The Death of Illusion

Her middle name was illusion.

It wasn't Frances.

Get over it.

It wasn't even Of.

I am sick and tired of seeing this woman venerated for things she didn't do. She did not change things in England or anywhere else. She inspired people to change them themselves. Now a sequined pat on the hand is real cool, especially when you can con people into signing big fat checks for doing it.

Okay. Fine. She got a lot of checks signed. Go sign some more, or some credit card statements, or something. That's on the front page. I assume you can find that one.

Can we discuss what this woman was not good at?

Thank you. Warning. This appears to be necessary. You don't like my bringing my personal background into things, you're probably not the kind of person who likes my brand of analysis anyway, so what the fuck are you doing here? I cannot vouch for Microsoft Internet Explorer, but the latest versions of Netscape have a perfectly-functioning back button. At least what's on my computer does. Bye.

You don't like my bringing my religion into things? Fuck off. That entire week in September last year was about religion. Bye.

You don't like my making statements for which there is no absolute proof? You're probably doing the same thing yourself and granting yourself the privilege 'cause you think you're a big enough bitch to get away with it. Bye.

Now that we have the "Universal Fuck Off Statement" out of the way, let's proceed.

You notice I don't keep a hell of a lot of hit counters around these parts anymore....

Brace yourself. If this essay turns out the way I've got it structured in my head (and no, this is not one of my prewritten ones, this is an off-the-top-of-my-head one, the way I used to outline class preparations in my head...oh, but I'm getting ahead of myself), we gonna be here a while. Sit back and get you some munchies. Don't drop anything on the keyboard. Here we go.

First. Where I come from in the matter of faith. Two words will take care of that for Buncombe County residents. St. Mary's. Born and bred. I remember the days when you had to wear the lace doilies on your head to mass if you were a woman (my mom was no lady, so I have to watch my tongue there). Episcopalian. Nosebleed high. Whoo-honey Everest nosebleed high, if that tells you anything. There is but one Catholic church in this whole town (and yes, we do have a few) who we don't look at as being less ritualistically inclined and high-church than we are. One church. That cathedral (or whatever the fuck they're calling it these days) down in the center of town. Right. That one.

Masses every day except when the priest (I said one priest for a congregation of what was it estimated at, 150 people or so regular attendance?) is on vacation his one day of the week. Scheduled rosary. Reserved sacrament kept on the altar. You genuflect toward the altar when you head down the aisle. (Translation site coming...). "Everything but the Pope" Catholic. And sometimes I wonder about even that....but...

We are so damn English that our priest is a good old Charleston boy who did his seminary work over there. We love him. He preaches nice bitchy sermons about those who need to hear them. Very snippy and educated and well-thought-out. And other than that, I know of no way to effectively put St. Mary's into a single paragraph, so I won't even try. But you get the idea. Half of us think you drive on the other side of the road. (Doesn't help Charlotte Street's basically one-way on Sundays in front of the church.....)

Hard-core mysticism in the Blue Ridge Mountains. (Hush, Unity. I don't see it. Never have, quite frankly.)

And none of this essay was even remotely inspired by the Episcopal Church, the diocese, Father Edward, the vestry, the church secretary, or the little lady who changes the candle empties, so hush your mouth. We St. Mary's people are known to talk a little.

Okay? Got that one out of the way.

Now. My teaching background. More specifically, the time I spent at a rather high-dollar, high-attitude little rich-kid boarding school up North in the Yankee territories. We had kids walking around whose families' names were in the papers, and I don't mean the local daily, either.

Multi-million-dollar homes around the corner. Kids literally brought to school by buildings that contained museum-quality furniture....and not just in the headmaster's office.....

I lived in the dorm with the kids. I didn't live several miles away and drive in in the evenings to cover a shift. I didn't even live in the little apartments on the outside of the building. Same building. Outside entrance. No. I was one of either two or four (can't remember at this point) live-in dorm faculty for something like 100 kids. Plus the day covering three preparations worth of coaching track (be careful what you play around with in high school sports one season...they may ask you to run a team on that basis....)

Live-in dorm work means you walk the same halls the kids do. You have your stereo up, you get knocks on the door wanting to know what the music is and where you got it and can they have permission to go get it after school even if their mother is coming to pick them up.....

Live-in dorm work, at least in this dorm, means your apartment is exactly the same as the kids' rooms. They took two suites (a suite being two rooms and a connecting bathroom) and knocked out the wall in between. In other words, evict eight kids and move in one faculty member. So I had an extra was generally in use by that squad of girls down the hall who couldn't stand the messes their suitemates left and voted to keep mine clean so they could come use it....hell, I wasn't using it anyway.....

Live-in dorm work means you wake up in the morning and find a kid parked in your living room sleeping because they had a fight with their roommate the night before and couldn't stand to sleep in the same room. It means the kid wakes up at 3 AM and thinks it's their own room because it looks so much the same. Can even find the bathroom in the darkness....

Live-in dorm work means you are the one who handles the Saturday morning calls from Daddy overseas in heaven-knows-where-his-company-has-sent-him-this-time. It means when Daddy calls, you had better have a passing knowledge of that kid's academic record and be reasonably sure that kid is not lying too badly this time when they tell you they really did well on the algebra test that week....kid ain't even one of your classroom students....kid is one of over 100 students....kid ain't even one of your favorites....handle it. Now.

Live-in dorm work means they can pay you a hell of a lot less than even private-school (fee-paying, for y'all tea-and-crumpets types) teachers normally make because they give you room and board. Room has already been described. Board is the cafeteria. With the kids. Every day. Who want to tell you about their date last night. (Ummmm....what kind of privileges is this kid on? Academic? Restriction? Who was on duty last night? Are they trying to tell you they really came in when they were supposed to so they think they'll have a faculty member to back them up when the truth comes out, do they really need the moral support this time, or do they just want to talk because it's something else bothering them that happened and is the reason they've been sent to boarding school and they won't talk about it and even the psychiatrist is puzzled and they may just start to open up a little this time and sort of hint at's 8 AM. Tennis team is off to a meet. Good luck, girls! You've got your homework done, Shelly? Word was in the faculty lounge your grades were slipping a little -- who's that kid dating this time? Oh god, not one of those boys in that gang they're having trouble with in the boys' dorm....)

Live-in dorm work means even if you have a TV set (courtesy of the bitch who quit midyear and made the administration go crazy looking nationwide to find a replacement and left you with....oh, never mind, I'll get to that a cat and a TV set and a whole lot of kids to get used to at midyear), you don't watch "Cosby" in your apartment. To maintain contact with the kids, you grab your grade book and your papers and your reference books (welcome to teaching Advanced Placement Latin) and go down and watch it with the girls in the lounge. Plus "A Different World," plus whatever else they want to watch. Can we watch this? You look around's getting late....sexual-abuse case in the dorm who gets uncomfortable around anything but Disney....go ahead. She's in her room. She has two tests tomorrow. I know. I checked. (These kids didn't even have to was the communal television....real, real good group of kids there.)

Live-in dorm work means you keep an extra eye peeled for that group of girls in the hallways in the academic section of the school during the day just because it's habit. Keep an eye on who they're hanging around. Listen a little extra carefully at teachers' meetings (never mind you've got your own academic roster -- and have fun with the ones who are crosslisted -- both in your classes and on the hall).

Live-in dorm work means the kids know who to descend on for study groups. They promise they're going to take you out for pizza afterwards. Mom calls. Home emergency. Oh well. It's cool.

There are two people I will not even compare myself to right now. One of them wore a blue and white sari. The other is the housemaster of Manor House. I presume you know where that is. Good.

We had big-shot CEO kids moving through. We did not have goddamn British royalty whose mother was so inconsiderate as to get herself flattened in a car wreck, what was it, four days before school reopened? In the middle of transition time? Big-time planning and rearranging? Checking in new kids and the whole thing?

I had to brace myself for the kid in one of my classes who was madly in love with me and wanted me to come watch his tennis match. With mother thinking it would be a wonderful idea. I did not have to brace myself for Mr. Golden Boy knocking out almost instinctively pinstripe shots that were destined to be photographic classics, putting my school's ever-so-distinctive-anyway school uniform in the worldwide media, and presumably prompting screaming girls all over the place. We had protective parents. We did not have goddamn security squadrons moving in. How much per year did it cost to maintain security on that boy? Big numbers. British pounds. Multiply that by somewhere around 1.67 American dollars. You get the idea. I would have cringed at the idea of being the one dealing with that kid as he came back "home" to the dorm after a hard day of flipping his tailcoat at paparazzi, dodging photographers, and trying to get his homework done.

You develop an instinct about kids. Little William Boy on first entrance to Eton looks like he would have been a three-knocks-on-the-door-per-week kind of kid. Never mind When Mommy Went Boom. I literally cannot comprehend it. Waking up and knowing that your dorm is about to be beseiged even worse. The administrative preparations necessary even to shut that place to tourists....knowing you've got kids drifting back in....will he or won't he be back? When? How is security going to deal with this? That is one of your boys stuck in a castle up in Scotland with Mommy's dead body in the damn papers. Front page. The stacks of flowers piling up in front of Mommy's house by the second. Literally. What's going to happen when he gets back? When is he even scheduled to come back? I presume I do not have to re-enumerate the rumors...thank you.

You have kids coming back, I am assuming, literally sobbing. The very building would remind them. They've seen Mommy. Mommy went boom. Either they'd gotten glimpses of Mommy when she came visiting or they're brand-new kids and were scared of meeting Mommy and Little Boy in the first place. Just the psychic shock of "I was braced to meet William and he's not here and now I have to wait and go through psyching myself up again to meet this person, and it's my first year at Eton anyway and they've got this new system and does my tailcoat fit and where do you go to get this taken care of and does my teacher like me...."

Never mind the goddamn funeral. I know my instinct would have been in any minor emergency that involved the girls in any way would have been to get down to the central part of the dorm and be there for support. Hang out in the office. By the TV set. In the hallways. Something. Never mind That. Mommy's Dead. What Do We Do? "Dr. Gailey, when is William coming back?" I can just hear it. You have class preparations. The first two weeks of a year are the make-or-break period with any group. Plus trying to remember to get something to eat....

Mommy Goes Crunch. Mommy's Casket is Worldwide News. There Goes Mommy On the M-Whatever Back to Home.


I think I would at least have asked for a pay raise.

The point being that living inside the dorm with the kids was measurably more difficult, even by the admission of the faculty involved, than living in "outside apartments" that were still in the same building but accessible from the outside. Never mind being able to go home to a tidy, warm, cozy palace when you get done....concern is wonderful. How about meaning it? Pick out what you do best. If your work is limited by the fact that you must play the social role of a flighty, dippy princess, then for God's sake stick to it. Wear your damn sequins. Get your damn checks signed. And hang out at all the official damn banquets you want. Play on your strengths. Don't give an entire country, nay even an entire world, excuse to think that you really give a shit when you cruise in for a spotlight show (and for the Princess of Wales, realistically, when will we face the fact that anything she did was a spotlight show?), kiss a few babies, make noises over people, and such. Okay. She went to hospitals. She was reportedly very into helping people.

Listen up. Listen up good. The bitch had a choice.

Go into the Peace Corps.

Marry Prince Charles.

She married Prince Charles.

She could get over it, like her frilly dresses, and do the handshaking. That is a genuine, legitimate social role. Sometimes breaking boundaries is nothing more than self-fluffing puffery. (Whoo, I like that phrase!) Especially when they are the critical social boundaries that protect both royals and commoners from misunderstanding of their roles. Yeah, they're human. Yeah, they most likely go to the bathroom the same way we do. But admit it. These people have a job. They are royals. Can we grow up and let them do it? I'd've had a hell of a lot more respect for William if he had done what it was semi-jokingly prophesied that he would do: Take that fabled backpacking trip to Nepal and not come back. At least he would have meant it. You get the impression this kid's going to be himself and do his own job. Diana would have carried a camera and would have been long-distance miked back to Oprah...I am just sick of the woman. It was so goddamn fake....

When life gives you choices, you take them. Yes, the Prince of Wales was an astonishing catch. Yes, there was a likelihood that he was going to be hanging around with a woman or two. Yes, the woman could have said no. I don't entirely buy that "altar-whine" bit. Not entirely. You are speaking to someone who so abhors the fake rituals of our society that I will not even have a small informal wedding when (if) I get married. Simple. Quiet. Gone. No white dress. No ritual for someone else to enclose me in and label me with. I am that allergic to the confining aspects of the rituals we have imposed on others in our society so we can sit around and enjoy the damn show. (Shows can be just as big in small Southern towns as they can anywhere else. Trust me. I grew up in one.) I will not play damn Barbie in a white dress for someone else's benefit. Sorry. No fucking way. No ma'am. No way. So I can kind of understand having a little bit of hives at the thought of a full-dress Brit smashup wedding. (Pun caught. Pun left in anyhow. Deal.) But for a lot of women, that kind of routine is glory. Dresses from hell. Royal status. The lot.

But revolution does not consist in having one's cake and eating it too. Choose your sides. Don't flip your butt uncontrollably for the cameras (and it looked from here like an addiction) and then whine when they come after you because you want to do private work. There are others in that family who have made their relative anonymity (and yes, I do think the phrase, "relative anonymity," in the light of the Princess of Wales phenomenon is quite fair and justifiable -- kiss my grits, honey) a blessing when it comes to allowing them to do what they want and live the kind of life that duty and pleasure call them to do. (And from what I understand, hubby did make at least a token attempt to reconcile before he went for Miss Horses and Tweeds.)

Take what life offers you and make the best of it. When you are handed the spotlight, use it. When you are given a small, private life, use it. Good can be done either way.

Let us bear no illusions that what she did was anywhere near the same as what Mother Teresa did. How many years? How long? Sorry, bitch, a few camera ops don't compare. I did not say as good as. I said the same as. But Di was trying to make it look like she was competing in the Teresa league when she should have just stuck to her own rules, please. Look at what the Queen does. Constantly going, greeting people, remaining in her position as public icon. I bet she's wanted to be able to feed her horses in peace every once in a while, but do we hear whinings about moving to Paris and taking the kids? Hell, bitch, I got tired of that by the time I was ten from the stupid, stuck-up fake-suburban housewife mothers of the snotty damn rich kids I went to school with. Everything was okay as long as your husband bought you a BMW and you were in the Junior League. Whining was okay. It was understood that it was still so much better than "those peons over there" (reasonably meaning everyone below damn Beaver Lake, for those of you familiar with the region) that you were allowed. It was a subtle, insistent put-down. I'm allowed to whine. I don't have to look at your reality. Two gorgeous kids making great grades, house most people would kill for, excellent husband who tries his best to please you, good car in the yard that doesn't need fixing more than once every six months....sometimes you just admit you have it good and then shut up. But no. That's letting the rest of the human race into the equation. The superiority of Beaver Lake (or whatever you want to call the area -- North Asheville, Beaverdam, whatever) must be maintained.

And that was what Diana subtly did. Stay in the slot you have been given by a God you claim is the same God everyone else worships. Take your lot. It has its joys. It has its pains. Just like everybody else. I sure wouldn't want a royal role just on the fact that I am susceptible to carpal tunnel syndrome and shaking hands would sure as hell aggravate it. Do you realize how many damn hands Liz has to shake of a month? Lord have mercy...Life is the same for everyone. Do your job and be grateful. Everything has its blessings.

But the bitch wanted more. She wanted to be like us. Reminds me of the snotty professors' wives up north of the Lake who can't stop whining about social causes and how important they are without having the slightest blinking idea of how isolated they themselves are from the rest of the world. Ya da, ya da, ya da. It's a wonder the rest of us haven't gotten together and bombed Nicaragua into dust just to shut y'all up. At a certain point it becomes distinctly uncool. You have been told.

North of the Lake. Kensington Palace. A borderline handed to some by luck, to some by hard work, and to some by sheer misfortune (if that is not what they want). If you chose it, shut the fuck up and make the best of it. If you're not north of the Lake, trust me, you may just be better off. Stay on Montford and count your blessings. (Although Montford is getting damn yuppified these days...)

Idiotic yuppieness is universal. No matter where you go, it seems the attitude lives. And that was one habit you didn't have to pick up from the Americans, honey.

We're running that notion into the ground quite capably ourselves.

Keep the damn sequins over there.

We're trying to rebuild a fucking culture here, hon.

And no thanks for the media ICBMs. We've still got the ghost of Garbo.

Stay on your own damn turf, hon.