I prepared this light post to share this Friday afternoon because I feel strongly that we all need something less serious. It’s been a long week in the Jewish world with everything going on in Israel. But now we’re learning of another school shooting here in the US. President Theodore Roosevelt said that “in any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” My friends, when it comes to school shootings, for the most part, we’ve done nothing. And this is what happens. The worst thing.
When Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry this weekend, she’ll become a real princess and live a fairytale life. She’ll get a castle, a carriage and a tiara. She’ll rightfully be treated as royalty, surrounded by pomp and circumstance and expected to curtsy before certain members of The Royal Family while others will be expected to curtsy before her. But none of these perks will hide the ugly truth: soon-to-be Princess Meghan comes from what appears to be a dysfunctional family.
It’s no surprise that the media is jumping on every opportunity to highlight the strained relationships that define, in part, the Markle clan. As the world devours the latest drama surrounding the upcoming royal wedding and gossip flies this way and that about the future princess and her family, it’s amazing how quickly we’ve forgotten the royally dysfunctional family Ms. Markle is marrying into. Prince Charles, Camilla – the Duchess of Cornwall, the late, great Princess Diana, Prince Andrew and his former wife, Sarah – the Duchess of York and Harry himself are just a few of the members of The Royal Family who have reminded us that royalty does not mean a life free from imperfections. The House of Windsor has much dysfunction, but most of it will be tucked away for the royal wedding, much like Ms. Markle’s father will be tucked away in Mexico.
As a rabbi, I do many weddings – never a royal wedding, but lots of very special weddings. Over the years, I’ve come to learn that it’s often during these highly charged moments that are supposed to be about the couple, the vows and big ideas like love and commitment, when families let their ugly out. All the dysfunctional relationships, pent up hurt feelings, jealousy, unresolved issues, resentment and irrational behavior come out, often at the most inopportune moments. While we’re led to believe that weddings are about the union of two people, on a deeper level, weddings are about blending families and, just like the Markle and Windsor families, many families are dysfunctional. And so, when it comes time to blend, family members often resist, rage and act out. And it gets messy. Often very messy. Most of us are lucky, however, because while we might have an embarrassing incident at a bridal shower or a rehearsal dinner, we don’t have the paparazzi ready to document for all the world to see the inappropriate behavior that often comes with blending dysfunctional families.
It’s none of our business why Ms. Markle’s father can’t be in England this weekend. None of the other rubbish being tossed around out there by the media and estranged family members is our business. But, it is a reminder that Ms. Markle, just like her groom, Prince Harry, comes with baggage. But, don’t we all?
While Ms. Markle will soon have people to carry her baggage, that’s no guarantee that we’ll stop hearing about what this baggage contains. But, this won’t stop Ms. Markle from becoming a real princess this weekend, marrying a real prince with his own carriage full of baggage. And this won’t stop the newest royal couple from living a fairytale life – one that might be a bit fancier than most of our lives, but one filled with challenges many of us can relate to: difficult parents, meddling in-laws and/or eccentric aunts, uncles and cousins.
Ms. Markle – with all her grace, beauty, class, sophistication and familial challenges – teaches us that the fairytale is not about perfection or hiding the imperfections. It’s about owning the broken pieces that define us all, picking them up as needed and walking down that aisle with class, with a smile, determined to build a better life with that special person waiting at the other end of the aisle.
I wish Ms. Markle and Prince Harry the best as they begin their lives together. The messiness that’s surrounded their wedding is par for the course for many weddings and a reminder that a real princess is not defined by the messiness of life, but rather how she rises above that messiness and turns her life and the life of her family into something beautiful. Something tells me this new princess-to-be has the power to do just this. May the press leave her alone. May her family heal. And may she and Prince Harry build their own beautiful family together.
Mazal Tov to the royal couple!