December 12, 2021

The Men in the Yellow Slickers

What’s on my mind? The Men in the Yellow Slickers, Part I: Many years ago, during a bad patch in my life, I lost the creativity that had formerly served me well. Grappling for something to kick-start it, I began making scented candles to peddle at Christmas craft fairs. 

I actually have no idea how to make scented candles, so when suspicious customers asked, I had to admit the “scent” was wax.


I also have no idea (or aptitude, or interest) in making candles, so stuck Walmart’s cheapest into holes I’d drilled into driftwood. Voilà! Easy money. To lure customers to my Christmas craft fair table, I lit a candle, unaware it was (duh!) directly under a smoke detector.

It wasn’t long before 400 panicked customers and crafters ran for their lives after the WHOOP-WHOOP-WHOOP! of the smoke alarm sounded and the words “EVACUATE THE BUILDING! EVACUATE THE BUILDING!” blasted over the PA system. 

It also wasn’t long before half-a-dozen men in yellow slickers jogged into the building with axes balanced over their shoulders, presumably to smash the ceiling and beat down the blaze.

One fire fighter soon exited, holding a candle high in the air. “Whose candle is this?” he yelled. Thus ended my candle-making career. This is a true story.

What’s on my mind? The Men in the Yellow Slickers, Part II: A few years ago (not as long ago as the craft fair crisis, but still, more years ago than I have toes), on a cold March day when my late mother-in-law turned 96 (a bigger number than she and I had fingers and toes combined), I bought a massive Safeway cake on which I placed 96 candles.

This turned out not to be a very “safe way” to celebrate her big day. Inviting everyone in her retirement home to gather round a large table for a slice of cake, I lit every one of the 96 candles on the cake (You know where this is going).

The piercing scream of the smoke alarm sounded seconds later. As the staff pushed and walkered and wheeled the confused patients out the door (one even in his bed!), in (once again) jogged the men in the yellow slickers, axes on their shoulders.

While the patients shivered, I remember watching the staff huddle together for warmth, chewing the fat and puffing on their cigarets.

One fire fighter emerged to ask: “Who belongs to this birthday cake?” Someone had to take the rap. So naturally, I pinned it on my mother-in-law. This is also a true story.

November 20, 2021

Keeping the Bird’s Hoo-Hah Moist

Thirty-five days to Christmas: Never too soon to plan. Anonymous Mum and Anonymous Stepdad are celebrating at daughter X and son-in-law Y’s place for the first time. X and Y will cook dinner; sister Z will act as sous-chef. Partners V and W will also be there.

Have X, Y, and Z ever roasted a turkey? Anonymous Mum doubts it. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.


V is vegan. Anonymous Mum’s irrational fear of veganism is vaguely connected to her irrational fear of gymnasiums. She’s also unsure if preparing gravy with poultry stock is the right or wrong thing to do. 


At 7:30 am, Nov. 17, after a restless night of worry, Anonymous Mum emails X: “Anonymous Stepdad and I will buy the turkey and stick it in the freezer. There’ll be shortages this year, so we’ll have to move fast …” 


(This will leave Anonymous Mum in a position to shoo everyone from the kitchen, as she’s always done. Her reasoning? Over decades of cooking, Anonymous Mum has encountered and conquered Freezer Burn! Oven Failure! Over-Cooking! Under-Cooking! Salmonella! Turkeys Dropped On the Floor! Miscellaneous Disasters! She secretly worries X, Y, Z, and T lack the fortitude to confront such challenges without dissolving into a puddle of tears.) 


At 8:19 am, Nov. 17, X emails Anonymous Mum: “Leave it to us to buy the turkey. This will be a low-maintenance, easy meal. If you’d like to bring the stuffing, that would be fine.” 


Anonymous Mum’s pork stuffing has always drawn raves. But what if Anonymous Mum were the last to know Y has converted to Judaism? 


At 12:56 pm, Nov. 17, Anonymous Mum emails back: “$#&@!” 


At 12:59 pm, Nov. 17, X emails: “Simplicity and ease are how we roll. This is a mellow, chill, easy Christmas dinner. ”


Anonymous Mum feels neither mellow nor chill. 


At 1:04 pm, Nov. 17, she emails X that: “We can keep the turkey in our portable electric mini-fridge (the “Mobicooler”) on the way to your place. It (the Mobicooler; not the turkey) converts from AC to Car C. We can cook it (the turkey; not the Mobicooler) and the stuffing in your oven, and you can do the rest.


“I’ll bring my turkey pan, turkey lifter, turkey thermometer, carving knife, carving board, big platter, gravy whisker, foil, food storage bags, food recycling bags, and plastic garbage bags. Everything’s under control …”


At 2:27 pm Nov. 17, X emails: “We have everything we need, Anonymous Mum. Just bring the stuffing.”


Anonymous Mum broods over this.


At 4:03 pm Nov. 17, Anonymous Mum emails X: “Tip! If you decide to make mashed potatoes, do them early, put them in a slow cooker on ‘warm,’ and they’ll remain hot for several hours. I can lend you my large or small slow cooker. Personally, I’d use the small one, but I’ll bring both. There’s always a tendency to cook too many potatoes. Don’t overdo it.” 


At 4:19 pm Nov. 17, X emails Anonymous Mum: “$#&@!” 


At 4:26 pm Nov. 17, Anonymous Mum whinges to X: “I was only trying to help … Belts and suspenders: We have a counter-sized portable oven and a portable counter-top induction stove element, if you need them. There’s plenty of room in our deep freeze, so think twice about that turkey! Let me know your preferences (organic, free-range, vegan, keto, paleo, gluten-free, glutinous, or a supermarket bird dumb enough to have been born a turkey).

 

“We’re totally easy about the meal and are definitely not locked into turkey! You still don’t have a microwave? You’ll be saw-ree!!! Smart thinking: When you and I and Y and Z and V start cooking, let’s keep in touch by texting from kitchen to kitchen!” 


X does not respond to Anonymous Mum’s email.


At 5:07 pm Nov. 17, Anonymous Mum anxiously emails X: “I’ll be happy to make the stuffing! Happy! Happy! Happy! You probably recall the superb stuffings of your childhood. I do make excellent stuffing!

 

“What kind should I make? My outstanding pork stuffing keeps the bird’s hoo-hah moist. I use a never-fail mathematical formula to make stuffing, and eat whatever doesn’t fit inside the bird. Should I make a vegan stuffing for V? What actually is veganism, anyway? Are deep-fried veggies vegan?” 

 

X remains silent. 


V is silent, too.


Shortly before bed, at 10:07 pm Nov. 17, Anonymous Mum emails X: “This is going to be the best Christmas dinner ever! Simplicity and ease are how we roll.”


© Nicole Parton, 2021   

June 26, 2021

On Sabbatical!

I’m on sabbatical. I have no idea if or when I’ll return. Lucky you!


xox


Nicole


© Nicole Parton, 2021

June 24, 2021

Pole Dancing, the Dance of the Single Veil, and the Goose

So I had this crackpot idea to hang a piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house. I bought this piece of blue veil 12 years ago, and all this time, I’ve been wondering what to do with it. Its brushed chrome grommets screamed “curtain,” even if it looked like … So much more. It was a piece of blue veil, full of mystery and intrigue. 


Have you any idea how much brushed chrome grommets cost, these days? Nor do I, but I remember thinking they were pret-ty pricey when I bought this particular piece of blue veil. Moreover, I paid something like 75 bucks to have a turquoise header and tie-back professionally made and sewn to it.


The piece of blue veil was turquoise back then, but the sun faded it, its header, and its tie-back to a blah-ish blue over the three weeks the piece of blue veil hung on the back wall of the outside of our house.


Don’t bother asking why I did this, because believe me, you don’t want to hear the (ir)rationale behind my crackpot idea to hang a piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house.


On seeing the piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house, the twice-jabbed Appy People who dropped in for same said: “Why’s a shower curtain hanging on the back wall of your house?” The piece of blue veil is not a shower curtain, thank you very much. 


Never apologize, never explain: Not wanting the Appy People to think I’d had the crackpot idea to hang a piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house, I glared at Himself with a slight sneer and lip-lift. Let the Appy People draw their own conclusions, I thought. 


Two weeks later, when Dinner Peoples’ eyes slid like eggs in a skillet at the piece of blue veil hung on the back wall of the outside of our house, they tactfully said nothing. Perhaps word from the Appy People had already leaked out, and the Dinner People knew better than to ask.


Had they asked, I planned to nod at the piece of blue veil hung on the back wall of the outside of our house, claiming I was about to perform a tasteful rendition of the Dance of the Seven Veils (minus six) as the evening’s entertainment. 


When we hung the piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house, I bought a wooden pole Himself painted turquoise to slip through the blue veil’s unaffordable grommets. Maybe I’d say I was also about to perform a tasteful pole dance in addition to a tasteful rendition of the Dance of the Single Veil. 


This afternoon, Himself took down the piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house, and I bought a metal goose to take its place. 


Standing in line at the hardware store, I told Himself:  “This goose is a piece of crap.” As God and Himself are my witnesses, the guy immediately behind us in the lineup gave two thumbs up, as if to say: “You got that right, lady!” 


When we fetched up at the cash desk, I said: “This goose is a piece of crap. I’m not sure I’ll actually keep it.” Sotto voce, the cashier leaned in over the counter, saying: “This goose is going on clearance in a few days, so why don’t I just give you $10 off now?” 


“Goodie! Please! Please!” I said, without the exclamation marks so I wouldn’t seem too eager. 


So I had $10 off without even asking, and before I knew it, the cashier slammed a big, heavy stamp on my receipt. “Huh?” I thought. It read: NO REFUNDS OR RETURNS ON CLEARANCE ITEMS. 


When we got home, Himself Gorilla-glued the goose’s wings, because they fell off twice in the car. Standing back to semi-admire the goose on the back wall of the outside of our house, I have to admit it really is a piece of crap - but a semi-okay piece of crap, and a whole lot better than a piece of blue veil on the back wall of the outside of our house.


© Nicole Parton, 2021

June 1, 2021

What I Learned from Quitting Coffee for 30 Days (and why you should try it)

I remain on sabbatical as I continue to work on a book. In the meanwhile, I’m excited to present you with another essay by Cecile Popp, whose work I featured April 2: 


https://whatsonnicolepartonsmind.blogspot.com/2021/04/redefining-abundance-expats-journey.html 


If you like clear, direct, fine writing, this most recent piece by Cecile is a great example - Nicole


The leaves begin to unfurl as soon as the hot water touches them. I watch as the liquid in the glass teapot turns yellow and then, orange. Three minutes later, I have a perfectly brewed cup of tea.


Green tea. I’ve always liked the sound of it, but never actually enjoyed drinking it. Until now.



A few weeks ago, I would have been on my second or third cup of coffee by this time of the morning. For two decades I’ve been the kind of coffee drinker who goes to bed looking forward to her morning cup. I drink mine black and strong, first thing in the morning, hours before breakfast.


I started drinking coffee in my early 20s. An electric coffee maker on the kitchen counter made me feel more “adult.” It became a necessity a decade later when my babies were young and got me out of bed at 5 am.


My grandparents had owned a coffee plantation in Tanzania in the 1930s and ’40s. Subconsciously, I think I believed drinking coffee somehow connected me to them.


The Beginning of the End:


The pandemic has meant added responsibilities, stress, and minimal physical activity. A year in, I was considerably heavier than I’d been when things first shut down. I was tired, but wired. I had aches and pains; brain fog. I was irritable and harried, always working but not productive. I decided to get help and saw a functional medicine practitioner.


After a lengthy initial consultation and lab work, she told me my stress hormones were out of whack. Formerly benign words suddenly sounded scary coming from her mouth: Cortisol, thyroid, insulin. She put me on a 30-day elimination diet. The first thing to go? Coffee.


I was only mildly anxious about cutting out gluten and dairy, refined sugar and alcohol. But it was the coffee I really worried about.


As I’d expected, the first three days were tough. A headache that wouldn’t subside. Sluggishness. Constant hunger. To say those first three days passed slowly would be an understatement. I drew a calendar in the back of a notebook and began crossing out the days. Thirty seemed a long way away.


Shifting Perspectives:


As my body adjusted to no coffee and began to detox, I felt better and started to exercise again. I expected these physical changes.


What I hadn’t expected were the more subtle psychological shifts.


The green tea my doctor had encouraged me to drink had become a delightful ritual - without the frenetic, obsessive, insatiable quality of my coffee ritual. I truly enjoyed my cup of green tea until the end, whereas my coffee ceased to be enjoyable beyond the first two or three sips. I began to wonder whether the reason I had more cups of coffee was to try to recapture the taste of that first sip.


Within the first week, I noticed a growing detachment to my coffee-less mornings. I’d forget to cross off days on the chart, and would check in and discover three more days had passed, just like that!


After 30 days, the most surprising take-away had nothing to do with coffee. Rather, the experience turned out to be about “freeing” myself from something; reclaiming my power.


I showed myself I could make changes and stick to them - even difficult changes. This gave me confidence in myself. Now, I’m looking around for “what’s next?”


Happily Ever After:


The best part of all? I’ve rediscovered my love of coffee - almost as if I’d let it go, and it came back to me. A week ago I had my first post-detox coffee - a strong espresso from a local independent roasting company. The bliss stayed with me for two days.


© Cecile Popp, 2021


Cecile Popp is an educator, writer, lifelong learner, mother of three, Canadian expat living in Turkey. Her YouTube channel is From Canada to Adana. Her essays are at cecilepopp.com/10things/ 


More from Cecile Popp


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April 2, 2021

Redefining Abundance: An Expat’s Journey

I’m about to take a sabbatical - a break from writing to do ... well, other writing, which means working on an unfinished book. I always enjoy reading (and occasionally posting) others’ work. This sample of Cecile Popp’s fine  

writing more than qualifies: I’m delighted to present it for your reading enjoyment. Cecile’s essay and bio address the “who, where, what, and why? questions. 


* * *

Cengiz likes to stop at a fruit stand on his way home from work, casually depositing pomegranates, persimmons and quince on the kitchen table when he walks in. 

Now I reach for a plump purple fig from the bowl before me. I’ve already eaten more than I’d care to admit, but indulge in another, gently peeling back its skin and biting into its soft flesh. How ordinary a gesture this has become!


We live in Adana, a city in the south of Turkey. Here, in what is arguably one of the most fertile regions in the world, something is always in season. Of course, I didn’t know this when I met my future husband and moved here. Or rather, I didn’t know how much this abundance would change me. 



Adana, Turkey

My thoughts drift to another time and place: Toronto, 15 years ago. There, in a supermarket, fresh figs beckon from nests of tissue paper. At $5 each, they’re too expensive for me. I’m intimidated. How does one even eat a fig?


* * *


When I followed Cengiz to Turkey, I noticed all the things Turkish people didn’t have. Reliable electricity and water; sidewalks; libraries. Houses were often sparsely furnished, their cracked walls and peeling paint left unrepaired. I’d come here from Canada, one of the richest, most developed countries in the world. How lucky Canadians are, I thought. How poor Turkish people are!


When it came to food, everything changed: Restaurant tables heaped with meze. Grilled fish, kebap, more hot bread arriving just as I thought I couldn’t eat another bite. Attendants hovering nearby, ready to replace my dirty plate with a clean one; ready to sweep sesame seeds from the tablecloth with stiff-bristled brushes. 


And the lingering. Dinners lasting hours. A musical troupe winding its way between tables. A reedy clarinet; a dizzying drum; singing. 


And later … endless delicate glasses of tea. Syrupy desserts. A fruit platter. Tiny cups of bitter coffee. 


* * *


For years, I was unable to reconcile these opposing aspects of life in Turkey, seeing only what was missing; only what was broken. 


On a December visit to Canada, walking barefoot through my father’s suburban home, I thought how cold our house had been, that first winter in Adana. Despite the temperate winter, our lack of central heating and insulation encouraged the concrete walls to absorb the damp. I’d been chilled through for three months straight.


Another year, in Toronto for the summer, it was the big-box supermarket that seduced me. Pushing a cart up and down the aisles, I savoured the varieties of salty snacks, peanut butters and cereals. I couldn’t find many packaged foods in Adana: I cooked everything from scratch, using fresh vegetables, dried chickpeas, and bulgur. 


As long as I continued to compare the two countries, all I could see were Turkey’s shortcomings. 


* * *


Over time, that opinion shifted. I thought less about the things in Canada I missed, and more about the things in Turkey I’d gained. Where else could I find tahini so fresh, it was still warm when I bought it? 


I came to understand financial wealth and abundance are not the same thing. Abundance is a mindset; an attitude; a way of looking at life. 


In the mahalle where Cengiz grew up and where his mother still lives, many households support unemployed family members. Because of this, it’s not uncommon to see three generations under one roof. Somehow, there’s always a hearty meal and a bed available - even if that bed is on a sofa, a balcony, or a rooftop. 


Growing beside a cracked driveway or over a cinderblock wall are fig trees. Gnarly and determined and resilient. Their fruit hangs ripe for passersby: A young boy in frayed sandals, an elderly woman in şalvar, and me. If the fruit is ripe and the skin is thin, I’ll pop it into my mouth without peeling.


© Cecile Popp, 2019; revised in 2021.


Cecile Popp is a Canadian educator and writer living in southern Turkey. For more than a decade, she taught high school English Language Arts in Tarsus and Istanbul. Now, seeking a quieter life, she has returned to the south to write and work on other projects, most notably a memoir about her Baltic-German grandparents. 


You can read more of Cecile’s writing in the anthology Expat Sofra (Alfa). Her YouTube channel, From Canada to Adana, features visual essays about her life in Turkey. A lecturer in the School of Foreign Languages at Adana’s Science and Technology University, Cecile lives in Adana with her husband and their three sons.

March 30, 2021

Sun, Peeking Through the Clouds

What’s on my mind? I awoke this morning thinking of the joy and enrichment of having had so many life experiences - of the close and intimate friendships; of the many people I’ve had the good luck to have met over my long and (mostly) happy life; of the many experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have had (probably the most unusual of which was talking to a convicted murderer in her cell for hours until almost midnight very near to Christmas, and then driving home to write what would be her p. 1 story in the overnight hours); of my beloved children and husband; of the past marriages from which I’ve learned; of the countries I’ve lived ... 


Life is precious. I’m so grateful for mine, and for the lives of the people I know and love, especially that of Himself, my rock, who recently celebrated his 77th birthday. Together we laugh and play and trust without reservation. 


Particularly during this COVID crisis, I feel for those who are frustrated, angry, fearful, broke, homeless, friendless, mentally or physically ill, or unable to make good choices. 


Life can only improve if you make it improve, listening to voices other than those inside your head. 


Life can only improve if you learn to trust the sound judgment of others. Life can only improve if you seek help, as many of us need to do at critical points in our lives. 


For love to cure the world, self-love is an important first step. Know your worth. You can make a difference. Go do it.


© Nicole Parton, 2021

March 29, 2021

Chop-Chop!

What’s on my mind? Himself celebrated a big birthday this week. I wanted to make the day ”special” - not the easiest thing to do during a pandemic. Our supermarket (the only one in our island village-that-calls-itself-a-town) delivered a birthday cake to the door. I told Himself to close his eyes and turn away while I parked the cake in the second fridge. 

With no idea what I was doing, he probably assumed I was stuck, trying to squeeze into an old bathing suit and didn’t want him to see. He didn’t guess there was a cake. 


(Wait for it. I’ve yet to reach the point.)


”Whad-do-I-do-whad-do-I-do-whad-do-I-do-o-o?” for a birthday during COVID.


By 11:30 that morning, I was desperate - no gift, nothing planned other than to smear Himself’s supermarket birthday cake a-w-w-w-ll over my b-a-w-d-y so he can lick it off. 


IN HIS DREAMS.

 

By 11:45, I had a brain wave: Ring our local sushi restaurant, order take-out, and have a picnic at the beach. 


YESSSSS!


(Have patience. I still haven’t got to the point.)


Parts 1 and 2 of my plan went smoothly as he waited in the car. Part 3 was a bit of a problem thanks to a hurricane at the beach. We ate our sushi in the car as suicidal masochists flew by, freezing off their patooties. 


Oh happy day! On opening what felt like a very heavy bag of sushi, I saw that someone else’s order had been packed with ours. Staring at it a few seconds, I thought: “Oh, well!” Even though we hadn’t paid for this largesse, there was zero chance the restaurant would take it back, so we stuffed it into our mouths.  


Being the uncoordinated type, I have no idea how to use chopsticks, and never will. Himself ripped the paper from his chopsticks but - on seeing the feast before us - reverted to a more efficient method, clawing at it with his fingers.


“MIFF ITH QUIDE A BIRFFDAY THURPITHE!” he said, cheeks puffed like a chipmunk. “YETH!” I said, taking credit for his assumption that I’d blown 50 bucks on his birthday when I’d coughed up only $17.50.


So here’s the point. Sure, Himself had wasted his chopsticks, ripping past the paper to go ‘Here a poke, there a poke, everywhere a poke-poke’ before his fingers let ’er rip. 


My chopsticks had never been used. My chopsticks never are. Carrying them home like a trophy, I deposited them in the kitchen drawer, beside a dozen or so never-used pairs.


Ever the efficient planner, I know exactly what I’m going to do with those chopsticks. I’m going to wait until I have 20 - maybe 24 - pairs in the drawer. And then I will remove them - lovingly, carefully - ensuring each pristine pair remains in its paper. And then I will carry them from the drawer, thinking of the many chop-sticked meals for which I’ve used a fork. And then I will chuck them into the trash.


© Nicole Parton, 2021

March 28, 2021

When Harry Met Meghan (Part 6)

What’s on my mind? Life is complicated. So are relationships. Who you know is sometimes more important than what you know. 


Case in point: Duck! Rabbit! - the best-selling, award-winning, 2009 children’s book illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld and written by the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal (@chroniclekidsbooks and its creators).  


Last May, media mogul Oprah Winfrey gave Archie Mountbatten-Windsor - son of Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, and Harry, the Duke of Sussex - a copy of the book for his first birthday.


You already know much about M&H, who so famously traded the cloistered halls of the royal household for the “privacy” of Los Angeles. Inside the book was a sticker reading Archie’s Book Club. It’s been reported that the sticker’s design is very similar to the Oprah’s Book Club sticker.


Markle read Archie portions of the book as Harry filmed the event - which ended up on YouTube and elsewhere - ostensibly to benefit Save the Children (UK) and #SaveWithStories, though anyone can watch it free, with no obligation to donate. 


Although a grumpy, finger-wagging Nicole views this as further commercialization of the threesome’s lives, Markle’s down-to-earth reading (no makeup; greying hair on display) to the lovable Archie charmed me. Harry’s whoops of “Hurray! Bravo!” and Archie’s “Bye, bye, duh-wah!” directly into the camera warmed my cold, cold heart - as did Markle’s whispered translation of “Duck, rabbit,” also spoken to the camera). 


Where did I watch the video? On Oprah Daily’s automatic redirection to Instagram. This gave me pause, as did a December 15, 2020 story in The Daily Mail. Last December, Markle invested in Clevr Blends, a woman-led, California-based coffee company that makes powdered oat ‘super lattes.’


Markle described her “love” for the lattes, praising the company’s “holistic approach to wellness.” Markle then sent Oprah a Christmas gift basket of the product. Oprah, in turn, posted a video on Instagram, calling the lattes “my new drink of choice for the morning and night. Wish I had @clevrblends sooner cause I would’ve added it to my Favorite Things list.”


As the Daily Mail reported, “PR experts say Ms. Winfrey’s backing is worth millions in free publicity,” which means Markle’s investment in the product would likely have risen sharply. Two months later, Oprah interviewed the Duke and Duchess for which they were “not paid.”


I may be out-of-step with today’s fast-paced society, but I find this bit of transactional friendship unseemly - a potential conflict of interest. I would not have done this - period, full stop. 


*    *    *


Is the American public wearying of the Meghan ’n’ Harry Show? Headed Meghan and Harry Suck Up to Those Who Can Give More Exposure, an Aug 29, 2020 story in celebratingthesoaps.com begins: “It’s clear that many view Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as grasping wannabes in American society …” The story doesn’t get any better.


Many others, however, are the couple’s flag-waving supporters and fans, from Twitter’s … 


Meghan Markle Daily (self-described as Your #1 source for all things Meghan Markle) to ...


Musical genius Sir Elton John: “I highly respect and applaud both Harry and Meghan’s commitment to charity and I’m calling on the press to cease these relentless and untrue assassinations on their character.” to …


Tennis legend Serena Williams: “(Markle’s) words illustrate the pain and cruelty she’s experienced. I know first hand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of color to minimize us, to break us down and demonize us.” to … 


And Markle’s spelling-challenged Suits costar, Patrick J. Adams, who on March 5, 2021, tweeted: “It’s OBSCENE that the Royal Family, who’s newest member is currently GROWING INSIDE OF HER, is promoting and amplifying accusations of “bullying” against a woman who herself was basically forced to flea the UK in order protect her family and her own mental health.”


For any member of the royal family, having overly generous friends can sometimes pose ethical dilemmas in what can become a transactional relation: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine.


Google reports that: “George Clooney and his wife Amal were two of the 600 guests who attended Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex ... But according to a royal expert, Clooney admitted he did not know the Sussexes when he attended their wedding in May 2018.”


Example #1: Aug. 12, 2020, Hello Magazine reported: “(S)hortly after their royal wedding, the Sussexes joined Amal and George at their Italian villa on Lake Como …” The magazine’s source? None other than royal reporter Omid Scobie, co-author of the Markle/Harry book Finding Freedom. According to Hello, George Clooney “personally made sure to get the couple to Italy safely via his private jet.” 


Example #2: In August, 2019, when Sir Elton John invited the Duke and Duchess to his home in the south of France, he, too, dispatched a private jet for their visit. 


Example #3: In February, 2019, Amal Clooney and Serena Williams reportedly co-hosted Markle’s afternoon baby shower in the $75,000-a-night, 10,000 sq. ft. penthouse suite of The Mark Hotel in Manhattan’s upper east side. 


Among the guests: TV host Gayle King, bestie to media mogul Winfrey. After Markle and Harry had clarified one point about the interview with Oprah, they (or their representative) sought out King to clarify another. The media may not have granted this privilege to any old Joe and Josephine.


Markle’s mother, Doria Ragland, was “unfortunately unable to attend her (daughter’s) first baby shower due to work commitments …” Ms. Ragland is a yoga instructor in Los Angeles. 


Why do costly gifts and gifts-in-kind matter? The royal couple didn’t announce their intention to “step back” from the royal family until January, 2020, formalizing the split a year later. They accepted these costly gestures and gifts while senior royals. Should members of the royal family accept gifts that may compromise them in future?


The “gift policy” intended to guide the royal family states: “The fundamental principle governing the acceptance of gifts by Members of The Royal Family is that no gifts, including hospitality or services, should be accepted which would, or might appear to, place the Member of The Royal Family under any obligation to the donor.” You be the judge. 


*    *    *


Markle has called the couple’s departure from the royal family “liberating.” In some quarters, it comes as no surprise that Meghan Markle is all about Meghan Markle.


In 2020, an acerbic Donald Trump said of Markle: “I’m not a fan … I wish a lot of luck to Harry. He's going to need it.”


Will the couple’s marriage survive? Or will it gradually slide into the muck of its own making? I wouldn’t want to speculate. Over time, much will depend on whether the Duchess continues to strut the world stage in starring roles, relegating the pleasant, ginger-haired Duke to cameos and walk-on parts.


It’s been said that Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, gave his favorite grandson sage advice: “One steps out with actresses; one doesn’t marry them.” But when Harry and Markle “stepped out,” their departure ignited a firestorm. 


A series of “Lifetime” movies is franchising and  commercializing the couple’s every move even further, detailing their split from the royal family and enhancing the couple’s “brand.” Lifetime is jointly owned by the Walt Disney Company and Hearst Communications.


Already shown have been 2018’s Harry & Meghan: A Royal Romance, and 2019’s Harry & Meghan: Becoming Royal. Coming this Fall: Harry & Meghan: Escaping the Palace. A network press release says the story “will include details about Meghan’s growing isolation, the couple’s disappointment that those in power were not defending them against the press’ attacks, and Harry’s fear that history would repeat itself and he would not be able to protect his wife and son from the same forces that caused his mother’s untimely death.” 


The statement also promises to “reveal the private family feuds between Will and Harry, Kate and Meghan, and Harry with Will and Charles, that lead to the ultimate break from the royal ties.”


I don’t know how much Markle and le petit prince stand to make from this, but I can guess how much they stand to lose.


For Markle - polished actress, lover of spotlights - the soap opera has never ended. For Harry, it’s just begun.


© Nicole Parton, 2021