I had the good fortune to sit next to one of the popular boys, one of the ones you get up and go to school to see every day, in my ninth grade science class. We didn’t talk during class. I was too scared. I felt inferior. Yet, about three weeks into the semester he turned to me, out of the blue, and said, “I’d go out with you, but I’d never take you home to meet my mother.”
That hit me hard. I cried off and on the rest of the day. It’s what I needed to hear. I was an honor roll student running with the party crowd. A child in a body that was becoming one of a woman, too scared to draw very many sober breaths. Although I eventually transitioned into the popular group, dated a friend of that boy’s, who did take me home to meet his mother, it would never have happened without my hearing that harsh evaluation and making some much needed changes.
It is with that memory that I watched the video of Miley Cyrus “performing” at the 2013 MTV VMAs. She is getting all the press from the event and not for a good reason. She “twerked” her way into infamy. She crotch-grabbed, and foam fingered her way into publicity that won’t serve her well. If she wants to put the final nail in Hannah Montana’s coffin, then mission accomplished. But, as one of the entitled, surrounded by sycophants, yes-people, and other hangers-on, and invisible parents, I doubt she will hear the sentence she desperately needs to hear. “Miley, skank does not mean grownup.”
As grown women, we should own our sexuality certainly. But owning it doesn’t mean blatantly forcing it on others in a cheap, desperate bid for attention. Using sex and your body to get attention doesn’t make you a grown up. It makes you something that I hope Miley won’t want her own daughter, should she have one, to be. Sure, she got all the attention, but none of the respect. Attention without respect makes one a laughing stock or worse.
I remember when Madonna blew us all away during the 1984 VMAs with her writhing on the floor rendition of “Like a Virgin.” Back then I thought it was cool. Back then I was 22. Now I’m 50 and appalled at Miley’s display. Could it be that I’m too old? I don’t think so. Madonna rolled around on the stage for a few minutes while fully clothed. Miley stripped down to almost nothing and did various things to Robin Thicke’s crotch. It was tacky. It was classless. It was skanky.
So Miley, put your clothes back on, keep your tongue inside your mouth, and re-invent yourself as someone all those little girls who watched you as Hannah Montana can look up to, rather than being the beginning of yet another child star cautionary tale. It’s common and it’s boring.