"If Marie Antoinette Were Your Identity Thief" by Margaret Finnegan
If Marie Antoinette Were Your Identity Thief
If Marie Antoinette were your identity thief, she would not open fraudulent accounts at JC Penney's, Kohl’s, or The Home Depot. If Marie Antoinette stole your identity, she would go big. She would make your name synonymous with fabulous. She would buy the brightest, highest, most expensive heels at Christian Louboutin, the diamond-encrusted ones with tiny, live goldfish swimming in the heels, the ones that mock austerity and bowl you over with their sheer celebration of conspicuous consumption.
Shoes in hand, Marie Antoinette would go to Paris Fashion Week, where she would invest in a dress that went up to — but not over — the Synchrony Bank MasterCard credit limit she had been awarded even though, on her application, she spelled your name wrong, and even though there is no way in hell that pretty little Marie Antoinette was born in the same decade as you. The dress would be low-cut, short, and almost transparent, but Marie Antoinette would wear it ironically, basically saying, "You think I belong to the state or the people or even the king? Fuck that, bitches." Later, she would bathe in champagne, even though champagne is inherently sticky, but she would be like, “Pour it on. I can buy a fountain when I’m done.”
As the Revolution drew near, Marie Antoinette would wisely trash all her decadent shoes and dresses and even the silk chemises, hand-stitched by French prisoners who had stolen bread to feed their starving families, and she would let all of France know that she was no one-percenter. Marie Antoinette would dress modestly in the red, white, and blue of the tricolor, and she would prance around Paris with a pair of knitting needles — à la Madame Defarge — so that she could knit the names of the enemies of the revolution on the yarn she charged with her Michael’s Let-Blood-Run-Like-a-River Rewards Card.
Stopping at a cafe, Marie Antoinette would buy an espresso and a piece of cake, and she would tell everyone who would listen, "I hear the queen totally gives cake to the poor, but the media won't cut her a break and always focuses on her shortcomings and never her strengths, like how she almost single-handedly props up the entire wig industry," and, "Did you hear the queen totally supports the break-up of royal estates, but her husband is such a douchebag, and you can't help who you marry, after all." Then she would buy baskets of croissants and hand them out to all the orphans and widows of Paris, all the time whispering, "I hear the Queen is raising the Dauphin to fight for liberty, equality, and fraternity. Wouldn't it be a shame if someone totally Robespierred her and kept her from her good work?"
Alas, when Marie Antoinette realized that even her magnanimous dispersal of croissants would not keep the wrath of revolutionaries from commandeering her castle, she would use your stolen identity to try and keep her lovely head firmly attached to her beautiful neck. With a hint to no one — especially her gossip-mongering hair stylist — she would flee with her two terrified children into the French countryside. Spying a Kohl's, she would decide that maybe she had been wrong to turn her nose up at a store that sells reasonably-priced clothing, designed by such fashion icons as Lauren Conrad and Jessica Simpson, but by then, of course, it would be too late. She would have realized that she could not outrun history, just like she could not hide a monarch's royal bearing behind a pair of Liz Claiborne sunglasses. But still, she would try. Keeping to the backroads, traveling only at night, and stopping only at stores that accept GAP Visa, she would walk her little family all the way to Belgium, and she would not think one jot about the King, who had clearly gotten her into this mess, and she would wait for the Revolution to end, and for the monarchy to be restored, and she would know in her heart that her only crime had been to live large.
Margaret Finnegan is the author of the forthcoming novel, Booler (Atheneum) and the historical monograph, Selling Suffrage: Consumer Culture and Votes for Women (Columbia University Press). Her work has appeared in the LA Times, Salon, FamilyFun, and other publications. When she is not writing, she is probably teaching at California State University, Los Angeles, hanging out with her family, or walking her dog.
Photo Credit: Staff