By Aaron Traister, REDBOOK
So you didn't get an invitation to the Royal Wedding. Bummer. But don't give up hope, it's not too late. Maybe the Royal Mail will make a royal mistake and you'll find an invite stuck between the pages of a Pottery Barn catalogue, or maybe you'll rescue Kate Middleton's cat from a tree and she'll reward you with a seat at the singles table. Anything's possible.
Don't believe me? In 2007, totally out of the blue, I was invited to meet Prince Charles in West Philadelphia. He was touring the East Coast and highlighting organizations he believed in, including the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, where I was working teaching art to at-risk teens. I was one of the lucky few asked to meet and greet the Prince.
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Here are a few helpful hints I learned that might come in handy if you ever find yourself in a similar situation:
1. Don't worry about your attire: You can't out dress, or even keep up with, royalty, so don't bother; besides, no one's going to be looking at you. The Prince wore a classic red white and blue striped tie that probably cost more than the birth of my first child. I went with a flannel shirt (because I'm from 1992), jeans, and a t-shirt with a picture of Ralph Wiggum on it (to prove I'm cultured). My point is, be relaxed, wear clothes that make you feel like yourself. I think I shaved, so maybe shave.
2. Don't worry about your etiquette: A representative from Clarence House, which is the Prince's working residence and nerve center for his staff, showed up early to tell us how to act. She answered questions about things like how to address the Prince. Should we call him Your Majesty? Your Royal Highness? Sir? Dude? Surprisingly, she said all the options were acceptable, although I got the distinct impression that "Dude" was quietly frowned upon. Turns out, the Prince and his people are pretty laid back (beyond their clothing). I think I got nervous and called him "Sir Dude." He didn't seem to mind.
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3. Don't make any sudden movements: The Prince had a very tall, very skinny man in glasses very close to him at all times. I've never seen such an awkward dude in glasses look so utterly terrifying. I'm pretty sure he could have decapitated me with his thumb in seconds if I made the wrong move towards the Prince. So don't get too excited. Slow and steady people, just be cool.
4. He's not Oprah: Say your piece and move on. I had visions of having a long fireside chat with PC. I would tell him about my life and work, and he would tell me about what it's like to wear a crown and not have a mortgage, then we'd listen to "Do You Believe In Life After Love," by Cher and go get a cheesesteak. In reality, we ended up having about a minute of face time. It was a lovely minute, though.
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5. Take In Your Surroundings: The truth is my actual meeting with the Prince was pretty uneventful. But when I looked around, I realized I was surrounded by all these amazing people: educators, students, artists, volunteers, people who were just trying to give at-risk kids better chances at a brighter future. I also noticed that Prince Charles was getting an army of media to aim their lenses at those amazing people. Call it corny, but in that moment it was undeniable that the man was trying to make a difference. In fact, it could be argued that all the attention paid to Kate Middleton's dress, all the tabloid pics of the Will and Harry, all the guest-list gossip and even the occasional scandal, allow the Royal family to perform their most important job, which is to use they're positions to try to make a difference.
So here's my final tip. This week, as you sift through stories about the social event of the decade, take a little time to focus your attention on a good cause, and make time to donate whatever you can to cause you believe in. Just because most of us will probably never get the chance to rub elbows with royalty (and if we do, it might not be as exciting as we imagined) doesn't mean we can't take a moment to give Royally.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.