The most popular girl's party theme at Party Pieces, the British company run by Kate Middleton's parents, is "Disney Princess." As a child, Kate used to take the tiny pink dresses and glittery tiaras destined for some other child's party and parade around in them, according to her biographer, Robert Jobson.
This behaviour will be familiar to any parent wandering the pink minefield of young girlhood. It's a rare girl who can avoid the pernicious cult of the princess and its dubious promise of happily ever after. It follows them everywhere - at the movie theatre, in the toy store, at every six-year-old's Belle-themed birthday party. Even grown women have succumbed to this oldest and most mendacious myth of femininity: Why else would Disney be introducing a line of princess bridal gowns, inspired by its hollow-eyed cartoon heroines, early next year?
And why else would people around the world be swooning over Kate Middleton's impending marriage to Prince William, when we should be looking at this lovely young woman and hissing: Run, Kate! Run for your life and liberty!
Because, despite the lies fed to our daughters, being a princess isn't what it's cracked up to be. You might want to encourage your little girl to dream of a more pleasurable life - as a prison warden, say, or perhaps a turnip farmer. Or try a little aversion therapy using the following:
It is a life of excruciating monotony
In my job, I've witnessed the British Royal Family up close in their daily lives, and there's sweat coming off their alabaster brows. Even those trained in a lifetime of boredom suppression can only ask, "What brings you here?" so many times before their eyeballs explode. There is little joy to be found in opening a flower show in Swindon or a community centre in Bognor Regis.
And yet this, not polishing the family diamonds or dancing at Mahiki, is the princess's lot in life. Anne, the Princess Royal, is patron of more than 200 charities and has more than 600 events on her calendar each year. This week, the poor Duchess of Cornwall had to attend a concert featuring both Phil Collins and Mike and the Mechanics. I'm no monarchist, but I recognize painful sacrifice when I see it.
Peace of mind is not in the job description
Which part of Diana's life indicated that she was happy with her royal role? Was it the sobbing in public, the bulimia, the visits to practitioners she found in the Yellow Pages under the heading "Quacks, Various"? Have the lessons of Sarah Ferguson's fall, summed up in the headlines "Duchess of Pork" and "Fergie: My Toe-Suck Shame" not been drummed into the head of every girl who would marry a prince? Is a few minutes on the steps of Westminster Abbey really worth her decade spent shilling for Weight Watchers and a nervous breakdown on Oprah Winfrey's sacrificial couch? It's not yet 20 years since these alleged fairy tales ended in scorched-earth divorces, but memories are short, and apparently history is dim when you're looking through a veil of pink tulle.
But don't take it from me: The royal prisoners themselves trade whispers of the outside world. When Princess Grace first met Diana in 1981, Monaco's serene highness apparently found the younger woman hiding from the press, crying in a bathroom, and comforted her with the words "Don't worry - it will only get worse."
Your face will be used to mop up beer at some pub in Yorkshire
Royal-wedding tea towels, mugs, key chains - already the satanic kitsch mills are working overtime. Sealy is introducing a "Crown Jewel" mattress (filthy jokes to one side, please) for those nights when the peas are giving you nightmares. Ryanair is advertising "honeymoon deals" next to a picture of Prince William and his future bride. When the budget airline famed for its preflight stampedes is using your photo, you know the mystique is dead.
To this list of cons you can add press intrusion, lack of privacy and the removal of any meaningful career you might want to pursue.
As British novelist Susan Hill recently wrote, "The royal life is a miserable one, and aspiring to it is bizarre in any human being." The only exception, she says, occurs when the prospective princess is so deeply in love that she is willing to gamble everything for life in the gilded dungeon.
Indeed, that seems to be the case.
In their television interview, Prince William and Kate Middleton appeared wonderfully happy.
She was so warm and funny and poised that you wanted to slip her a hidden message: Elope to Alicante. Wear a dress from Woolworth's. Invite no one. Shun the title. Because it's not that she's too common for the job, it's that the job's not worthy of her.