The proliferation of sex

Dear Daughter,

Sex is everywhere.

It’s on TV, magazine covers, in movies, music… you can’t be in touch with the outside world and NOT see or hear something about sex, really. In just the past few years, it’s become one of the most (if not THE most) prolific topics in our culture.

It’s difficult for parents to know how to handle this. We need to be more vigilant than ever to monitor what you’re seeing and hearing. But sometimes our vigilance falls short, or we’re not cautious enough. Other times we’re straight-up paranoid. If we don’t make it to the radio dial in time to keep you from hearing Jessie J belt out, “I’m feeling sexy and free,” we worry that you’ll be messed up for life. Like you’ll be lying around a crack house someday saying, “If only I didn’t hear the ‘S’ word in that song Domino when I was 9, my life could have been different…”

So yeah, sometimes we parents go overboard in trying to shelter you. But for the most part, I don’t think we do enough. I know for a fact that I don’t do enough. I sometimes take for granted that you’re a kid and you don’t even notice that half the stuff you see and hear is inappropriate. I cling to the fact that you haven’t had the life experience to know whether or not something is wrong. But my denial is foolish. Because there are plenty of other times when you DO hear the “S” word and look at me to see if I noticed it too. Or you cover your eyes when you see a young couple kissing passionately on a TV show commercial (many of which are shown on ABC Family. “Family,” really? That station is one of the worst for playing adult-themed shows/films.)

The thing is, I can’t shelter you from the proliferation of sex completely, unless I were to take away TV, movies, music… school. It’s everywhere and really can’t be avoided. And it shouldn’t be avoided altogether because you need to learn how to make good decisions despite all the junk being thrown in your face. It IS my responsibility as a parent, however, to teach you the good from the bad. To try to keep the bad away while you are young and innocent, but also to establish a foundation of purity, self-esteem and confidence in you so that, when the bad does leak through, you won’t be deterred by it.

Sex is everywhere. And our culture likes to make you think it’s everything. But it doesn’t have to be, and it’s my job to teach you that.

Love,
Mom

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The Celebrity Obsession Problem

Dear Daughter,

Last week, a famous singer named Whitney Houston died unexpectedly. She was young, beautiful and insanely talented, so her death is considered a tragic one. Especially because it appears drugs might have been the cause.

It’s always kind of conflicting when famous people die. Even though we’ve never met the person, we’re still shocked and saddened when we hear of their death. We feel some sense of mourning, but might feel a little dramatic doing so because after all, this person is technically a stranger. We have no right to grieve in the way that their family and friends do, yet they were a part of our life in some way, so it’s somewhat legitimate to be sad. Maybe the death of a superstar makes us think of our own mortality, or that of our loved ones. Perhaps what we’re really mourning is the loss of such great talent.

What bothers me, though, is how the media has handled celebrity deaths in the past few years. I try not to be a “hate the media” type because I’ve worked in the media and never liked the label people put on us. But seriously, this past week, it seemed every TV station, at every hour of the day, was airing coverage of Whitney Houston. It started to feel a little overboard after awhile. My cynical self couldn’t help but wonder: a) if it was all for the goal of higher profits, and b) what other important news we were missing because of it.

One of my friends, Garry De Vries, had a similar sentiment and recently posted a profound statement about it on Facebook. I asked him if I could share part of it with you:

I respect the dead and I respect that Whitney Houston needed her moment but what about the others?… Why don’t we take the time to flash EVERY fallen soldier’s name and picture the day they pass at the end of newscasts as a sign of respect. They died so people like Whitney can be free and become famous yet we do not honor them like we should. How about we keep the flag at full staff for celebrities and keep the honor of half staff for people who dedicated their lives to our country or lost it in the line of duty. How about we talk more about the soldiers who lost limbs and are in wheelchairs and how we can help them instead of Lindsey Lohan’s next court date for being a drug-addicted idiot. How about instead of the Real Housewives and their egotistical lives we have a show about the widows of soldiers and single mothers and wives of soldiers overseas and help them.

Garry’s statement really hit me because it revealed just how much value our culture (myself included) places on The Celebrity. For some reason, we’ve become obsessed with the comings and goings of the rich and famous, and oftentimes those comings and goings are superfluous, having no real impact on our daily life. And the people who truly are making a difference—soldiers, teachers, scientists—usually go unnoticed and are sometimes even dismissed. This dichotomy sadly shows just how shallow our culture really is.

That’s not to say that Whitney Houston’s death did not deserve attention, because it did. Most people agree that she is one of the best singers—if not THE best—of our time. She has influenced many young musicians who have gone on to have their own successful careers. And I personally have several fond memories of lip synching via hairbrush to Whitney’s music during my childhood years. Her life does deserve a tribute, but so do the lives of many other influential people who will never receive the recognition they’re due, let alone 24/7 coverage on every TV station.

All this to say, Daughter… don’t get too caught up in the celebrity obsession that our society holds so dearly. It’s fun to know a little bit about what’s going on in celebrities’ lives, but not when they’re held on a pedestal that stamps out the efforts of those who truly deserve the credit. Let’s help shift the priorities of our culture and start paying attention to the real heroes.

Love,
Mom

More adventures with Jan and Marsha (which is actually Marcia)

So I totally wrote the word “Marsha” about 50 times in yesterday’s post, only to find out later that the Brady Bunch character’s name is really spelled “Marcia.” I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t check on that before writing the post. That’s like Proofreading 101! And I call myself an editor…

Oh well, you live, you learn.

Anyway, I came across this video clip of a classic Jan vs. Marcia moment and thought it perfectly summed up what I wrote about yesterday, with some good advice from Mr. and Mrs. Brady at the end.

Why I don’t want to marry Bruno Mars

Dear Daughter,

It’s been a while since I’ve picked on a pop star and/or pop song, and it’s just so much fun to do, so here’s my latest rant…

Bruno Mars has a new song out called “Marry You.” When I first heard it, I loved it because it has an old-school feel, like 60s music, and I absolutely love music from that era. But, like Katy Perry’s Friday song, the catchy sound distracts from the appalling lyrics. When I finally listened to the words of “Marry You,” I was so disappointed.

The song in general appears sweet because he’s basically begging this girl to marry him. But if you really listen, a few themes come across that are simply maddening:

1) Who are you, again? It appears that he doesn’t know this girl very well. “Is it the look in your eyes or is it this dancing juice?” (Dancing juice is alcohol.) So he’s basically saying, “I don’t know if it’s because you’re hot or I’m drunk but hey, let’s get married!” How romantic. I sure wish my husband proposed to me that way. Throughout the song it seems he wants to marry her just for the fun of it, not because he’s actually in love with her. In fact, the song has little to do with the girl at all; he’s mainly just trying to convince her to join him in his little prank.

2) Something borrowed, something… dumb? The point above is blatantly reinforced by the lyric, “We’re looking for something dumb to do.” So now marriage is dumb. Why couldn’t he have said “fun” instead of “dumb”? I wouldn’t have had a problem with that. If you’re looking for something dumb to do, Bruno, go teepee someone’s house. Marriage does not and should not fall into that same category.

3) All hail king alcohol. I already mentioned the “dancing juice,” which I’ll admit is kind of a cute, old-school way of describing alcohol. But the eloquence stops there. Because a few verses later he says, “Who cares if we’re trashed…” Nice. And then he says something about how they’ll take shots of Patron (a very strong liquor) to help ease them into the decision. What should be a lifelong commitment, something that should be entered into with clarity of mind, is here being degraded by alcohol, and lots of it.

4) The morning after. I think I would tolerate the song better if it weren’t for the following lyrics: “If we wake up and you wanna break up, that’s cool/ No, I won’t blame you/ It was fun girl.” Those words encourage the common belief that it’s no big deal to end a marriage, and they reinstate the fact that his desire to marry this girl is for the spontaneous experience, not because of love.

The song just saddens me because it is a reflection of our culture’s jaded view of marriage. It’s saying that marriage—one of the biggest decisions you could ever make and one of the most character-building things you’ll ever do—is as easy to walk into and out of as a convenience store. The song totally waters down any respect one might have for the institution of marriage. I’m sure Bruno Mars just wanted a fun, upbeat song that he knew would be a hit, but he’s promoting a dangerous perception of marriage, a perception that’s already pretty screwed up. We didn’t need this song to make it worse.

I told you, I’m sensitive about this all-too-popular view of marriage and I hope you will be too. I also hope that, if a guy were to someday write a song about why he wants to marry you, it’ll be filled with reasons why he can’t live without you. And it won’t include the words “dumb” or “trashed.”

Love,
Mom

Why you should be a Justin Bieber fan

Dear Daughter,

You’re funny about Justin Bieber. You go out of your way to proclaim that you do NOT like him or his music, yet I catch you singing his songs. You even made up a whole dance routine to “Never Say Never.” For someone who doesn’t like the Biebs, you sure do spend a lot of time talking about him. So I’m not convinced, my dear.

The thing is, I kind of want you to have Bieber Fever. Maybe not to the extent that you daydream about being his wife and you scream at the mention of his name. But I want you to respect him. Because I sure do.

I admit I’m kind of hard on pop music stars. Katy Perry gets most of my scorn, as you know, and Rihanna is becoming a close second. (By the way, shouldn’t Rihanna’s name be pronounced “Ree-hana?” Either that or it should be spelled Rhianna. Drives me crazy!) But Justin Bieber is one of the good guys, and I hope he stays that way.

Here’s why I’m a JB fan:

1) He’s uber talented. Unlike some artists who wouldn’t survive without auto tune  (*cough* Taylor Swift), Justin actually deserves to be a music star. His voice is amazing and he can play the drums better at age 17 than most drummers can play at age 50. We were worried there that once he hit puberty and his voice changed, he would be relegated to the list of has-beens, but he seems to be transitioning just fine.

2) He came from humble beginnings. We Americans love a good Cinderella story, and Justin definitely has one. He was raised by a single mom in a modest household. He didn’t have to go through Disney to rise to success. He started practicing his gift at a very young age, worked hard at it, and eventually got discovered by people who recognize true talent. That’s a lesson to kids that: a) you don’t have to be rich to be noticed, and b) hard work pays off.

3) He loves Jesus. In the documentary Never Say Never, it shows that Justin’s family is Christian, and he and his whole crew pray together before every concert. At one of the awards shows a few months ago, in Justin’s acceptance speech, he gave thanks “not only to God but to Jesus,” who he said has blessed him and is the one who put him in that position. There was debate about that line; some Christians were mad that he made it sound like Jesus and God are not the same, like he was denying the Trinity. But I think I know the point that Justin was making. All the stars thank God when they accept an award. It’s the thing to do. They throw God’s name out there right alongside the names of their producer or assistant. Justin was making a point that he doesn’t view God as just some random guy up in the clouds. He really does believe in and worship Jesus the son of God, and he gives Him the glory for his success. That is unheard of in Hollywood, let alone from teenagers. I love that JB isn’t ashamed of JC. (Ha.)

4) He has great hair. (Now’s a good time to mention that these are not listed in order of importance.) Take it from someone who’s had bangs for years: it takes a lot of work to make them look good. But Justin not only has perfected it, he’s also made a trend out of it. For the past year or so, tween and teen boys everywhere have been sporting the thick, swoopy-hair-across-the-forehead look that the Biebs made famous.

So, Daughter, I think you should admit to the fact that you really do love Justin Bieber, and when you do, I won’t tease you one bit. I’ll be right alongside you, singing and dancing to “Baby.” Now that I think about it, maybe that scene is precisely what you’re trying to avoid. Hmmm….

Love,
Mom

Choose your role models carefully

Dear Daughter,

Last night I watched a documentary on Jacqueline Kennedy, who was a former First Lady, married to President John F. Kennedy in the late ’50s, early ’60s. She was so young and beautiful and different at that time that she became a cultural icon whose influences still exist today.

I didn’t know much about Jacqueline before last night, but now that I’ve learned more, I’ve decided she’s one of my role models. I want to be like her in so many ways. She was very intelligent (she spoke four languages!), elegant, sweet and reserved. She had the most soothing voice I’ve ever heard. And she was completely devoted to her husband. In this documentary it was clear she was determined to make his life easier wherever possible—which was no simple feat, considering he was the President of the United States!

I’m sure that Jacqueline Kennedy had lots of flaws. There were probably times when she failed her husband or children, or when she lost her temper or picked her nose. But I hold her on a pedestal because of the way she carried herself in public. She just emanated grace. I want people to think the same about me. (Which means I have some work to do!)

I actually have very few role models, and I think that’s because they don’t make women like Jacqueline Kennedy anymore. Or maybe it’s because women in our society are so over-exposed now; we see the good, the bad and the ugly about everyone. Celebrities’ every move is revealed for the world to see, either on video or in photographs. Even “regular” women have a spotlight on them now because of social media. We can virtually see into people’s living rooms. That high-powered woman at work goes home at night and tweets that she’s eating Cheetos and watching Lifetime TV. Somehow that changes your perception about her; in many ways she’s just like you, so why look up to her?

I fear for your generation, because this blurring of public and private is lowering your standards. The women rising to the spotlight are not necessarily the ones you should consider role models. In fact, many of them (ahem, Snooki) are examples of how NOT to act. But because of their prominent role in pop culture, they might appear to you as someone you should look up to. Nowadays, however, people don’t necessarily rise to fame because they’re talented. In fact, more and more people are becoming famous just by living their regular, usually drama-filled lives in front of a few million hungry Americans.

Daughter, I encourage you to be careful about whom you choose to look up to. Stay away from those who are the flavor of the moment and instead look for the women who consistently exercise charm and grace. Your role model should be one who gives of herself for others, who stands tall and smiles often, who thinks before she speaks. She should practice humility, gentleness, compassion and a quiet strength. And when you find someone like that, strive to imitate her characteristics, not her life. I don’t want to be First Lady, but I do want to be as graceful, loyal and elegant as Jacqueline Kennedy was. I wish the same for you.

Love,
Mom

Why Katy Perry’s Friday song is sad, not fun

Dear Daughter,

It’s Friday… everyone’s favorite day. Including, apparently, Katy Perry. Yesterday as we were driving home Katy’s “Last Friday Night” song came on the radio, and I quickly switched to a different station, as I always do when that song plays and you’re in the car. But, much to my dismay, you said, “Why did you change that song? I like it.” Whaaaa?

Turns out you’ve heard it in places other than my car, which is not surprising, I guess, given that Katy Perry’s music has become inescapable. Everywhere I go, it seems, I hear her raspy voice singing about boys and girls and boys acting like girls and girls acting like idiots… our culture is on KP Overload right now. We just can’t get away from her, no matter how hard we try!

Here’s the problem I have with her Friday song. Because of its fun, upbeat tempo, when you first hear it, you’re like, “Hey this is a fun song about Friday, my favorite day! It makes me want to get out of the house and do something with my friends tonight!”

But when you really listen to the lyrics, what she’s describing is actually kind of a sad scene. It’s Saturday morning, she doesn’t know where she is, and the details of the night before are starting to come back to her: she maxed out her credit cards, got kicked out of a bar, has a warrant for her arrest, got her car towed, and realizes all of this was photographed and is now online for the world to see.

But hey, she says, let’s “do it all again!” She’s insinuating that such behavior is a sign of a successful night out. Like you haven’t really lived until you’ve had a night like that.

Believe me, I’ve had many nights, particularly in college, when I got caught up in the party scene and its sometimes unavoidable destruction. Every now and then that was fun but usually it wasn’t. Usually it caused gobs of regret. Which is why it bothers me that Katy’s song is essentially telling young people such destruction is not only acceptable but cool, and not only cool but something they should strive to do!

I love Fridays and I’m all for going out and having a blast with friends. But to me, the sign of a good night is not getting kicked out of places or having my car towed. It’s laughter, and lots of it. Good food, good conversation. Dancing! And the ability to go home feeling like your life—and you as a person—are better because of this one night.

Happy Friday, Daughter.

Love,
Mom

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