Saturday, November 03, 2007
These poor kids today don't even know what they're missing
When I was a little girl, Jackie Kennedy was on all the magazine covers and even in the daily newspapers, usually in white gloves, looking beautiful as she watched another school, airport, park or library named to honor her martyred husband, here or abroad. Then she became Jackie O and there were even more photos and articles: water skiing around her new husband's island, sunning herself on her new husband's yacht, in evening clothes dining at the coolest restaurant, or at an airport, hiding behind enormous sunglasses as she boarded one of her new husband's jets. Widowhood ended that marriage, too, and Jackie came home. Now her press centered around the attention she lavished on her kids and how she the former First Lady embarked on her own career in publishing. There were photos of her with the portly, balding man that we knew she lived with, and yes, we knew he was still married to someone else, but since Jackie, the man and his wife all behaved with such dignity, there was barely a whiff of scandal. She began to recede from the daily papers and the magazine covers as she got older. Partly because her life had become less glamorous, partly because even a fit and beautiful grandmother in her 50s and 60s won't be the world's fashion trendsetter. I don't think Jackie minded it one bit as her position as the world's #1 covergirl was taken by a shy young London kindergarten teacher …
Lady Diana Spencer was a blonde, blue-eyed teenage charmer. Clearly in love, she was the girl at the center of the storybook romance. We watched her wedding to Prince Charles (I got up at some crazy hour in Los Angeles, where we were vacationing, to see it live). We watched her accept flowers from children and comfort the elderly. The magazines, newspapers and entertainment shows kept us up to date on her pregnancies and the births of the young princes. We watched her style become more sophisticated on her trips abroad, representing The Crown. Her fairytale marriage deteriorated before our eyes and we had to choose sides. We chose her. We went to Disney World with her and her boys, we watched her be romanced by a foreign suitor with a yacht (deja Jackie), and then suddenly, tragically, she was gone.
Both Jackie and Diana still sell. I'm always happy to see them on magazine covers (like the Avedon portrait of the Kennedys on the cover of Vanity Fair) or on the bookshelves (the spate of books published to coincide with the Dianaversary).
I think part of why these women still have a hold on our imaginations is that, no matter what, they were ladies in the old-fashioned sense. The paparazzi encroached on their personal space in ways that certainly weren't fair (Jackie even took a photographer to court and won a judgment that kept him away from her), but they didn't throw vulgar tantrums. They were both keenly aware that the newspapers are "the first rough draft of history." Jackie tried to never be photographed smoking. It's impossible to imagine either her or Diana getting in or out of a car at a nightspot and flashing their naked crotches at photographers. They made their kids a priority. Whatever else was said about these women, the world recognized and respected the way they handled their responsibility to their children. There would never, ever be a scathing report from a court-appointed parenting coach about either of these mothers.
Today, young girls are following the misadventures of the women who have replaced Jackie and Di on the magazine covers: Paris and Britney. I feel sorry for them. Jackie and Diana gave us ideals to aspire to, not to rise above.