THE EXEMPLARY VALUE OF A FAIRY TALE LIFE
If you entertain at least a passing interest in »current events«, you would have heard of her by now: the future – or present? – First Lady of France.
A woman whose life is, literally, the stuff of fairy tales.
In case you don't know Carla Bruni, picture a woman who is widely considered a beauty, a seductress – a »muse«, even; who has earned millions upon millions – not to mention the adoration of fans worldwide – for her looks alone, living a glamorous life in some of the most beautiful places of the world; who is highly intelligent and sophisticated and very well-read.
A woman who has lived a life of leisure and luxury – still does, and has done so from the day she was born. Hers is no rags-to-riches story, she is no »white trash«: she was born in a very rich and very cultured family, she grew up in palaces, scented parks, the glitter of European metropoles, and was afforded the best possible education.
In her later life as an international glamour girl, she has met and dated (and dumped) a long line of very high-profile, very talented, very interesting and often very »eligible« men.
She exchanged her life as one of the very few »supermodels« for a successful career as a singer.
And now (well, last November), she met the recently divorced president of France – and is going to marry him.
Do you hate her yet...? ;)
Her name caught my attention because I actually remembered her from before. I've never been into »supermodels« and such, but I was never a militant grey mouse either, let alone a »grunge«, and I worked in the media, so, naturally, I became somewhat acquainted with her name and career.
In fact, it was a single programme what sparked my lasting (albeit dormant, until now) interest in her. I don't remember the title, but it was a mid-1990s series of »portraits« of supermodels. She talked about her papà. 'Everything I did, I did for daddy,' she said, with a peculiar smile. Papa Bruni-Tedeschi, one of the richest men in Northern Italy (which is the richest part of Italy) and heir to a historically illustrious name, died in 1996; and by that time it had surfaced that he wasn't really her papà, not biologically – but that, as painful as it must have been for her, seems only a minor flaw in the miraculous tableau of her life.
(And, after all, the biological papà is also a millionaire. Why does it matter? I am not sure; but according to a certain newspaper, allegedly quoting Carla's mamma – a well respected concert pianist – that's what Carla said: that 'Fate had smiled on her', so she has 'two millionaire fathers'. I don't know if it's true; and unless you are Carla – or the mamma – most likely you don't know either.)
I remember that programme and those words about her papà, because it all sounded like an enchanted life to me – the enchanted life I could have had myself (but didn't); and because I, too, would have done a lot for my own papà... had things – or I – and papà – been better. Or just wiser. Less childlike. Less childish.
So, when her name surfaced again a few weeks ago, my interest in her was reignited and I took time to examine that fairy tale life in detail.
Most of it was just as good – or better – than I had remembered or imagined it.
Born into a multi-millionaire family, bearing a historic name (and it's not a bad sounding name, either; its sound is very melodious, not like, say, Pappafava - or even Testaferrata, ancient as they may be), the daughter of a very rich but also very cultured man (papà Bruni composed operas and created a very respectable art and antiques collection) and a very respected concert pianist (I know, I am repeating myself – bear with me: nice things deserve repeating), Carla grew up in palatial surroundings. (And, according to her older sister – who is a bona fide cinematic success in her own right – Carla was ever the budding femme fatale, even as a little girl. Which is important, because it's never too early to acquire power over men. OK, maybe it is... but 'too early' is still better than never.)
At the Bruni-Tedeschi home(s), where she grew up with her two siblings, apparently in harmony, cosy family soirees included merry sing-alongs with the likes of Maria Callas and other musical luminaries.
When Carla was five, the family relocated – for safety reasons – from the castle at Chivasso (Castagneto Po, near Turin) to France, where they divided their time between a villa in the south of France and Paris. After the appropriate period at a »finishing school« (in Switzerland – where else?), by which time she had probably acquired at least an extra language in addition to Italian and French, she took up the study of architecture at the Sorbonne... until her brother's girlfriend talked her into becoming a model.
And so she did. Not a model, mind you – a SUPERmodel. She had the luck of belonging to the first generation of models who ascended (hence the super-) to the then-new category: models who were famous in their own right; girls who were, basically, famous for being beautiful and rich (which they became by being beautiful). Glamorous and handsomely paid jet-setters.
Very soon, Carla didn't need daddy's money (not that he was ever stingy): she earned up to 7 millions dollars (plus change) in a single year.
And yet she stood out even among that very small elite of tall, willowy beauties who – let's admit it - raked in fabulous amounts for showing up more or less fabulously made-up and dressed up and then being fabulously photographed by fabulous photographers. On fabulous locations, by the way.
You think I am making fun of her...?
Perish the thought!
In fact, Carla was the only one who ever admitted – and she did so with relish, with real, mouth-watering gusto – that her life, a supermodel's life, was just that... fabulous.
I think it was that – not the admission itself, but the pleasure that she took in it – what engraved her in my memory, if I may use that antiquated but very a propos expression. Yes, indeed: her life was a fairy tale. Why shouldn't she enjoy that fact? Why should she hide that very public fact from the public?
Yes, I know.
And she knows it, too: to prevent, or at least alleviate, the pangs of bitterness of people whose lives aren't so picture-perfect – whose lives are, in fact, very far from picture-perfect (unless it's a mug shot).
But she didn't and she doesn't hide it.
And her admission does bring out into the open the fact that there are, after all, people who want it all – and have it all. All the time. And that's the outrageous crime of Carla Bruni: that – not her affairs with married men, not her self-assured »coolness«, not her ambition, not her glamour, not even her relentlessly sunny (yeah, right) life of privilege...
It's her »flaunting« that God-given position of extraordinary privilege that people seem to resent. (If you don't think they resent her... browse around the WWW.)
But what does flaunting really mean?
At the risk of rubbing it even further, I propose we go back (don't worry: it is strictly for edifying purposes) and review her attitude.
Here's a woman who, literally, has it »all«.
(It doesn't really matter whether you like her life-style, or moral values or appearance or whatever. I, for example, find her certainly striking and attractive, but not necessarily my ideal of »beauty«. It doesn't matter; what matters is that, from HER perspective, she really does have it »all«.)
All she does is admit it.
She openly admits that she has had a charmed life: that she was born into an extremely rich and respected family, one with very high cultural values and not extraordinarily dysfunctional; that she did grow up in luxury, traveling around the world, soaking up refinement and culture since day one; that she was very well-educated, both by superior learning and by the inclination of her natural curiosity; that she is considered beautiful or very seductive (or both) by very many people around the world, notably by some of the most visible pop »icons« of the 20th century; what's more, that for her looks alone she did earn in a s single year infinitely more money than most people will ever see in their lifetime.; that she is intelligent and highly educated; that she is successful in whatever she does... That she has done whatever she wanted to – and did succeed in everything she did, be it a new career (singing) or a new man. And that now, she is to be – maybe is already – the First Lady of France.
What is she supposed to say when people interview her about her life?
Admit to all of the above, but concentrate on moaning and lamenting the loss – the very tragic loss – that, sooner or later, befalls every single human being who's had a family or friends? How would that look to the same people who now begrudge her »boasting«? How would her lamenting the heartbreak in her life look to all those who resent her »riches« because they live in misery (real or perceived) – and they also had to, or will have to, go through the same kind of heartbreak, only in materially much less comfortable circumstances?
In reality, people do not resent her.
They – the child in each one of them – resent the incomprehensible »unfairness« of life that most people are confronted with from day one. They mourn for the pure and joyful hopes they had, that were crushed by the reality of everyday life. Many such people then turn to The Secret(TM) and other such self-help books. They look them up with great hopes, and it is with great hopes that they start with whatever the »program« is... And a few months later their life is the same and they are the »same« - only not really: tehy are perhaps a tad more cynical, a tad more desperate.
And they resent the people who do make it all the more.
Were their hopes really too »unrealistic«?
Or was it, perhaps, that they do not really believe they can make it – no, not really. Not all the way. Not all the way to that place where they feel they should belong.
Because there is no way that one person could go for it all, have it all without provoking the wrath of gods.
I suppose that's why the »(wo)man on the street« has such a profound, almost incomprehensible attachment to, say, Marilyn Monroe: the queen bee of losers. A woman who couldn't handle the piece of pie – admittedly a huge one! – that was handed to her after a not-so-perfect childhood and adolescence, plagued by mental illness, abandonment, and even hunger.
And that's why so many shower their questionable love on another »Cinderella«, a hilariously rich and spoilt (but prone to slumming) one: Diana Spencer, Princess of Wales. She redeemed herself for the privilege of her life by her opportunely early marital dysfunction and »suffering« (the quotation marks are not meant to minimise anyone's suffering – they just point to the fact that nobody really knows much about other people's feelings) – and, of course, her tragic and very early death, at the same, almost-Christlike age as Monroe: thirty-six.
But Carla Bruni is well past thirty-six now - and shows no intention of slowing down or redeeming herself for anything in any way: she just goes on and on, higher and higher... First pretty rich girl, then even richer pretty girl, and now... First Lady of France?! Living in the Elysée Palace, smack in the centre of Paris, dining with statesmen, dancing with crowned heads?!
Doesn't it make you want to cheer...? :)
I know I am rooting for her.
I am rooting for her to pick yet another – and another, and another – golden apple from the bough.
My goals in life are probably not the same as hers.
It doesn't matter.
I am rooting for her, as I am rooting for myself - and for my own »impossible« dreams. Because I know, as I've always known, that there are no impossible dreams (and if you only knew how impossible mine would seem to any »reasonable« person!).
And if you happen to be one of those endless thousands who seem to be reading, or are going to read, books a la The Secret, then you should give thanks to your deity of choice for the example of Carla Bruni.
The example of her life is worth more than a thousand books. Her life has an almost biblical exemplary value: it shows that anything (desirable) really is possible – in a single lifetime, too. That reaching for the stars, whatever they are, isn't crazy. That you are entitled to want it all – and have it all.
That charmed lives really can exist.
Of course not everyone is born under such lucky stars as Carla Bruni; in fact, very few are. But you are living your life from now on, not from beyond the graves of your ancestors on.
So take a thorough look at Carla's splendid life, marred – or should I say ennobled? - only by the inevitable (a loss to a greater power, a power that transcends all things human), review it as if it were your own... and if you feel your heart rejoice, I say you have a pretty good chance in succeeding yourself, in securing your own lasting happiness.
It's not a magic trick, it's not a superstition: it's just means that you are, after all, able to ackowledge that having it »all« – whatever that means to you - really is possible.
Do I idolise Carla Bruni?
God, no! :)
I idolise nobody, with the possible exception of my grandfather (whom I never really knew).
I am not even her »fan«.
(And you can bet I am no Marilyn Monroe's or Diana's fan, either!)
Do I admire her?
Yes and no.
If I admire her, it's not because of any of the circumstances described above, of course. After all, I cannot admire her for the magnificent hand she's been dealt at birth.
But I do admire her determination to go as far as she can with what she was given; to get away with as much as she possibly (or even impossibly) can – all that by perfectly legal and even morally acceptable means. (Well, yes: husbands cannot be »stolen«, boyfriends don't leave – certainly not for good - unless they feel tempted to. And being considered beautiful or charming or seductive is an asset – a perfectly legal one - even in these politically correct times.)
But most of all, I admire her gratitude: to life, to fate, to God... whatever she believes in.
For that's what it is, the »flaunting«. It's open acknowledgment that not every one is so lucky – that, in fact, very very few are so lucky.
And that, my friend, is sheer gratitude.
And gratitude is humility.
In fact, gratitude may very well be the noblest form of humility – the one that is most pleasing to God, if you believe in God.
So, think twice, my friend, before you reject other people's praise of your physique, of your intelligence, of your accomplishments, or even put yourself down before other people, feigning »modesty« and »humility« - when in fact you're demeaning (if only in words) something for what you have no merit at all. It's been given to you: by your parents, by »fate«, by God.
Accept it with joy and gratitude – and aim for Sun and the Moon and the stars.
That's why it's been given to you.
And do not resent, let alone badmouth, the Carla Brunis of this world for having done so themselves.
Labels: Carla Bruni, castle, Clapton, Diana, fame, femme fatale, France, gratitude, humility, Italy, Jagger, Marilyn Monroe, model, music, palace, president, Sarkozy, The Secret