By GINA BARRECA
The Hartford Courant
You'd think that being a gorgeous, charming, sophisticated young princess fully accessorized right down to having an adoring, healthy and attentive young king-to-be at one's side would have solved most problems, wouldn't you?
I've had plenty of off-days when any combination of those elements -- gorgeous, charming, king-to-be at my side -- would have gone a long way toward cheering me up.
But we've learned this week that even Kate Middleton isn't enviable -- at least not all the time.
This week's collective cultural copping of a feel has transformed the Duchess of Cambridge into merely a pair of breasts, the holder of the Royal Rack. Gone from sight and sound are the young woman's good works and bon mots; eclipsed are the dazzling smiles and apparently affectionate interactions with her delighted audiences in Britain and abroad.
She's been reduced to a just another girl gone wild, a young woman without a bathing suit top sunning herself on a deck. She could be a Page Three girl from the English tabloids or a cast member from Jersey Shore.
The paparazzi wanted to get those photographs of Middleton because she's "somebody." Yet the effect of being photographed in such a way is to be cut down to size: to be made into "any body," to be made into an object. Finally, it is to be treated like nobody at all: just a pair of breasts and a behind.
Mostly people seemed disappointed that there weren't little crowns on her, or some other distinguishing features. 32B or 32 not to be?
Ask any woman when she was first reduced to body parts -- as if being evaluated by Perdue for sale by the pound -- and she'll tell you. Most of us remember.
Mine was when I was walking home from school by myself in the eighth grade. I was wearing a new pea coat I'd bought with baby-sitting money. This was the early 1970s and I looked more like a stowaway from Palermo than a chorus girl; I looked like the old cartoon character "Dondi" except with longer hair.
Whether it was the hair or the coat, it was enough to get me noticed by a Monte Carlo filled with high school guys who drove by and shouted really dirty stuff. Really. Dirty.
I was deeply ashamed of myself. And that's the part that still gets me: I didn't do anything. Why should I have been embarrassed? The guys were the morons. They were the ones engaged in nasty behavior. If their mothers heard what they said, they would have hit them over the head with frying pans -- and not just once.
But instead I was the one who slunk down, red-faced, hating my new jacket.
Some of Middleton's critics argue that, as a royal supported by the state, she should have known better than to reveal her naughty bits except indoors with the blackout curtains drawn, as if she were living in during the Blitz. Or under Shariah law, perhaps.
But of what, exactly, is Middleton meant to be ashamed? Is she being punished for making us want to look at her? C'mon, she's one of the most photographed women in the world. She's not some poor girl with low self-esteem who misjudged how to become popular and removed her top for Twitter.
Nor is the princess hoisting up a frothing pint of Whitbread and flinging her breasts into the camera as if proclaiming "Oyik! These belong to Britain!"
The photographs of Middleton are pretty far from lascivious. They have all the illicit sexuality of the puppy tugging at the bathing suit bottom of the 4-year-old in the Coppertone ad. Sure, you can make that image erotic if you choose, but if you do, you're probably already on the predator's list and have other stuff to worry about.
One thing Middleton -- or any other woman -- shouldn't have to worry about in the 21st century is being ashamed of herself for having a body. Just shout "Honi soit qui mal y pense," that phrase on Great Britain's royal coat of arms meaning "You've got the problem, buddy, not me" whenever the paparazzi, or guys in Monte Carlos, go by.