I recently finished reading Prince Harry’s book “Spare.” Despite my best efforts to avoid the Twitter jokes about it, they of course still made their way to me. But as I read the book, I was able to disregard most of the meaner jokes.
Some part of my Covid-era podcast habit was dedicated to a deep dive into Black women discussing the racism directed at Meghan Markle, so the details were already familiar to me. Was I disappointed that Harry still proclaims his love for the monarchy? Of course, but it’s hardly surprising. He was born into privilege, still has a lot of it, and now has to learn to live without the status conferred on him just for existing. Do I care much about his military service? No. I don’t want to celebrate soldiers from western countries acting like murdering cowboys in places that were already under severe attack. Do I think he’s a great humanitarian? I mean, as much as I do any western celebrity using poorer places to polish their souls, which is not interesting to me, so not really.
But do I enjoy the takedown of the British royals? Yeeeees, I doooooo. I’m so tired of how Americans fawn over them, and also how they ignore how awful the tabloids are. I’m also fed up with the way some brown people will scold and finger wag because we didn’t cry over the queen’s death. So I deeply enjoyed the sardonic tweets about colonialism. Why should I feel anything for a violent colonizer and not for my own forebears who had to endure her family’s rapacious rule in India? For our post colonial wounds, which are still so messy and painful?
The main thing I responded to about “Spare” is Harry’s honesty about not being very good at academics. From how he describes struggling through classes, to the actual style of the book (even if he did possibly have help with the writing), to how he is happiest being active, I recognize someone whose neurodivergence was not acknowledged or honored. So he suffered, felt alienated, eschewed the usual falsities and teeth baring smiles of the blue bloods, and found a way to flee. That he found meaning through marriage to a Black woman is cliched, but we can’t expect miracles.
Truthfully, I would wish for less famous disabled writers to get this much of a platform. Book deals, glittery marketing, people to GAF enough to pore over the details of how profoundly alienated and circumscribed their circumstances have been. How they have made meaning, found joy, built a chosen family. I would wish that, should they need to leave their living situations so rapidly, someone would offer them up an unused home. That when they needed respite, it was offered to them. That when they spoke, people listened, and tried to be changed by their words. That when they suffered, people wept for them and asked how they could be of service. The things this man gets just because people want proximity to relevance, or because powerful people mostly come through for one another.
We often do not see a way to save ourselves. But when the welfare of our loved ones is at stake, suddenly we find wings. We are empowered. So it is for many of us with family members who are different. Trapped in the value systems we were raised in, which celebrate athletics, academics, overt piety, heterosexuality, etc etc, which seek proximity to relevance and power, we keep trying to use those systems to flourish, or, at the very least, cobble together some minimal benefit.
But it doesn’t work. And we wonder, both why we feel hollow, and why we can’t seem to get out of our own mental traps. Not to mention that people who seem to be living in more loving, less accomplishment-oriented ways don’t seem to welcome us. The latter is because, until we do our own work to unlearn stuff, we cause harm. We don’t realize it, but we are actually trying to bring our own pain into those spaces and scream to have it acknowledged. And the people who are living differently? They have barely survived themselves. They don’t need our aggressions and leadership seeking and take-take-take mentality. We have to do difficult work, ingest (metaphorically) previously disrespected medicine, excise the cancers of our old values, and finally, finally, excavate and purify our own intentions and actions.
Now that is spiritual transformation. That so many of us finally undertake it for the sake of our loved ones speaks to all the selves we bury alive just to function in such a structurally unsound world.
Spare. Prince Harry. New York: Random House, 2023.
The podcasts I alluded to are Sussex Squad Podcast and The Sussex Set. I listened to both on Spotify.