I know the Olympics are almost a distant memory at this point. But aside from some of the breathtaking instants like watching Oscar Pistorius soar past finish lines, there’s one moment that keeps coming back to me. And it’s gotten under my skin.
That is: Kate Middleton walking over to and chatting with the U.S. women’s gymnastics team during the vault finals.
Kate, as always, was clean, polished, poised and relaxed, with a perfect curl to her hair and an effervescent smile. Gabby, Jordyn, Aly, and Kyla were chalk-smudged and sweaty. Their jaws were clenched, their brows were still furrowed with concentration from having watched teammate McKayla work the vault.
What a contrast. Seeing Kate’s perky curls right next to the gymnasts’ sweaty brows and her cute, just-right-for-the-occasion polo shirt beside their high-tech warm-up suits designed for performance, I couldn’t help thinking how ironic it is that she is an idol and icon. True, her poise and composure are nothing short of miraculous. She’s beautiful, was born with just the right chemistry to appeal to a prince and has done an admirable job cultivating her magnetic public persona. I, too, am fascinated by this. But other than meeting a man who’s one hell of a catch and rising to the occasion of being his partner, what has Kate done to *create success?* What are her awe-inspiring accomplishments? Does her path to achievement include anything at all like the blood, sweat and tears that Gabby, Jordyn, Aly, Kyla and McKayla have shed? Does she know what extreme mental and physical exertion feel like? Has she tasted the cruelty of repeated failure on the way to each small victory, or heated competition in an unforgivingly rigorous discipline when everything she’s ever worked for is at stake?
I admire Kate’s virtues and realize that her position is not at all as easy as she makes it look. I’ve even bought the occasional issue of People magazine just to stare at and try to comprehend the fathomless peacefulness and joy her photos exude. But in this age of controversy over entitlement, and from the depths of my own struggle to make sense of why some paths seem paved with gold and others seem riddled with barbed wire fences, I just can’t help finding her presence beside the Fabulous Five — though surely intended as a mutual honor, a nod to the superstar status they share — to be all wrong.
Nor can I help wondering what message it sends to all the young women and girls out there formulating their own hopes and dreams. Could it possibly be telling at least some of them that there’s always a chance they can skip the blood, sweat and tears, the discipline and rigor, and become highly accomplished by virtue of meeting and marrying a princely man?