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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just Like Us?

It was the stifled urge to vomit heard 'round the world.

Earlier this week, Kate Middleton Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, reported to a hospital with "acute morning sickness." That forced The Palace to report publicly that, yes indeedy, The Prince and Princess of Charming are with child.

In the hours that followed that announcement, there was news that betting had begun on (a) what the gender of the baby will be; (b) what it's name will be; and (c) what it's eye color will be. (I'm serious.) Perhaps less surprising, fashionites are eagerly anticipating the loveliness Kate will bring to maternity wear. And every American, even those that think a "fiscal cliff" is short-hand for a really hard hike, will soon know that "pram" is British for "stroller."

The glee and early-onset hysteria that erupted post-announcement is surely just a precursor for the attention that will be devoted to, and lavished upon, this young couple and their offspring. We can all picture, easily, the first shots of Kate leaving the hospital a months from now, with the bundle of joy cradled in her arms. We can hear the chorus of "jolly goods!" as the baby travels in its first horse-drawn carriage to the site of his or her baptism, gowned in white and hoping to be seated at Uncle Harry's table for the post-ceremony brunch.

Pregnancy announcements and baby arrivals are almost always cause for joy, even amongst us mere mortals. But when a celebrity, even one of unknown origins and/or unidentifiable talent, comes forth with that news, it somehow becomes more special, more magical, and more noteworthy. And when one of the handful of royals on the planet starts shopping for onesies? Well, it's as close as we'll ever get to understanding what it must have been like when three guys heard about a baby being birthed in a manger.

Getting pregnant is a biological act we're all theoretically equipped for. A lot of us have a child; some of us have more than one. We love our children, but we could live with fewer Facebook status updates about Other People's Kids ("OPKs"). I mean, hurray, he likes peas, but do we need 47 pictures of him eating peas?

The universality of reproductive machinery doesn't matter, and the eventual fatigue with OPKs disappears, when it comes to Important People's Kids ("IPKs"). We can never see enough pictures of Suri Cruise walking down a New York City sidewalk. We can never get enough of President Obama's references to Sasha and Malia doing their homework. We can never hear enough about how the Jolie-Pitt children like to invite Cirque du Soleil for private performances in the game-room of their rented chateau in Bahrain.

The same goes for the more mundane aspects of life. I get almost no enjoyment out of feeding parking meters or going to the dry-cleaners, but I click through pictures of Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock doing those very things every day on US Weekly has gone as far as dedicating a page in its weekly to Stars doing Things "just like" us, such as standing up and sitting down and pushing things (children on swings, food in grocery carts, feet into shoes, etc.). And by now I think I could ad lib Jennifer Garner's shopping list for her weekly jaunts to the Brentwood Country Mart.

This skewed value proposition is perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the celebrity worship phenomenon. I can understand losing your mind around someone whose talent is awe-inspiring, and I can get aboard with the semi-religious idolatry of a person who does something you wish you could do but know you never will. What I cannot understand is why people - me included - find some added significance to the life moments that we all share or can equally aspire to. I may not be Jessica Alba, but I know how to take my daughter to the park. Why is it remotely interesting to watch her do it?

This umbrella of the inexplicable includes all the folks of questionable talent who have somehow attained a level of fame. The Kardashian family might headline this group, but it embraces almost all walks of reality television. The television industry may soon become the Peeping Tom Industry, what with all the time so many of us spend every night watching them get drunk and fight or them eat ants or Donald Trump say something so preposterous you hold your breath until the sky starts falling.

If the stars are "just like us," why are we so much more interested in what they're doing and the way they do it? Are we so bored with our own lives that the boring parts of a famous life somehow become entertaining? Why is it reassuring to know that Jennifer Lopez has cellulite and that Blake Lively sometimes leaves the house without makeup on?

Then again, maybe this passionate voyeurism is not reserved to the regular human-Special Famous Human divide. We learn to gossip in elementary school, and it's not of the "Did you hear who George Clooney's dating now?" variety. We continue to do friendly cyber-stalking on Facebook, even if we have to avoid the pea-eating pictures. And you read this blog (hopefully religiously, and thanks if you do).

So maybe we just like taking stock. Maybe we just like sharing in the human experience. Maybe keeping tabs gives us ideas, goals, confidence, standards, inspiration, and, yes, a little fun. Maybe watching someone do it in the limelight, with lots of money and lots of personal assistants, is just a little more fun because it's also a little more of an escape. Because, really, wouldn't it be great if when I bring my daughter to the park, I looked like Jessica Alba? I think so.

I don't think I have an answer to any of this. Not really.

What I do have, though, is one more question:


1 comment:

  1. I participated in this friendly cyber stalking strictly for the subtle Naughty By Nature references.