I should be writing a new script. So that I don’t fall behind on my student loans (on can dream, anyway), and so the husband and I can stay fed this summer (the baby, presumably, will have the breast – just like in the “Lady Madonna” song). This naturally means that I am busy participating in useless online debates at Feministe. In the course of one such debate, I have discovered that – egad! – expressing pity for Kate Middleton’s utter loss of anonymity is problematic, ya’ll (I’m beginning to loathe the word “problematic,” btw: it’s right up there with “privilege” and “trigger”).
I don’t know what it’s like to be a diamond tiara-wearing international celebrity, but I do know what it’s like to experience a partial loss of anonymity. When I lived in Amman, Jordan, in the years 2008 – 2009, I couldn’t step outside and walk down the street without shit going down. At all. Seriously. I was a young foreign woman, and a conspicuously Slavic foreign woman on top of that, in a country where ladies like me are too often associated with being “easy”. Even some people who weren’t interested in getting a piece of me felt that they had every right to point, stare, make comments, and sometimes even follow me around as I tried to, say buy tampons or whatever. People took pictures of me with their mobile phones. Entire tables full of people would get curious, sometimes even viciously curious, if I wanted to have a drink at a restaurant at night. Girls made comments about me in club bathrooms, unaware of the fact that I could usually understand what it was they were saying about me in Arabic, so that I couldn’t even pee in peace.
We all lose our privacy when we go outside, but my loss of privacy on the streets of Amman was nearly total. I wasn’t a person – I was a curiosity at best. A lot of factors contributed to this – not just my gender, appearance, and age. I had a halo of vulnerability around me. I couldn’t get used to what was happening. Unlike some other people who find themselves in similar situations, I couldn’t cope with the situation, which only increased the attention.
Even kind attention, people calling me beautiful in an attempt to make me feel welcome (both men and women did this), devastated me. I moved about the city from safe space to safe space – house, gym, expensive hotel bar, friend’s house, etc. – tensing up every time I had to mix with “ordinary people.” The worst was being intruded upon in places I had initially decided were safe. I had felt comfortable going on shopping trips, and then the first time a group of grown men started making comments and pointing their fingers at City Mall, I went home and cried for hours. The same thing happened when I discovered that the guys who worked at the gym I attended had tried to get the women’s locker room attendant to covertly snap pictures of me with her mobile when I changed (when she had refused, they pestered her with questions about my body – what did it look like naked? When she told them they were being assholes, they were shocked, she said, because to them, what they were doing was completely innocent – they never even imagined that to someone like me, what they were doing amounted to a colossal, total betrayal).
Incidentally, I was pampered in Amman. I never had to hustle for money like I do in Moscow. I didn’t have to borrow at the end of the month, or delay medical procedures while I waited for a freelance fee to come through. I didn’t lie awake at night, wondering what on earth I would do when my savings ran out (as they’re about to, again!). I ate great food. I took mini-breaks at great hotels. Ladies were paid to put expensive pumpkin goo on my face and massage my back. I certainly never cleaned my own bathroom or cooked. I still have fabulous clothes and accessories from that period of my life, vestiges of past luxury: delicate cashmere scarves, sparkling Donna Karan dresses, pearls, giant sunglasses, golden keychains, designer tunics that now nicely contain my baby bump. I rocked that shit, yo. I was queen of it.
But the price was too steep. There were other factors that contributed to my ultimate decision to leave, many of them private, but the mere fact of my day-to-day existence in Amman had exhausted and worn me down to the point that I, little miss spoiled, went all the way to the crazy former USSR in order to get my shit together and heal. Seriously. I found healing in a place where the metro gets blown up, for God’s sake.
Incidentally, I had moved to Amman for love. That love was very much a real thing, which is why it chaps my hide to hear people make snide comments about the “real” reason why Kate Middleton married William (what do we officially refer to him as, now? Do I care?). Considering the Middletons are rich, I seriously doubt that money was at stake. Despite my own feelings about the British monarchy, which are conflicting, I think there’s actually a whole lot of sexism and snobbery involved in subtly making the claim that this girl is a damn gold-digger. Seriously, people, even royals, even rich folks, meet and fall in love – and then have to make sacrifices for that love. It happens, and I view Kate Middleton’s loss of privacy as a pretty giant freaking sacrifice.
I’ve got no doubt that Kate Middleton will be able to handle being a mega-celebrity. I’ve got good money on her! She rocks those tiaras! Still, unwanted attention can be a bitch for someone who still remembers what it’s like to walk down the street like a normal person. It can leave you feeling exhausted and bitter and hunted, and for anyone who thinks otherwise, I sincerely invite you to try it out for yourself.