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Why Reagan’s daughter regrets her tell-all memoir

Patti Davis with her father, Ronald Reagan, at her wedding in 1984. Jean-Louis Atlan/Getty

When I was younger, says Ronald Reagan’s daughter Patti Davis in The New York Times, I wrote an autobiography that “flung open the gates of our troubled family life”. My justification was very similar to Prince Harry’s: I wanted “to set the record straight”, and naively believed expressing “my own feelings and my own truth” might help my family understand me better. It didn’t, of course – and not just because my parents resented being “embarrassed and exposed in public”. It’s because, as I’ve realised since, the truth is “way more complicated than it seems when we’re young”. Presenting our recollections as the one true narrative betrays the other people who “inhabit our story”, who all have their own truths as well.

That’s why the advice I’d give my younger self is simple: “be quiet”. Not forever, but until time passed, and I could “look at things through a wider lens”. In lashing out so cruelly, calling his brother his “arch-nemesis” and making allegations of physical assault, Harry shows a youthful ignorance to the fact that words “cut deep” and “leave a scar”. A period of reflection would have given him the distance to sympathise with his family’s version of events, and to look back on his experiences without feeling the need to “even the score”. One day, I’m sure Harry will “wish he could unspeak what he has said”, just as I do. His present dictum seems to be that “silence is not an option”. “I would, respectfully, suggest to him that it is.”