Have you been watching The Crown? Next question: are you Team Elizabeth or Team Margaret? Are you understanding of the Queen, and her steadfast loyalty to duty, tradition, sacrifice and family? Or are you more inclined to be sympathetic toward her younger sister, the Princess, who was denied romantic happiness and took comfort instead in cavorting about with vibrant people?
If social media is anything to go by, the team you’re on has a lot to do with whether you’re married or single. And, of course, how far along you are in the series.
Team Margaret is all about the exquisite agony of female singleness; especially if you’ve ever felt cursed by the fact that you’re better than everyone else. It’s a tough spot to be in, and I must say it took me back to my own single life, when, just like Princess Margaret, I was prevented from marrying my one true love, (because, erhm, he just wanted to be friends).
Instead I had to settle for socialising, vodka in hand, while rolling my eyes at anyone who dared offer themselves as a suitor, particularly if the bar was closing, and feeling desperate, or charitable, as I told myself, I would agree to go out with them, only to be rejected later.
Mind you, I never had the distinct pleasure of telling anyone directly, “Take a look at this face: a picture of disappointment and disgust. This is the look that every woman you ever know will come to share. This is what the next forty years of your life will look like” as Margaret did to the interminably wet Billy.
But my aloneness did not prevent me from looking down my nose at anyone who entered into something so boring, so conventional as marriage. How frightfully staid! As you can imagine, this attitude went down a treat at the weddings I attended. I can remember giving several speeches wherein I would expertly — or so I thought at the time — weave in anecdotes about my own inability to attract anyone decent, unashamed of the fact that this was a highly improvised tangent and also that nobody had asked me to give a speech in the first place.
Then I’d arrive home, and, kicking off my stilettos and dancing, as Margaret did, alone in my underwear, to the sexually cathartic strains of Britney’s Slave 4 U, I would inevitably collapse before the nearest mirror in a heap of slightly performative self-pity, my eye sockets, black from an excess amount of mascara, while tears rolled down my cheeks, themselves an unnatural brown from an over-zealous application of fake tan. And as my salty tears intermingled with my layers of foundation, blush, and St. Tropez sunless foam, I would raise my glistening eyes to the ceiling, and swear I was far too smart to be wasting my time on stupid men!
My bellowing of the word “STEWWWPID” would then be interrupted by a succession of thumps on the wall of the adjacent neighbour, a signal that 2am was apparently an inappropriate time to be yelling and screaming about how nobody could handle my free spirit.
But then the sun rose on me, as it is wont to do on all of us at one time or another, and the man I had, hitherto been prevented from marrying, asked me to be his wife. Further cementing this fairytale romance was the fact that his name was – indeed it still is – Philip. And so began our whirlwind courtship and tour; the meeting of parents, of friends, and eventually, inevitably, those weirdo relatives you end up apologising for, and if you don’t then, you know who the real weirdo is.
Which brings me to this moment, which I might call Episode 5, of Season 2. I have an heir and a spare, I have Philip, and I have a list of obligations as long as my elasticised mum pants. I understand, now, that tears are not to be indulged, because there is far too much to do, and Mummy’s panda eyes are not a good look for day care drop-offs. I understand that spontaneity is something I won’t see again until this current age has past, and I’d best surrender to the thousands of errands and meetings and small-but-important rituals that keep my house going, such as cutting the stems off “strabebbies” so as not to offend the little people, and disrupt the peace I have worked so hard to maintain.
And when I see a single woman, be it on social media, or otherwise, brimming with a sort of glamorous sadness; grieving out loud that no matter how many times she gets dressed and goes out, it always ends the same way, I raise my eyes to the ceiling as I once did, sigh loudly and, turning to Philip, say “How frightfully self-indulgent.”