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.