gratitude-a-thon day 2094: who’s that girl

From the minute I heard Holiday, I was smitten. When Desperately Seeking Susan came out, I was all in–perming my straight hair and tying a scarf thing around it that stuck out of the top of my head like bunny ears. I boasted big earrings, leggings, and piles of bracelets. I fell for her big black sunglasses that were way too big and black for my face.

I sang Lucky Star, Borderline, Like a Virgin, Material Girl and Into the Groove in the shower, mouthing the words like she would. I danced through my house to her music, gyrating and shimmying, and yup, I could Vogue. I was enamored with her swag, her confidence, her carefree middle finger flipped up at the world, as she crooned her way to becoming the “Queen of Pop.” As people threw ugly comments about her voice my way, I’d disagree. When critics said she wasn’t really talented, just hype, I defended her. When her looks continually changed from hip to Marilyn, to pretty, to retro, to demure, to a badass BDSM chic, to Zen vibes, I followed, I sang, I fan girled. I had tickets in the 90s, but she canceled because she was sick. I had tickets seven years ago, and this time I was sick and had to give them away. Our paths never crossed, except in my head. She sang so much of the soundtrack of my life. Yeah, Madonna, I was Crazy for You.

BUT THEN, this. At the Grammy’s she showed up in a face that looked so much like a mask, I wondered if she might take it off and show us that she wasn’t done reinventing herself. No close-ups, but plenty of pictures and chatter, press and memes afterward to discuss what the actual fuck she’d done to herself.

I felt sad.

I get not wanting to look old. I am watching my face change, but honest to God, you can bet your Lucky Star that I would rather look wrinkled than like a marionette, like I had a face that was made of Silly Putty modeled by a three year old with zero artistic skills.

Aging isn’t that easy. It takes acceptance, continual reinvention, and more acceptance. Madonna has always pushed back, but this push back feels in the wrong direction. I mean Express Yourself, sure, but has Madonna given into the insecurity of aging? Instead of letting herself be, has her ego and self-assurance disappeared, manhandling her into a plastic surgeon’s office who takes Groupon discounts? Part of what I’ve loved about her all these decades has been her fearlessness and aplomb at being so comfortable with who she is. Isn’t bowing to the alter of youth culture the most un-Maddonna-ish thing ever?

On the one hand, I am pro doing whatever makes you feel good in the plastic surgery department. On the other hand, I think, why can’t we just accept the way our face changes as we age, and just try and look beautiful in it? Ha! If I had the answer to that, I’d be more famous than The Material Girl.

I guess I’m here to say I’d rather have the creases and crinkly skin, the bags and sags, than look like Frankenstein’s little sister. Don’t Cry for me Argentina, except for a little Botox in my 11s, I’m all natural for now. And if I should decide to go plastic, I won’t be using Madonna’s doctor. It’s not really the awful way she looks that bothers me the most, it’s the fact that she fell to the patriarchy, to the youth-obsessed panel of judges and societal norms that every woman faces once she’s past the age of 16. I thought Madonna was cooler than trying to hang on to what was and was going to determine her own future, like she always has. And somehow I don’t think looking like she looks now was part of that plan. Gratitude for all Madonna gave me in the past–the fun, the moves, the unadulterated joy of pretending I was her while I drove (so nobody could here me, because, well, my voice is about as bad as the way she looks right now), and of course for this reminder to me not to age in a way that makes people ask, Who’s That Girl.

One thought on “gratitude-a-thon day 2094: who’s that girl

  1. I had no idea it was her until I read the Times the next day. An unrecognizable star, (Michael Jackson, Madonna and the Class is 76 all were born in 1958. I’m happy with my wrinkles! Hopefully more came from laughing than crying).

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