Columns 2013

Give the kid a break

There are a lot of very important things happening in the world. Some of those things are making it look like our world has turned upside down. Russia is acting as a peacemaker for goodness sakes. Isn’t that a sign of the end of times?

Yet America is focused on that which truly is, without question, a sign of the end of civilization. I’m of course referring to Miley Cyrus swinging in the altogether on a wrecking ball. I have no doubt if someone had the time or inclination to count column inches, they would find Miley garnered way more than Putin, Obama and Kerry combined.

I did not know Miley Cyrus as Hannah Montana. She was popular long after I’d drawn a line in the sand about what I’d watch on TV. So I don’t view her as some sacred vessel of virginity, virtue and innocence. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, if you’re a mother concerned that Miley licking a wrench will cause your little girl to turn into a mini prostitute, you have way more problems than those created by a growing up tween idol.

I was once Miley Cyrus’ age, despite all evidence to the contrary that would suggest I was born old. But I never looked like she does. I was never quite able to achieve that “starved but healthy” image.  Despite that, this is not a column of bitter venom from an old lady who never could, and now never will, achieve that look. Rather, this is a note from an older woman suggesting we all take a deep breath and accept that society will not fail because Hannah Montana has learned how to twerk and, in the process, taught many of us who were blissfully ignorant of it what twerk means.

Getting naked is an age-old method of catching mom and dad’s – and in this case, the world’s – attention when making the transition from youth to adulthood. It is as old as Lady Godiva and as new as Miley. As for those in my generation raising their eyebrows in shocked disapproval, may I ask how you missed the pictures of John and Yoko’s naked sleep in? If my memory serves me correctly, Miley looks a lot better in the altogether than John and Yoko ever did.

Growing up is hard. Maturation is, at best, a messy process. Some of us take the better part of two decades to do it. Others manage in a quarter of the time. And still others seem to have been born old and never need to go through the uncomfortable, and often unseemly, rites of passage needed to get safely moored in adulthood. But for any of us, whether we are the speed racers or the tortoise trying to overtake the hare, imagine how much harder that journey would be if done in the public eye.

I can remember a few outfits I wore back in the day for which I am very grateful that no pictures exist. Unlike Miley, I don’t have to live with my youthful misadventures splashed forever across the public consciousness. Like most of you, I can still blush while remembering them in private and being grateful that I am the only one who probably does remember them.

I think that we sometimes fixate on something like this – a preteen idol growing up as messily in public as the rest of us did in private – because the real issues in today’s world sometimes seem so overwhelming and unsolvable. This weekend at the Miss America Pageant (what? you missed it?) one of the contestants was asked how she would solve the issue of Syria using chemical weapons against its own people. The UN, top American diplomats, Russian and Mid-eastern leaders have all grappled with this question and come up with no satisfactory answer. So we ask a twenty something in a long gown with enough tape holding things in to build a boat what her solution is.

That girl didn’t have the answer. No one that I know has the answer. So instead of beating our heads against the wall in frustration, we fixate on some sad little girl trying to create an adult career so that she won’t be a has-been at 21. Give her a break. Save your energy for the real issues we face.