Apparently, I have grown to unlike Madonna.
A younger version of me is convinced I have become afraid of exploration and am allowing personal bias to take her away from her throne. This young woman made a plan and executed it–sneaking to watch “Like A Virgin” on the devil’s MTV at someone else’s house. Fingerless gloves. Lace. Fun. Yeah, I pretty much adored her for a good 15 years, I used to dream of her now and then. In the mid-90′s, I lived in an intentional feminist community of six women in Knoxville (that is a WHOLE NOTHER story or three) and I found out that other women dreamed of her too. It was another language of Women of a certain age–a way of understanding the texture of one another…and then I saw the book I Dream of Madonna: Women’s Dreams of the Goddess of Pop.
It really isn’t the music.
I like the more recent stuff well enough. I wear the hell out of Confessions on a Dance Floor. It is a couple of stubborn things. Maybe I think she has just become too rarefied. Like she canonized herself too early and now she lost her grit. Also, the veins and the diet and the stunts and the adoption…I can hardly hear her voice or bear to hear of her. It is a harsh refusal and I’m not sure when my admiration turned to side eye.
I’ve studied Jung. I know that what you recoil from is probably You in the mirror…so what it is about Madonna now? What was it about her then? Then, I understand better than now. Then is easy. Young, bursting, full of want & piss–yeah, that kind of energy is easy to recognize. Every human being on the face of the Planet has felt the charge of rebellion. So why is it that when Madonna does something “rebellious” now, I just want to tell her she’s embarrassing herself. Is it just ageism? My own fear of feeling out of the current? Surely it isn’t that simple. Did she get tired of reinvention and just settle in somewhere comfy? Do I just not like where that is?
She stopped being someone I wanted to be.
But here is what I want to say to Madonna–thank you for giving the women of my generation a daring new way to be. Maybe I got so busy becoming fabulous that I no longer needed an idol. Maybe my feminism deepened beyond rebellion. Maybe I just really love fried food and meat on bones…
We danced and flirted and whispered and sang for you. We chose our sexual expressions with intention. We learned how to really make religious people nervous. This is the Madonna in my dreams. And that is profoundly unfair to the woman she is. I didn’t have to be her, didn’t have to live in her skin, with her demons…and yet, I wanted her to never be petty or domestic or fruitcake-y. But, that is part of what we do with our heroes. Isn’t it? We heap our hopes and fears onto them and we want them to never be fully human. Who wants their sex Goddess to do laundry? Certainly not me.
I do like clean clothes though, so I’m going to cut her some slack. I’m going to listen to Like A Virgin and tell my 13 year-old self to remember this passage from my favorite book at the time. I’m going to own my ambivalence and allow it to be. There is no need for an absolute. Nothing stays. Especially not worship.
Music lasts though. As resilient as lust.