Kate Middleton: Criticism just getting started?

Over at the Montreal Gazette, Doug Camilli weighs in on Hilary Mantel and now Vivienne Westwood’s crticial comments regarding Kate Middleton’s wardrobe (and in the case of Hilary Mantel, the entire monarchy.) Well, we all know the fashion world can be cutting, as well as, apparently, the literary community.

But I have to say that if the Duchess of Cambridge’s experience with pregnancy and new parenting resembles mine in any way, chances are good the fashion world may look mild in comparison in a few months.

Here’s when I realized my world had changed: I had a really, really bad day when I was about 7 months pregnant with my daughter. It was also winter, and I had a cold, and I was stuck downtown. You may think that I am about to confess that I had a drink. But I did not. I had poutine.

And a woman sprinted across Toronto Eaton’s Centre’s food court to tell me that I was loading my poor innocent unborn child’s veins with the wrong food.

Up until that moment I had taken a lot of the helpful advice during pregnancy with grace, because after all, people generally just seemed to want things to go well for me. Advice to lie down more, exercise more, take aquafit, take up running, enjoy eating out, stop eating out to save money and so on and so forth was all pretty good-spirited. Even in Toronto, where being polite to people means not acknowledging their actual existence in any public space, men and women alike were daily giving up seats on the subway. And advising that I get (or not get) an epidural. Plus, I’m no Kate Middleton so it wasn’t like I was being mobbed.

But then that woman critiqued my poutine. And I was mad. Really mad. Pregnant mad. That can’t have been good for the baby! (Hilary Mantel, take note.)

What is it about pregnancy and child rearing that makes strangers think they get say in my life? If you’re Kate Middleton with a baby bump, I guess you are going to have to expect it. But for the rest of us, what’s the deal? On my charitable days, I think it is an evolutionary quirk designed to help the species survive by making all adults in the vicinity apt to pull young primates away from tigers and poisonous plants, and a nice way to get used to being part of a community. On my less charitable days I think that mothers are just perceived as fair sport, possibly because if pregnant, their hormone-fogged brains are unlikely to come up with the right insult in response, and once supervising children they aren’t going to commit any crimes (of assault, or etiquette) in front of their kids.

(Picture: Kate Middleton, visiting Madame Tussauds in New York, not being accused of being a plastic princess. By InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, via Wikimedia Commons)

Here is a very short list of things that will nearly always be wrong with your new baby:

  • Clothing: Your baby can never have the right combination of hat, gloves, blanket, sweater, etc. on. The baby will “look cold” or “look hot.”
  • Size: Baby will always be larger or smaller than expected.
  • Sleep: There is always someone at the grocery store ready to comment that your baby looks tired, managing to imply s/he should be home napping.
  • Germs: If your baby is finally finding solace in chewing your coat collar rather than shrieking with teething, someone will note your coat is dirty.
  • Breast or bottle: That is its own post.

The nice thing about Kate Middleton’s life is she may be able to actually hire Mary Poppins, and then anyone who critiques the royal baby’s clothing will get swept up a chimney. Failing that though, maybe the fashion critique is the best training she can get for the next few years of her life.


  • kate65

    I still think about being in a movie theatre, watching “Wait Until Dark”, with a bucket of popcorn perched on my 7 month pregnant abdomen. As Richard Crenna’s hand, holding a large knife, slashed out at Audrey Hepburn, I leaped up, flinging popcorn to the four winds and banging the fellow in the seat in front of me with my son. Still makes me laugh. At least, unlike his father, William looks as if he knows “what love is, actually”. Best of luck to the two of them. Enjoy the last peaceful nights sleep that they’ll ever get.

    • http://www.canadianliving.com/ Jennifer Gruden

      That’s a great story and what a lovely sentiment. I agree; they look really in love.

  • David

    In the world we live in today there is always someone or some group that doesn’t either like or doesn’t agree with what a person does or says. You just have to look at it as background noise or static on a bad phone line and learn to ignore it.

    • http://www.canadianliving.com/ Jennifer Gruden

      Agreed David! I did personally find parenting was a whole new ballgame of learning how to stay grounded…probably because I felt so new to it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jo.talaat Jo Anne Talaat

      You clearly have never read Jane Austen.

  • ET

    “What is it about pregnancy and child rearing that makes strangers think they get say in my life?” – I know what you really mean, but let me try to answer that (rhetorical) question from philosophical/ethical stand point. I’m sure most mothers did want to have children and most of them were fit be a parent. But let’s keep aside the skills and outcome for now and ask, what right does one individual have to bring into existence another individual into a world/environment/system that the latter did not consent to? Not to mention, the enforcement of a set of rules that is almost always hinged on a dictatorial approach — “You have to do it, because I say it’s good for you”.

    I know, it’s kind of silly; how would a foetus express consent to be conceived or be born? But is it really silly?

    Some would argue that strangers assume the right to interfere in your life the moment to chose to create and interfere in someone’s else life (no, you being’ the parent does not give you a technical exception from being ‘someone else’).

    • Jennifer Gruden

      ET, that is really thoughtful, thank you. I have thought about it a bit around body autonomy during pregnancy (not just around fries, which I thought was ridiculous, but what if a mum is going drugs?) And you’re right, although I wrote this more about the issues that people comment on that I found tough or intrusive, there are points at which society will intervene for kids. Thanks so much for your addition to the conversation!

    • http://www.canadianliving.com/ Jennifer Gruden

      That is a really thoughtful response ET. I agree that at some point, yes, society does intervene on behalf of the child. I’m not sure that point is the french fries! But you are right at a totally different level and thanks for your add to the conversation.

  • Donna

    Vivienne Westwood? Are you kidding? I’m sure Kate wouldn’t be caught dead in any of her clothes! Can we say “sour grapes?’

  • Hellcat

    A co-worker twice asked me if my baby was dead because I wasn’t getting very big. I assured her that one didn’t need to gain 100 pounds to have a healthy baby. I gained 12 pounds and had a 7-1/2 lb. baby. A few years later I was in a restaurant with my two year old and a woman at the next table commented that my “kid” was too old to have a pacifier. I thanked her for the comment and said when I want her opinion I’ll ask for it. In the meantime, I nicely said, please mind your own business. Ignorant people.

    • http://www.canadianliving.com/ Jennifer Gruden

      Wow Helicat, you have dealt with a few doozies.

  • Nicole

    some people think they have the right to make judgement on your parenting or your child. I say mind your own business. I had so called family talk about my then 3 year old son, as I found out they thought something wrong with him he must have A.D.D. well no he doesn’t and what if he did. my son 7 has since been diagnosed with autism. he is sharp as a tack and funny to boot. and so smart with a computer. as for my family I am wondering when they will finally be diagnosed with asshole disease.

  • Davkar

    The media perpetuates this habit of being a busybody by the use of phrases like:
    Not everyone agrees, Not everyone approves Not everyone likes

    “Not everyone” means it only takes one person to disagree, disapprove, or dislike and the reporter now has a story. This implies that to disagree, disapprove, or dislike is unusual, unnatural or unappealing and the goal should be 100% compliance.

    This gives undeserved power to that one person since all it takes is one anonymous complaint about the phrase “Merry Christmas” for an entire company to ban the use of it and replace it with “happy holidays.” This is hardly democratic yet small groups of disaffected protesters think they speak for everyone just because they start group called “friends of” something and gain media attention.

    I was on a long distance flight to Europe and to pass the time was working on a particularly difficult crossword puzzle. I looked in the back of the book to see if I had the right answer to one of the clues rather than mess up the rest of the puzzle. I felt a tap on my shoulder and there stood an infuriated man who felt he had to take me to task for “cheating.” I asked him for his name and address to which he replied that it was “none of my business.” When I said “Exactly and the same applies to my crossword puzzle” I felt a tap on my other shoulder and this was my wife giving me “the sign” to just let it go. Obviously the guy’s wife had not given him the sign before he left his seat or more likely he was unmarried.

    As regards the poutine incident in this article, if the complaining woman had been an employee of one of the stores in the mall, chances are the author would have complained to the manager and the woman would have been fired – again because of one persons opinion that had nothing to do with her job or her employer.

  • Westerner

    Why do you persist in calling the Duchess Of Cambridge by her maiden name? Are you unfamiliar with simple courtesy?