Happy Birthday, Prince William, From TIME.com

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To His Royal Highness Prince William:

That looks awfully formal. Maybe I could just call you Wills?

Anyway, Happy 18th birthday from the colonies.

Beyond your brief glimpses into our increasingly vapid pop culture, you probably don't know us very well, but we know you. We've watched in abject fascination as you've grown from a shy little boy pulling at the collar of his frilly shirt into a full-fledged heartthrob whose guarded smile renders many of us embarrassingly weak in the knees.

And now, suddenly, you're legal, and while most of us (sadly) will never meet you in person, we take comfort in the knowledge that the English press will keep us posted in the meantime, hounding you relentlessly and flooding the world with millions of photos you'd really rather didn't exist.

I realize that as a Yank I may not be in the best position to offer you birthday counsel, but, as you may have gathered, Americans will heap advice on pretty much anyone who'll listen. And since this is a free country (perhaps you've heard the rumors), I thought I'd take this opportunity to offer up a few sage words to the man who would be the monarch of a washed-up, erstwhile "Empire."

  • The Press: As you may have noticed, the media are generally a bunch of jerks. They want pictures of you, they want a scoop, and they're not going to give you a moment's rest until they're satisfied. So here's an idea. When you meet up with paparazzi, quickly eat something (the more colorful, the better: Think strawberries, peaches, etc.), smile disarmingly, and then open your mouth to expose your barely chewed food. Sure, there'll be a few embarrassing photos for the first few months, but after a while, all the tabloid editors will get tired of printing their "Prince William's See-Food" spread and you'll be off the hook.

  • College: Rumor has it you're casting around for a university, and that you're especially interested in art history courses. Good for you: As I've always said, if you're going to invest four years of your life getting a liberal arts education, you might as well go the distance and choose the absolute least useful course of study. Now, about choosing a college. Apparently you've expressed some interest in a couple of schools in Scotland, the Oxbridge schools and the University of East Anglia. I'm going to urge you to toward East Anglia — not only does it have a wonderful art history department, but the dorms are located very close to "council housing," somewhat similar to our "housing projects." This way, you see, you can stop by and visit some of the most humble of your future subjects whenever the urge may strike. You know, do a little pp.r. for the monarchy, that sort of thing. And by the way, if I were you, I'd get rid of that Eton costume — top hats, long-tailed coats, fancy vests (waistcoats to you) and so forth — just as soon as you're finished with your A-levels. Granted, you carry off that sort of silly outfit better than most guys, but wearing something like that around in public is pretty much the sartorial equivalent of wearing a sign that says "Hi! I'm Part of a Decaying Dynasty Whose Lavish Parties Are Supported By You, the British Taxpayer!" In other words, just not a very good idea.

  • Girls: You seem to have this one pretty well under control. I would like, though, to offer one small piece of advice: For the sake of future Windsors, when you decide it's time to get serious and settle down, you might want to consider breaking a centuries-old trend by casting around outside your immediate gene pool for a wife. Just a thought. By the way, I personally have no known connection to English aristocracy....