When I tell people I’m studying at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews this year, I have come to expect (and dread) one inevitable response:

Paul Wong

“Ohhhh! Prince William goes there!”

“Do you think you’ll (gasp) see him?”

“You could be a princess!”


My first reaction to these responses is to cringe while inwardly fighting an urgent inclination to run away screaming, beat my head against the nearest brick wall or at least slap my forehead and roll my eyes in disgust. Instead, I squirm uncomfortably while fumbling through a conversation that seems more akin to invasive surgery than to a friendly dialogue.

Soon, I am overwhelmed by a sort of morbid awe, kind of like the feeling one gets while watching the quite, er, vocal and energetic families who fight it out on the circus known as the Jerry Springer Show. With the same perverse fascination, I listen to my companions’ musings. Every image of royalty, every illustrious detail, every glorious brick in their castle in the sky, not to mention every use of the word “princess”- all of this chatter strings together like pearls on necklace of absurd fantasy, ready to strangle me and my rational mind. But it’s only harmless fun, right? The world feeds on glamour and celebrity, and royal families are especially tasty tabloid fodder. So, why take it all so seriously?


I guess it’s just the principle of it all. Of course innocent wonder and lively imagination provoke many of these visions of grandeur. Don’t get me wrong – like most girls, there was a time when I dreamed of being a princess. In fact, as a little lass, I had an unusually strong affinity for playing dress up, not to mention a budding love for all things ostentatious.

Heck, I still have a soft spot for anything that is glittery (especially if it’s pink!). But for the most part, I eventually relinquished my royal aspirations and realized that life is anything but a fairy tale. When I packed up my Barbie dolls and colorforms, I also stowed away my dreams of diamond tiaras and knights in shining armor.

So I can certainly understand any romantic, albeit somewhat silly notions that spur the aforementioned enthusiastic exclamations, and that cause my companions to drag me along with their runaway daydreams. However, underneath the facade of pure, harmless entertainment, these speculations conceal some pretty disturbing assumptions.

What bothers me most is the fact that anyone, even in jest, would hint that I would attend a certain school merely to throw myself, with a camera in one hand and an engagement ring in the other, into the path of a prince. It’s like the time my uncle suggested I study in the law library so I could “pick up a lawyer.” I mean, to each her own, but I definitely did not come to college for the sole purpose of hunting down a husband.

Likewise, I’m not spending a year halfway around the world for the sole purpose of snaring a royal catch. I happen to be so thrilled with St. Andrews’ atmosphere, academic reputation, and stunning architecture, that I couldn’t care less about the quantity and quality of “game” I’ll find there.

Even if my only goal in higher education was to obtain an M.R.S., I would think twice (make it a hundred times) before committing to life with royalty. I might as well throw away any personal dreams, goals, and career ambitions-not to mention any desire for privacy or independence.

This stubborn, solitary caterpillar would feel stifled, to say the least, by the sudden need to transform into a social butterfly. No, for me, life as a princess would definitely be more nightmarish than dreamy.

Overall, I feel like my acquaintances’ seemingly trivial comments not only insult my intelligence, but attack my values as well. All of a sudden, I’m a gold-digging, superficial princess wannabe. I doubt that any of these people intend to incur my ill will, but I can’t help resenting their offensive, if unintended, allegations.

Moreover, I’m willing to bet good money that no guys going to Harvard are encouraged with the line “You could hook up with Natalie Portman!” And I doubt any males attending Oxford are told “You could marry Chelsea Clinton!” Granted, these are not the exact same situations, but it is food for thought. In these “modern” times, it is slightly ridiculous that a woman’s identity, ambitions, and success are still viewed as being so closely bound to, and measured by, her choice of mate.

In the meantime, I’ve figured out a new response to all the Prince William babble. The next time someone tells me that I’m on my way to becoming a princess, I’ll merely reply, “Of course! That is why I’m going to St. Andrews – it offers a ‘Prince William’ major, with intriguing and helpful classes such as ‘Royal In-Laws 101.’ Soon I’ll become a full-fledged, certified prince stalker!”

Maybe then I will get some peace and quiet. Or else I’ll just get a lot of odd looks.

– Bethany Root can be reached at blroot@umich.edu.

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