Tuesday, August 27, 2013

When an idol falls

My daughter is 2 1/2. She turned exactly 30 months this past week. I normally don't count months anymore. But I liked the idea that for one month, she would be the same age in months as I was in years.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a chance to plan anything crazy, like my #30for30 Challenge. But, I must have been channeling it when I took this picture.

Quite similar to the photo taken the morning of my birthday before setting off to do 30 good deeds.

Best birthday ever, I think.
One of the reasons I enjoyed doing those 30 good deeds was, despite how young she was, I wanted L. to learn what it is to be a good person and, hopefully, find something admirable about what I was doing and maybe achieve something like it one day.

I'm not saying I want to be her idol. But how does a parent have influence on what kind of idols are admired in the house?


This post was written the night after the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. I didn't watch it, but I didn't have to know what happened. Lady Gaga was shocking, N 'SYNC reunited and 30-year-olds felt 13 again and new dad Kanye got artsy. Actually, I read about all of those while working on tonight's paper on the entertainment page. What I didn't need to read about to know what Miley Cyrus' performance. I had seen the reactions all over Twitter and Facebook.

Posts included a picture of Billy Ray with the caption, "I should have pulled out," a side-by-side picture comparing Miley's hairdo to a character played by Jim Carrey on "In Living Color" and, of course, the statuses of shock and horror, name calling and bashing, links to different parenting sites all sending the message "We trusted you with our children's hearts! They loved you for so long! How DARE you show up like this and disappoint us!"

Ah, the VMAs not only brought back N 'SYNC, but my
MS Paint skills, too! Look at that erasing!
Gotta love 1998 nostalgia!

I'm not going to add to the bashing because, well, as newspapers usually are, it's about a day late.

I will say this. Soon, I'll watch my daughter obsess and go crazy for a celebrity. She'll want to look like her, talk like her, dress like her -- or, at least, buy apparel featuring this idol's face and name written in glitter. (Ugh, the nightmares of pink everything are already haunting me.)

I won't be able to find her graphic T-shirts with Susan B. Anthony written in neon, swirly letters for her to wear. Although, thanks to a little bit of MS Paint skills and Zazzle.com, I could order this thing I just whipped up! (In fact, I just might.)

The sad thing is, if Disney had
anything to do with this,
they'd fly off the shelves
faster than you can say,
"women's suffrage."

My daughter will have posters of these teenage stars in her room, with their sparkling, straightened teeth smiling through shiny, red-tinted lips. Their skin will be Photoshopped as clear as L.'s will actually look when she's 8 or 9 and gazing up at these posters, wishing she were just a little bit older so she could maybe find her inner-bubblegum pop awesomeness. 

Or, she'll gaze at the face of a pale-skinned eye candy man-boy who croons sings makes noise and has it digitally altered to please screaming little girls. Not knowing what puberty even has in store for her, L.'s eyes will light up at the sound of his name, and she'll tingle thinking about being even a few miles closer to where he is at any given moment.

These stars will be on the brink of adulthood (by means of turning 18) or, in some cases, will be older than they portray on whatever movie, TV show or fad they're associated with. In L.'s mind, these idols will continue to hold to the ideals, values and charm they carry in their prime. In my mind, I will be hoping like hell they don't take a turn for the worse. And, if they do, I hope L. will be over them and onto the new, next big thing.

When I was 7, I was "in love" with Macaulay Culkin after seeing "Home Alone." I pictured meeting him in real life and dancing with him to "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and saying, "I knew you'd like this song. I picked it, Mac (because all the fan magazines said that was his nickname, I knew he would appreciate me calling him by it). I wanted our first dance to be special to you because it was the song you danced to in 'Home Alone.'"

Let me just remind you, dear readers, for the record: I WAS 7 YEARS OLD. This was the thought process I had. It did not mean I would turn into a creepy stalker or some clingy girlfriend later in life.

This would most likely be Mac's reaction
when I said such stalker-type things.

I can't even imagine's my mom's horror after she took me to see "My Girl." My poor mother had to go grocery shopping afterward and she had to deal with an 8-year-old sobbing through the aisles uncontrollably and she couldn't say much in the way of comfort when all I could say was, "But, mom, the bees! (More tears would flow at the mention of bees.) Why would they put that into a kids movie?! (Shaking my fist at the corporate jerks of Hollywood.) Don't they know I love him?! I (sniff, sniff, sob, sob) luuhhh-uhhhve him!!!"

But, years later, my mom walked into my room with an apprehensive look on her face. She was carrying a People magazine opened to a page. I was 14 at the time. "Home Alone" was only watched around the holidays and "My Girl" was only watched if it was on TV and there was nothing else to watch.

"Emily, I don't know how to tell you this."

(Mind you, my parents had divorced and I moved and started a new school probably within that same year. Nothing really fazed me anymore.)

"But, the love of your life, Macaulay Culkin got married. At 17," she said, as she handed me the magazine with a gaunt-looking (and I didn't know why at the time) Culkin and his new bride in a tiny snapshot with some ridiculous looking heart adorning the grossy spread.

I could tell my mom really wanted to talk about how getting married so young was a mistake and use it as a teaching moment. Instead she just waited for my reaction, most likely anticipating a sequel to the Stop & Shop meltdown of '91.

I just glanced at the glassy magazine and how he had gotten older and less attractive, shrugged my shoulders and went back to my homework.

My mom, stunned, left the room. She had no idea I had been over Mac for years. What she didn't know was I was currently focusing my attention on Leonardo DiCaprio, hoping one day "My Heart Would Go On" could be the song we danced to at our wedding. I would tell him I loved him back when he was on "Growing Pains" and I thought his name was fun to say.

Again, let me remind you, I was 14. I WAS 14, AND TITANIC HAD JUST COME OUT. And Celine Dion's voice was just the perfect outlet for all my hormonal heartache over not being with Leo (as the fan magazines nicknamed him). I was not alone in this fantasy!

That dinky little boat was nothing
compared to the relation-SHIP you
and I could have had, Leo!


Here's the thing: Young celebrities have to grow up. Who really knows what kind of pressure is placed on them. The constant responsibility to follow whatever role it is that gave them this star power is, at the least, a little unfair. I don't suggest Miss Cyrus' foam finger dancing was an appropriate outlet. As the boyfriend will attest, I, in fact, hate all forms of finger dancing.

 I love the boyfriend for getting out of bed just because I
said, "I need to take a picture of you finger dancing
for my blog." But I still hate finger dancing.

But, I do think if we expect these celebrities to maintain the cherry lip gloss, neon, bubbly personality throughout their entire lives, we'd be fooling ourselves. 

I really wonder what the moms who overreacted (in my opinion) to Miley Cyrus' Vanity Fair spread are thinking now. My thoughts on the matter, by the way, would be if Annie Leibovitz tells you you're wearing a sheet for your photo shoot with her, you wear a sheet. You keep that sheet! You make sure your grandkids know the story behind that sheet and why it is completely inappropriate to make a blanket fort using that sheet!

In making mental lists of what I need to teach L., hopefully she can figure out on her own that people change. Even celebrities. Especially celebrities. Part of their jobs is to reinvent themselves so they can stay trendy. Part of L.'s job is to grow up, as is the jobs of young celebrities. My job is to, hopefully, equip L. with the goals of being a good person and someone she can be proud of, no matter what changes she goes through.