One of the more publicized events in the Danish media this spring was H.M. Queen Margrethe's 75 years' birthday.
The monarchy is a bit of an anachronism in the otherwise egalitarian Danish society. Yet, the Danes seem very happy with their monarch and the newspapers were filled with musings over this inconsistency in values - but that is not today's topic.
I would like to offer a thought on the priorities in the population that builds on a statement from H.M. herself: "Everybody knows how old I am."
Countries with monarchies have the continual aging of their most adored magazine celebrities right in front of them. Yes, some have decided to retire - abdicate is the official term - but many regents continue to be highly visible until they die. Both in England and Scandinavia, lifelong service has been the norm.
What does that mean to the citizens of these countries? It certainly increases the average age of people adorning magazine covers. Agreed, the new British princess draws in the other direction - but we also see celebrity babies covering American weeklies. However, we don't see that many grandparents or great-grandparents on the covers of U.S. celebrity magazines.
I was thinking about this dynamic as I was picking up my suitcase in Copenhagen Airport. Half the population around me looked gray and wrinkled. It could just be that the median age in Denmark is four years more than back in the U.S. It could also be that the Danes look older because they don't see a need for hair coloring or face lifts in a culture where the main celebrity is now 75 years old?
The implications go beyond just age. The royal families and their friends include people who are young and smashingly good looking, young and plain, old and odd, old and stunning, old and stunning for their age, and everything in between. Some dress well - some honestly don't. Some are articulate - to some, political correctness is a foreign concept. Some are so old/odd that nobody expects them to behave correctly - politically or otherwise.
No, the royals are not always as perfect as we could wish for - but neither are the Linsey Lohans or the Charlie Sheens. And while we cringe when either "step out of line", we hope that the former will "grow up" to accept their obligations - as we all too often, without compassion, let the latter entertain us in their dysfunctional tailspins.
Wonder who have the higher chance of success? Those we hope for or those we ridicule?
Wonder what it does do our feelings of self-worth to mainly hope and forgive or to mainly ridicule and throw away?
Could it even be that part of the high level of contentment among the Danes can be contributed to that they don't feel a need to look like supermodels? Continuous exposure to George Clooney and Angelina Jolie pictures can make almost anybody feel inferior and the constant actor/model lineups give American singles an unrealistic idea of what potential partners could look like. Our celebrities set the appearance bar at a more reasonable level.
A side note on the Danish debate on monarchy vs. republic: The argument that - at least for now - has usually closed the discussion is that with a republic, we would have to chose a president among our politicians! (And, anyway, judging from other countries it doesn't take a monarchy for dynasties to form.)