They really do. Samantha, you understood our cranky little souls. You got us. Even though we had bad attitudes and had equally bad hair, you sang the music of our hearts.
We were just waiting for the perfect boyfriend to suddenly appear in a dark alley and suggestively dance with us, making us feel like our pink feathered bangs were super fresh. Each time Samantha would run her fingers through her hair, that amazing cropped shirt would lift and scandalously expose her belly button. Every girl of the 80’s wished for that music video to be her real life. And as she twirled around, flaunting her bedazzled leather jacket, we caught a glimpse of her painfully tight pants and we couldn’t wait to pour ourselves into a pair of button-fly Levis and haul them up to our ribs too, creating the mother of all butt wedgies. And despite the tight pants squeezing every ounce of air out of our lungs, it was worth having the look. We knew our mothers didn’t approve but they could just take a chill pill because Samantha Fox was hot and we wanted to be her.
We wanted to be her, emulate her and be loved like her because she was at the top; she was one of our many It Girls. That’s how It Girls made the rest of us girls feel.
Tiffany had the wispy, flawlessly wind-swept hair and creamy skin. She had the voice of an angel with a stuffed up nose and we liked it. We wanted to run to the mall, tumble to the ground and be alone now with the boy of our dreams. (Although we didn’t actually have a mall in Presque Isle at the height of Tiffany, I imagined myself running through Ames department store, towards the throngs of my adoring fans anyway.) And Debbie Gibson’s neon colored vests and blazers electrified my youth about as much as my overuse of her perfume burned the insides of my poor father’s nose. Rummaging through his collection of collared button ups, trying to make just the right statement of over-sized shirt meets “you can’t tell me what to do” and sobbing into the mirror knowing I could never love again, now that we’re apart. I look back now and realize it’s probably all for the best that I was usually crying over an imaginary boyfriend.
Those It Girls had so much influence over my formative years leading up to puberty, those delicate years where one is trapped between the carefree, often unaware outlook of a child and the scrupulously observant and keenly curious mind of a teenager. I believe we call these kids tweens now? There was something about the It Girls I wanted and there was something about them I needed in order to make it, to be accepted and valued in the eyes of my peers. And although I realize times have changed, stirrup pants really held an outfit together and if we could all just open our minds, we could bring these misunderstood fashion pieces back to life. I will be waiting with my hairbrush microphone for that special day.
I found my tween years to be the trickiest because although I still had enough child left inside me to play without worry, I was so often interested about what was on the other side. What could it possibly feel like to be so grown up, so beautifully picture-perfect and mature? I remember one day in particular when my awesomely crimped mullet got ruined from the sap of my favorite climbing tree. And as I hung there on a branch, upside down, I felt torn between keeping the fabulous hair I’d spent hours on and reaching the tree top, where my best friend Afton was waiting for me, with big plans to spend the afternoon hocking loogies at our little sisters below.
It’s a tough place to be in, those tween years, and you can never have too many role models to guide you towards becoming a teenager who makes more good decisions than bad.
I wanted to dance with Patrick Swayze, his fiery eyes looking straight through me as he lifted me up and I flew through the crowd, the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing playing over and over in my head. I wanted to be Molly Ringwald, yelling at all the adults in my life to leave me alone as I stormed out of the house in my fabulous pink blouse and Breakfast Club boots, running off into the distance where Corey Haim would be waiting to swoop me into his arms and totally make out with me.
I most definitely had some celebrity role models who sent me well on my way towards becoming an enthusiastically involved teenager, wild to experiment with some things my mother would have disapproved of, but still surrounded with enough simplicity of the late 80’s and early 90’s that I didn’t see or do some things.
I didn’t see some things like, twerking, for example.
Or Miley Cyrus twerking on stage for an audience of millions, for another example.
Or, Miley Cyrus twerking while showing you her…never mind. If you have the internet, you’ve seen it. And if you have a daughter anywhere between the ages of zero and 30, I bet you’d like to put Hannah Montana into a box and catapult her off this planet for not only nose-diving what could have been a performance of musical talent, but also for failing to reproduce even the slightest likeness to her Walt Disney manufactured image of positive role model. Shame on you Miley Cyrus.
Or wait, maybe it’s shame on Billy Ray Cyrus for not jumping up on stage, dragging her off while yelling at her to go put on some pants and that she’s also grounded from her iPhone.
Or maybe it’s shame on parents for ever buying into the image presented to us in the first place.
Or maybe the line of standards we keep re-drawing is too blurred….
All I’m sure of is that I’m trying to guide an intelligent, beautiful young girl towards a life filled more good decisions than bad and Miley Cyrus scares the hell out of me.
I’m pretty sure Madonna’s burning crosses and stigmata music videos scared the hell out of my mother too, come to think of it. I used to wonder why my Madonna tapes would often get replaced with Simon & Garfunkel until I realized she was just trying to keep me under a good influence, guided by a part of her own youth. Of course that never stopped me from listening to Madonna or ripping holes in my pretty lace tights, but even now, when I need to feel home and something familiar, The Concert in Central Park is what brings me there.
I can’t ever undo or shield her from the influences of all the Miley Cyruses in the world, but that won’t stop me from trying. I can however take heart in knowing my daughter has more Billy Joel on her iPod than Justin Bieber and the day I find stirrup pants in her closet is the day I rule the world.