The latest Vanity Fair has two articles in close proximity: one on Kate Middleton's family as social climbers, and another by a woman who dated JFK Junior for many years. The lesson I took away from these two pieces was simple: to be with royalty, American or otherwise, one must know how to play many sports. It looks exhausting.

I had already long suspected that I wasn't exactly cut out to mingle with the upper echelons, but this issue of Vanity Fair confirmed it: I can neither kayak through white waters, nor shoot grouse, and on a ski weekend, I'll be the one muttering to herself in the lodge with a hot chocolate, thank you very much. What's more, if pushed to do these things, I'll be a bad sport, fall prey to self-consciousness, make an ass of myself on the green or the links or the courts or whatever, and not be asked back. The spectre of an old boyfriend's family "paddle-ball" tournaments still hangs over me, five years later.

I mean, we all knew Prince William was sporty, (prior VF articles have chronicled the couple's mutual interest in swimming, riding, polo and tennis) but this piece contains multiple references to skiing holidays, "shooting weekends," competitions to bag the most grouse that confirm the importance of sport to the royal relationship. (Even though Kate apparently doesn't care for shooting much.)

It's probably just coincidence that the piece on JFK Jr. should also chronicle a relationship firmly grounded in physical activity. Basically, it's the story of a kayak trip the couple takes in the 80s in Jamaica. The author, Christina Haag, had a broken foot (a horseback-riding accident) but John Jr. wants to navigate uncharted waters. (There's also an account of Jackie breaking her ankle while trying to play touch-football with JFK Sr.) Writes Haag,

I didn't tell him that I would have been happy to lie on the beach reading while he explored solo to his heart's content. He wanted us to do things together, and he wouldn't have believed me anyway. His sense of wellbeing was so tied to his ability to move and do that he thought everyone else's was too.


The story was designed to show a physical recklessness and adrenaline addiction that might have presaged his end; the other story was...well, another non-story about the Royal Wedding. Yet, combined, I took away the horrible lesson that to be with one of these world-class "catches" you need to do all kinds of sports you don't like. Well, that, and be trailed by Secret Service and have your privacy invaded constantly. Those things sound awful, but to the bookish nerds among us who dreaded gym and can still remember the trauma of watching the "server" rotation get closer and closer in volleyball, few things can strike the fear of this athletic panoply. And rarely has the prospect of bagging one of the world's most eligible looked less appealing, or more remote.