It hardly needs stating by me, but today Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement has been announced. I’d spent the afternoon crafting & heard a lot of radio coverage of the event, but decided to switch on the BBC 6o’clock news to ‘watch’ what was going on – to be honest, to see Kate’s engagement outfit as much as anything. I’m no royalist – quite the opposite, in fact – but I am interested in fashion as well as gender issues and I am fascinated by the extent to which the role of female members of the royal family still revolves around being an ambassador for British fashion. My first thought when seeing the couple enter the press room? Gosh, don’t they look older than I expected! This surprised me, though the photo montage that followed explained my reaction: the photos of the couple (both together & individually) that seem to infiltrate the public consciousness have been taken at various points of the last decade, so we are still used to seeing them at 20, 21, 22, 23… To see them at close quarters (& in formal clothing) at the age of 28 then comes as a surprise.
Sometimes I have the same reaction to my own reflection. I’m just over a month younger than William, and sometimes the small crow’s feet & the laughter lines that don’t fade as quickly as they used to come as a shock. I was reminded of this at the weekend. One of my old university friends hosted a bit of a get-together on Saturday. We were at her house, the house she owns with her husband-to-be, and were about to sit down to dinner. As we shuffled into the dining room & sat at the table, another old housemate’s girlfriend – who’s a few years younger than we are – whispered ‘They’re so grown-up!’. I think it was the sight of their cutlery canteen that particularly prompted this response. She was right, of course, we – us 1981 and 1982 babies – are so grown-up now. Student loans segue into mortgages, boyfriends into husbands, late nights out on lash into late nights up with a crying baby. So often, we think of ‘growing up’ and becoming adults as some kind of finality, the end to change and ‘settling down’ into some kind of groove (or rut, depending on your perspective) that will last until the kids leave home or we retire or we have a mid-life crisis & run off with our salsa teacher. The more supposedly grown-up we become, however, the more we realise that this is not the case at all. These changes, these new life-stages, are no more the end than anything else we’ve experienced; turning 30 is essentially no different to turning 13. This is not the end but the beginning of something else: as one door closes, the whole future opens up. The whole future is there for us to embrace, whether it be marriage or a mortgage or motherhood. A phone call today revealed that I am about to take another baby-step towards this grown-up world in the very near future: I have an interview for a ‘proper’ job soon. Unlike Kate’n’Wills, I won’t have the world’s media following every move but, as with my own interest in today’s royal announcement, by main concern at the moment is with what I am going to wear.