on a wedding he had attended. The wedding was an expensive affair held at an island resort; the outdoor wedding ceremony was glitzy, the decorations and appointments costly, and everything from the bride's gown to the food and drink served to the smallest detail of decoration was ostentatious and first-quality.

But my friend said that the wedding was boring--because, according to him, it's pretty boring to go to a wedding of a man and a woman who have been living together for years. How, my friend wondered, was this day any different for them from any other day in their lives, except that they were throwing themselves a lavish party to celebrate themselves in their specialness? Did the idea of marriage actually mean anything to these people, or was it just the "next step" you take because people expect it, and you get nice gifts out of it, and it's a good opportunity for your friends to show up and tell you in word and deed how important and terrific and wonderful you are?

Considering that couples who live together before marriage have a much higher risk of divorce when compared to couples who do not, these aren't pointless questions--but the real point is that my friend found it hard to take an interest in a wedding with what he saw as so little romance to it.

Romance requires mystery. It is hard, I think, for those of us whose standards of morality still include the phrase "living in sin" to find anything terribly romantic about the marriage ceremony of a couple who have been, as this article so quaintly puts it, "shacking up." We can pray for the couple, we can hope that they will beat the odds, we can, if we wish, be faintly glad that they are making what a much less polite age used to call an honest man/woman of each other, but it's hard to muster a great deal more interest than that.

There are exceptions to this rule, however. This interesting story of the mass Catholic wedding of fourteen couples is one; others involve couples who became aware of the sinfulness of living together without the Sacrament of Matrimony, and who agreed to follow the Church's rules, separating until their wedding day and taking advantage of the Church's programs to educate them more deeply in the faith, particularly in regard to Catholic teachings concerning marriage and human sexuality. It is not at all impossible for a couple who has lived together to rebuild the foundations of their relationship in such a way that they can enter the married state joyfully and, with the graces of the sacraments, live a long and happy life together.

And that's much more exciting--and much more mysteriously romantic--than any number of royal weddings.


JMB said...

When Princess Diana wed Prince Charles, we were in Michigan and had access to Canadian TV which broadcast the event non stop. I remember waking up early and watching the entire thing. My sisters, cousins and I (all female) were obsessed with her. Years later, I worked at a fancy hotel in NYC and I met her, and she was more beautiful in person than she was on tv. To this day, I still feel sadness when I think about her and how her life turned out.

Kate? She's pretty, but nine years together! Ho hum. They are like an old married couple. Who cares?

The Sicilian said...

I, too, remember being up at 4am with my family to watch Charles and Diana get married.

Since I am now on the West Coast and even three more hours behind UK time than when Chuck and Di got married, I'm even less inclined to watch, especially since I know I'll be able to watch replays of it online.

I am marginally interested in this wedding. Perhaps the difference in excitement levels (at least for me) is because when C/D got married, this fuddy duddy, older bachelor was FINALLY settling down, and with an attractive much younger woman who seemed to come out of nowhere, whereas there's been little suspense about whom Will would marry.

Patrick said...

Here's my question:

Is "living in sin" predicated on fornicating? If a man and a woman, unrelated to each other, are living together but not having sex, is that "in sin"?

I say this because nobody (presumably) has *actual knowledge* of whether or not this couple is celibate.

Would that make a moral difference?

Anonymous said...

It's also globalization and multiculturalism -- that is, Americans feel less connection to the estranged Mother Country than we once did given so many of us aren't Anglo and England is less and less Anglo. I also wonder if the new media culture plays a role -- that is, we've got 24/7 cable news and internet news, so we've known as much as possible as soon as possible.


Red Cardigan said...

Patrick, it's a good question, and one I considered as I wrote this.

But I think that "living in sin" covers the scandal as much as the idea that anything particular is going on (as our grandmothers might have said).

After all, *rash* judgment is when we assume without a sufficient foundation the moral fault of a neighbor. (CCC) That phrase "without a sufficient foundation" seems key to me. If a man's hand shakes on occasion and his speech seems blurred, it is rash judgment to assume that he habitually drinks to excess (he might, after all, have a neurological issue); but if a man is quite open about his heavy drinking it is not rash judgment to assume he is drunk if he drives his car onto your lawn at 2 a.m. and begins to serenade the oak tree in the southwest corner with a love ballad. At that point it may be the most charitable interpretation of his behavior, in fact.

Is it rash judgment to use the phrase "living in sin" about an unmarried couple in a romantic relationship who share an address alone together (e.g., no chaperone, parents, etc.)? From the scandal aspect alone, no--but in this day and age it would be highly unusual for a couple to intend such a situation to be chaste; it would also be unwise given the imperative that we avoid the near occasions of sin.

Sarah said...

I didn't know the soon-to-be-Royal-Couple were living together...? I assumed for the sake of public image they were living apart. I doubt they are celibate but I don't want to be uncharitable.

I personally am turned off by this wedding even though I am an avid People Magazine reader (or at least the website version). Every day there is some new asinine "news" article about the wedding, and most of it is purely conjecture, which irritates me. "Will Kate Middleton wear her hair in a chignon for the wedding?" "Hear [moderately famous fashion guru]'s take on what wedding dress would look best on Kate!" "Will William and Kate honeymoon down under?" Umm...why would I want to read tons of speculation about something that may or may not happen to people who do not affect my life whatsoever?

Also, I think overexposure is a big reason why so many people just don't care about this wedding. We are tired of hearing about it. And with all the bridal shows on TV nowadays I daresay that extravagant weddings, even Royal ones, aren't as impressive or hard to come by as they maybe were in 1981 (I was born in 1987 so I can't really say).

Diamantina da Brescia said...

I wish that my parents' marriage had been convalidated in the Church. They eloped to Las Vegas and civilly married when Mom discovered she was pregnant with me. Perhaps the grace of the Sacrament of Matrimony might have reduced (if not eradicated) my father's drinking and womanizing, and he would have not left Mom, and they would not have divorced. (Neither has since remarried.)

However, I get the impression that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles did not openly emphasize marriage convalidations to civilly married couples in the 1970s and 1980s -- not like the archdiocese does today. (That is one good part of the Mahony legacy.) And even if the archdiocese had done so, how would my parents have wanted to get their marriage convalidated? Dad is a very lapsed Catholic and Mom is a non-churchgoing Methodist: I am the only practicing Catholic in the immediate family. It is very hard for children -- even adult children -- to help bring their parents into (or back into) the Church.

As for Prince William and Kate Middleton, I am interested in their wedding and hope that they will be happy. On the other hand, I am an unabashed Anglophile and history buff. What the next monarch (whether Charles or William -- after all, Charles could predecease his mother and William could directly succeed his grandmother in that fashion: I personally think that Elizabeth will live to be at least 90) should do, however, is disestablish the Church of England and allow royalty to marry Catholics without penalty to their succession to the throne. Disestablishing the Church of England is a good idea because relatively few Brits (5% was one statistic that I read) are Anglicans who attend church services regularly. More people in Britain attend Catholic Masses regularly than attend Anglican services! Who knows? There might be a black Catholic monarch in Britain by 2100, due to black British Catholic commoners marrying into the House of Windsor. I think that would be neat :-)

Scott said...

Another possibility: years of marriage ceremonies with focus on the married people and not on God is finally dawning on folk as empty. T-Mobile did a royal wedding spoof of the JK Wedding Dance. I remember when we (myself included) tut-tutted that wedding entrance, but one commentor noted that the real royal wedding is going to be about ME ME ME just as much as the JK wedding ever was.

Red Cardigan said...

Diamantia, I will keep you in my prayers. Relatives by marriage of mine were (long ago) in a similar situation. It was the prayers and pleading of their children that led them to convalidation--but they'd never pursued it on their own, because they had assumed that their JP wedding put them outside the Church forever and no convalidation was possible!

Charlotte said...

You may believe that grace from the sacrament of marriage can cover a multitude of sins, but I don't. Grace surely helps and gives you a decent start, but it must be maintained as you go through the marriage via constant reception of the sacraments. So I'd guess that your father would have continued down the road he did anyway - a change of heart would have been needed, and one day in grace at the altar of God can't magically make that happen.

Anyway, I don't care too much about this wedding other than seeing the clothes and gown. (And yes, I was a Diana freak, as well. I woke up in the middle of the night to watch her wedding, and her funeral.) My question out loud continues to be: Will she go strapless or not?

Diamantina da Brescia said...


I think that the sacrament of marriage would have been only a start. For my parents' marriage to have succeeded, I agree that Dad would have had to have a change of heart.

And I suspect that Kate Middleton will have long tight lace sleeves on her wedding gown, rather like Grace Kelly's. She will probably wear flowers in her hair when she enters Westminster Abbey as a commoner and a tiara when she comes out as a princess. (Sarah Ferguson did this when she married Prince Andrew in 1987.)

The Sicilian said...

After I posted, I remembered reading, at the time of Charles and Diana's wedding, that she had to be proclaimed a virgin. Thanks be to Google, my memory is vindicated:

That the couple are living together already might be a factor for the disinterest about the wedding, but I think the more likely culprit (or an additional one) is the difference between the couples: Charles was a 30-something fuddy duddy who appeared in no hurry to settle down, and his bride was a much younger, attractive girl who appeared out of nowhere. There's been little suspense about whether William and Kate would marry.

Also, perhaps the general public has become a bit jaded about royal marriages since Charles and Diana's and then Sarah and Andrew's broke up, including the shenanigans involved in each. Much like celebrity weddings, there's probably a cynicism about the likelihood of the marriage lasting, or even that it's a "fairy tale" as C & D's was trumpted to be by the media, when it was later found out to be something of a set-up. Short version, I think there are many of us who don't buy the fairy tale aspect anymore. I wish the couple well, but...I hope to be sound asleep at 3am tomorrow morning.

Chelsea said...

@Charlotte - in case you haven't seen pictures already, I checked online this morning (having not watched the wedding myself) and no, she did not go strapless. In fact, she had long sleeves. She was elegant, modest and just lovely.

John E. said...

and perhaps royal weddings are only interesting to teenaged girls here in America.

That's the theory I'd go with.

Adults who aren't Anglophile Royalists have more pressing matters to attend to than some strangers in another country getting married.

It is not at all impossible for a couple who has lived together to rebuild the foundations of their relationship in such a way that they can enter the married state joyfully and, with the graces of the sacraments, live a long and happy life together.

Likewise, it is not at all impossible for folks who have been previously married, divorced, lived together, and married outside the Catholic Church to enter their marriage joyfully and to live a long and happy life together.

Put enough data points down, such as the marriage and background above describing my wife and myself and our twelve year marriage, and one might come to the conclusion that joy and long term happiness have less to do with the Church and Sacraments and more to do with the will and intent of the two people in the marriage.

Anonymous said...

A recent study that was on a few weeks ago found that premarital cohabitation doesn't increase divorce likelihood as long as that was the only premarital cohabitation. Serial cohabitation has the negative impact.

It didn't help Diana and Charles that she was a virgin, did it?

Another reason for the fascination thirty years ago: Diana was adorable and Charles was, mmm, not.


Siarlys Jenkins said...

I didn't take any interest in either or any royal marriage. In fact, the only marriages I'm interested in are those of personal friends I get invited to, or, perhaps, my own, if the lady ever makes up her mind -- I'm too old to think about anyone else.

I'm mildly interested in John E.'s marriage, if only because he says things worth pondering from time to time, and has shared impressions of his dear wife April now and then.

We fought a revolution against the royal house over 200 years ago. We should be gaga over a successor to George III getting married? Why? When Lizzie dies, they should chuck the monarchy and declare a republic.

Anonymous said...

Good grief, Siarlys! The monarchy is one of Britain's best cash cows for tourism. It's a family concern that generates a money and provides employment for who knows how many people?

Think, man!


Siarlys Jenkins said...

Old castles will generate tourist revenue with or without living monarchs residing in private apartments somewhere in the interior. Americans will come watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace merely because A.A. Milne wrote a poem about Christopher Robin going down with Alice to watch it.