Imagine being Kate Middleton right now, with the entire world’s attention focused on what is happening to your private parts at the moment, speculating whether or not future king or queen is emerging from your body.
That’s all I can think about as I watch the wall-to-wall, minute-by-minute, detail-by-agonizing detail coverage on British television ever since the news broke (along with Kate’s water) that the Duchess of Cambridge’s labor is in progress at 5:30 A.M, London time.
As I write these lines, the BBC and Sky News are in that well-known 24-hour news channel mode when they know everyone wants to hear something about the headline on their screens - ‘Royal Baby’ - and therefore they want to keep the story on the air as much as they possibly can - but they know they’ve got absolutely nothing concrete to report on it, and they won’t have for hours. So they’ll do anything they can to kill time - jabbering endlessly about previous royal births, and recounting the months of Kate’s pregnancy - everything short of speculating when and where the conception took place.
They feature long interviews with midwife on the dubious topic of “what William and Kate must be going through right now” - as if childbirth wasn’t a human function that the vast majority of the viewing audience is somewhat familiar with, discussing whether she will actually go through with her natural birth or for medical reasons or whether, like other celebrities, she will prove "too posh to push" and end up with a C-section.
Then there are chats with historians analyzing the protocol of hand-delivering an envelope with the notice of the birth from the hospital, driving the news by car to the palace, having it framed, then put on display on an easel with a piece of paper in front of the palace, and how the leaders of the Commonwealth countries will be formally informed.
All of this, they marvel, seems unspeakably quaint and anachronistic in the age of Twitter, but they intone over and over again, it is tradition. I don’t think I’ve heard the word “tradition” used quite so much since the last time I watched “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Of course, there are some traditions that even the Brits have decided are outdated. Despite the crowds camped out at the hospital, Kate can count herself lucky in receiving more privacy than many of her predecessors - until 1936, a Cabinet minister was required to personally witness royal births in order to vouch for the fact that the infant emerged from the proper set of loins.
There’s the endless speculation of whether the baby will be a boy or a girl, and what the options for names will be in either case. So far, they haven’t produced an astrologer to discuss the implications of whether the baby will be a Cancer or a Leo, but I’m sure that will happen soon.
Or maybe even a rabbi to discuss how appropriate it is the baby will likely be born on the Hebrew date of Tu B’Av - the holiday celebrating love.
There is, in fact an actual Jewish angle on the royal birth. Kate is giving birth to the royal progeny in the Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital. It turns out that she’s benefitting from the generosity of a Jewish donor to the hospital back in 1937. JTA reports:
Frank Charles Lindo was a wealthy Jew, descended on his mother Adeline’s side from the Heilbut family, and on his father Charles’s side, it appears, from one of London’s most famous Sephardi families.
Another popular time-killer is interviewing the crowds outside the Lindo Wing - the television correspondents are lined up to grill the crazed royal fans and tourists camped out in the broiling heat, to ask them why they are there - it’s the obsessed interviewing the obsessed. We’ll know they’ve gotten really desperate when they begin interviewing each other.
One can understand why the Brits are obsessed with the birth of their future monarch (though with life expectancy these days, one wonders if after Elizabeth, Charles, and William whether this baby would take the throne in any of their lifetimes …)
But it’s not just the British - the whole world is fixated on this story, as they have been with every other aspect of the Royal Family - it is essentially the ultimate international reality show. Part of the fascination surely stems from the fact that the story of William and Kate and their family is a sequel to the Charles and Diana story, in a way, a healing experience after the trauma of divorce and death, the same psychological need that fed the world obsession with the royal wedding.
You’d think that we’ve got plenty to keep us occupied in Israel, what with keeping an eye on Syria in the north, Egypt in the south and the political earthquake triggered by Secretary of State John Kerry's announcements that peace talks with the Palestinians is taking on our government.
But no - the chit-chat on the street this morning and across Israeli television and radio stations was all about the royal baby, not the future of the Middle East.
And why not? What’s happening in our region is all very complicated and depressing and difficult to think about, especially in these hot summer months.
It’s so much more fun and entertaining to focus on a simple tale like the birth of a simple monarch. The baby’s born, we find out it’s a boy or a girl, it’s healthy (tfoo tfoo tfoo knock on wood) and our story has a happy ending, unless a scandal erupts over whether or not Kate is breastfeeding.
Nothing in these parts is resolved in quite as simple a manner.
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