Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Marilyn Manson, Alice Cooper, and her

15 Nov

This is some new territory for my blog, but for some reason, some of the icons of the past and present were on my mind, as I thought back to my own term as the mom of a teenage daughter and now as a grandmother of a future teenage granddaughter.

For American girls, music and their stars and movies and their stars play an important part of our maturing process.

Long, long ago, back in the Dark Ages, I was once a teenage girl myself, cruising Main Street on Friday night with my friends, worried about who liked me and who didn’t, about how “popular” I was, about how “weird” I was, and about how I was going to survive high school.   I fought with my mom, I hated my sister, I hated my brother, I hated my life, and sometimes, most of all, I hated myself.  I allowed everybody else’s measuring stick to be used in measuring up myself, and I’m afraid I just didn’t measure up.  I was too short, too dark, too smart, too dumb, too fat, too young, too old, too bookish, too tomboyish, too awkward, too messy, too wild, too mild…the list went on forever.  I did a lot of really dumb things that could have really ended up disastrous if it hadn’t been for a healthy dose of good luck on my side.  I managed to survive, obviously, but before you think “of course” maybe you should realize that a lot of the kids that I ran with didn’t.  They dropped like flies to crack houses, drug addictions, car accidents, alcoholism, suicides, homicides, shootings, and probably more than few are gone that I don’t know what happened to at all.  Its really more than a little sad, because some of them were beautiful, intelligent, gifted, and filled with all the optimism and hope of youth.  I was lucky, I survived without a hope or prayer, despite my angry pessimism and deep seated fury at the world.

Yeah, I must have been a real bundle of joy as a teen.  All that angst and no where to go.

At the same time, maybe I’d been given the gift of grit as a result of the taunts and snubs from my peers.  That grit has come in handy sometimes too.  Maybe that’s why I eventually could walk away in search of higher things, and avoid the landmines of life that swallowed so many.  That isn’t to say that I have had a wildly successful life, but I have had a great one.  I’ve been successful at anything I’ve chosen to be, and I no longer will allow other people’s measuring sticks to be stood up against me.  I might be weird as hell, dirt poor, physically falling apart, disreputable in appearance, and embarrassing to my siblings…but dang, it has been a great life so far and I’m not tossing in the towel for a long time yet.

I can still remember singing “School’s out” with my friends, loud and proud, even if we were off key.  Alice Cooper was perfect for our angry rebellion.  He was different, he was “bad”, and many parents disapproved of him.

Fast forward a generation…

Now I’m watching my own daughter agonize through her teen years.  It was the same, yet very different.  I realized a few things too, like kids don’t come with owner’s manuals and we all make mistakes.  That we can’t expect our kids to follow the narrow path we had hoped for them, they have to make their own, and all we can do is guide them and pick them up when they fall.  That no matter how much we want to, we can’t really keep them safe and fix everything that’s wrong for them.

And I remember Marilyn Manson.  I listened to the music that was supposed to be so bad, that so many parents were banning from their offspring’s playlists.  It was gloomy, negative stuff.  It lacked the joyful glee of Alice Cooper, for sure.  (He was genius at combining rebellion, depression…and joyful glee.)  My daughter waited to hear the verdict but was shocked at what it was, and it certainly derailed her youthful expectation of a confrontation and future defiance.

I said you can listen to it, but not when your little brother is around.  Period.

Then I added how much it reminded me of Alice Cooper, and that I felt he had essentially mimicked Cooper’s game plan and updated it a tad, and that his music was just so incredibly negative.  But hey, to each their own tastes, but that I liked music that made me feel happy and good rather than music to depress me.

I think he lasted a week, as she showed off her ability to play it at home to her friends, and she moved on to other things.  I’m sure he made occasional appearances in the coming years, but he wasn’t as important anymore.

It was probably one of my finer moments at dealing with her tastes and her rebellion.  I validated her ability to choose what she listened to, pointed out the essential flaw (in my opinion) and then let her do her own choosing within acceptable parameters (her brother was nearly 8 years younger, and really didn’t need to listen to that.)

Then came Britney.  She was pure bubble gum to me, and I can’t say that my daughter paid her much attention either.  She was in our face, everywhere, all the time.  What kinds of things did she seem to advocate?  Excess behavior, irresponsible behavior, and plain foolish behavior.  An impromptu marriage in Vegas that was annulled a few days later.  A too-young marriage and fast pregnancy followed by another, along with an insanely well publicized youthful divorce.  Foolish young mother behavior.  Excess behavior.  Photos of her disembarking from a taxi in a short skirt without underwear?  Oh yeah, like any mother of a daughter wants THAT plastered on every news bulletin.

From a parental point of view, this was a nightmare.  This is what kind of stuff that inspires you to prayers about your own daughter.  It makes you thankful when her rebellion is confined to emerald green hair, gothic makeup, grunge, and curfew violations.  It makes you more horrified when it includes alcohol or drugs, as you think to the celebrity youths and their disastrous encounters with both or either.  Part of you realizes too, that even Britney had parents.  What were they thinking?  How were they reacting?  What could they do to help her?  What would I do if it was MY daughter doing that stuff?

My daughter is all grown up now, and I recently saw her falling in love with her own brand new daughter herself.  She has no idea what a ride she’s in for now.  Nobody knows.  Each girl is as unique as a snowflake and maybe even more so.  I adore my granddaughter and I’m immensely proud of her, even though all she does right now is eat, sleep, poop, pee, burp, cry, and occasionally smile.  I’m impressed.  Okay, so I’m an easy sell…but hey, we’re also pre-programmed to love the tiny things, otherwise, we’d be inclined to eat them or something, right?  I’m also anxiously waiting for the time when she’s ready for mud and chocolate pudding, maybe even together.  This go-round, I get to just have fun, I don’t have to worry about homework, chores, and her bedroom.  It’s her mom’s turn for all of that.  I have high hopes for being a grandmother, and I’m sure I’ll irritate my daughter, but we’ll still do things like cook on a rock (her mom wanted to do that) and play in a water filled ditch (her mom did that too).

So I look to the musical icons of today, the rising stars still making their mark.  Most of them aren’t doing much, more like sunsets–here for a moment or two, and gone.  One rising star that seems destined to stay around for a while is Taylor Swift.  I hope so anyhow, because she’s like a breath of fresh air in a world filled with too much gloom & doom, too much depression, and too many stars being too excessive in their behaviors.

I remember when I heard her for the first time on the radio.  Her song, something about Tim McGraw, had that youthful sense to it, and even though I’m past that point, I could relate to it…I’d been there, done that, and gotten the t-shirt too.   More songs came, and I paid more attention.  I like her music, I like her voice, and I like her style.  She sings songs that are suitable for her age and maturity level, even if they are songs that most of us can relate to, they are positive even when they are filled with emotion and about managing some of life’s speed bumps.  I really like the fact that she advocates the kind of behavior and decorum we all want our daughters to possess.

I don’t know if its all true, this angelic looking (and sounding) young girl from middle America being so down to earth and well behaved.  It might be an illusion created as part of a marketing project.  It might be as fake as the illusions created in the 50s for various movie stars.  I hope not, I kind of like this girl the way she’s portrayed.  She is very likable!

I can say, wow, I hope my granddaughter grows up like that about Taylor Swift.  I don’t think anybody ever says that about their daughter in regards to Britney Spears.  That’s the difference.  Taylor Swift can conceivably become a real American icon.  I’m sure that her parents count their blessings about her character, whereas so many of these girl stars we see I am actually convinced that their parents cringe at some of their shenanigans.  I can’t imagine Britney baking Christmas cookies with her mom.  I can imagine that with Taylor.

I think we need more positive icons in our lives.  I’m more than a little weary of the excess, the negativity, the anger…I want to see things that make me happy, not things that make me feel bad or sad.  I want songs that put a smile on my face.  I want…to be happy.  I want other people to be happy too.  We’ve been angry as a society since the 60s, let’s get over it already.

So listen to “Romeo and Juliet” from Taylor Swift, and smile as you remember how first love made you feel.  It doesn’t matter if it ended badly or made you sad at the end, it was still a wonderful joyous thrill at first.  It was worth feeling then.  It’s worth remembering now.

Smile at a stranger.  That might be the only thing they are given all day.

Tell someone you love how much you love them.  They might need to hear it.

Look in the mirror, and remember…you are your own best friend and you should act like it.


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