Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I can't believe I have an opinion on Miley Cyrus

Normally here at the Downtown Diner we don't talk much about pop stars.  When Janet Jackson had her wardrobe malfunction, we hardly noticed.  Kim Kardashian's 70-something-day marriage was a blip on our radar.  We recognize these events for what they are - probably staged and definitely trying to get us to buy gossip magazines.

However Miley Cyrus is tugging at my heartstrings for some reason today.  Maybe it's because of the hours and hours that Audrey and I spent watching Hannah Montana together back when we lived in China.  It was hard to find age-appropriate shows in English for her, and when we discovered Hannah we bought every season on DVD.  And watched them over and over until we knew every line by heart. 

Then I lost track of Miley and didn't think about her again until this week.  I didn't watch the VMAs and would never have known they happened, except that all day yesterday people were talking about Miley.  I heard things like:
"She is no longer a role model for my daughters."
"I'm embarrassed to share a gender with her."
"She has gone the pitiful, crack-pot way of so many child stars before her."

Personally, I wish I could give Miley a hug.  Because she is going through one of the most difficult transitions known to mankind - child star to young adult.  And she's doing it all with this huge spotlight of public attention on her.  If history is any indication, this is a tough transition.  Because I can't think of anyone, anyone, who has done it successfully.  Not Britney Spears.  Not Gary Coleman.  Not Michael Jackson.  Not Drew Barrymore. 

(Update: While I do love my brushstrokes broad, my friend John Lilly pointed out that many stars do make the transition smoothly.)

I don't know anything about being a child star.  But I do know something about transitions.  I know what it's like to give up something that is so intrinsic to you that without it, you don't know who you are anymore.

If I'm not Buddy's wife anymore, then who am I?

If I'm not the mother of this beautiful, intact family, then who am I?

If I'm not a manager in a Fortune 500 company, then what am I?
If I'm not patient, forgiving, tolerant to the bitter end, then what am I?

Miley, I know that these questions have the power to wake you up in the middle of the night.  And you sit up straight in bed, not sure of where you are or even who you are.

I get it, Miley. 

When you ask yourself those shattering questions about who you are, you are the only one who can answer them.  So you try a few answers on for size and you see how they feel.  Some will feel right so you keep them.  Things like:

I am courageous.

I am honest.

I am curious.

Some will feel wrong, and you will reject them.  But you only know they are wrong after you try them out.  Things like:

I am good at painting.

I keep calm under stress.

My hair looks good in pigtails.

My point is, this is all a normal part of transitioning from what you were to what you will be.  You're caught in between the "was" and the "not yet".

Let me tell you, your haters right now don't move from the "was" to the "not yet".  They stay where they are.  They're comfortable there.  They will tell you you're a bad role model.  But you and I know that throwing ourselves headlong into this transition is role modeling something they cannot even fathom.  And that's okay.  They don't have to get it.

But they will never get the heady joy of choosing the colors for their own butterfly wings.  You and I have that.  We always will.


pat hill said...

Who are you?

If you are no longer Buddy's wife, who are you? You are my BFF. Still. Always.

If you are not the mother of this beautiful, intact family, who are you? You are still the mother of this beautiful family with two of the most amazing kids I've ever known. Not being married doesn't change that one single bit.

If you are not the manager of a Fortune 500 company, who are you? You are a teacher, a trainer, a friend. You are someone who teaches people to be better, who teaches people new things. New ways of communicating, new languages to speak.

If you are not patient, forgiving, tolerant to the end, who are you? Well, you are now me. A little less tolerant. A little less forgiving. A LOT stronger. Owner of an iPhone.

Honestly, I like this you a lot better.... xoxo

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written. I'm sending this to a friend of mine who needs to see it. He's all down on Disney stars right now. . . .

But anyhoo, this piece really spoke to my heart. If I'm no longer an attorney working with Linda Rose, who am I?

It's been a horrific transition in every sense of the word. The feelings of betrayal and self doubt were overwhelming.

But I'm finding my answers, with the help of friends and family who believe in me. So it doesn't matter so much any more what Linda thinks or does. Finding out that Linda doesn't have the best firm in Nashville, much less the region or the nation, has been incredibly liberating.

You're a wonderful person, and I am honored to be your friend!


Pam Boylan said...

Melanie I am totally going to share this! So beautifully written. And it spoke to me...perhaps because you and I are in the same transition? I had the same voice as yours: Miley is a KID, trying to piece together this thing called life. She just has EVERYONE watching her do it. And criticizing her every move. You spoke like a true, loving mama regarding Miley. How many dumb mistakes did WE make at age 20 (oh sister, I don't have enough ROOM on this comment sheet...). How many dumb mistakes are OUR CHILDREN going to make at that age? I hope for Miley's sake she has family or friends in her corner who can say to her… "You know? That was a pretty bad choice… But hey, it's okay. We still love you and you are going to be just fine. You are just trying to find your way. If you don't trip up and fall when you're trying to find your way, how do you know what feels right and what feels wrong? I hope for her sake she has those peeps who are genuine, living, honest, and empathic. Otherwise her shame will take her down a road like Dana Plato, or Lindsey Lohan. Hang in there Miley. This mama wants to hug you.

Krissa Barclay said...

Love love love this perspective (and your family)!

Anonymous said...

In the words of Antoinette Tuff, 'evrythang gonna be alright baby.' From your ever lovin sista.

Barb Kish said...

Melanie, what a fantastic post!

Life is interesting, isn't it? We define ourselves with things like marital status, our job, where we live, and the like.

The reality is it would be wonderful if we defined ourselves by our kindness, strength and courage to face all the changes that life brings us.

I feel like I'm at the cusp of a giant transition, that has been in the works for 5 years! How exciting and terrifying.

You are awesome, I so hope we can meet someday in person, until then I'll just admire and respect you from afar!


KNelson said...

You are my wonderful sister who I admire because you show patience and love to your family & others around you. :)

Melanie Gao said...

You all have no idea how much your comments mean to me. I have read over them a few times in the last couple of days and they make me feel so surrounded by goodness. I don't know what I did to attract you beauties into my life but I am so glad you're here. Please stay forever.