Miley Cyrus, you made me laugh when you told Matt Lauer that sex stops for the over-40 set. Oh, I just slapped my knee and guffawed when Lauer revealed he was 55 and you said, "Oh, then you're really, definitely not sexual." Ouchies, Miley! I'm 59. Girlfriend, may I share a hilarious assumption about your age group, too?
First, happy birthday, doll! You'll be 21 on Nov. 23, right? I remember being 21. The red-blooded bloom of hormones makes sex feel like the end all and be all. It's urgent, pressing, and palpable. It feels like your very own invention. Now this may stop you in mid-twerk but the truth is, you haven't discovered anything new. In the big picture, simulating sex on stage may be naughty and exciting to tweeners, but it's a seen-it-before yawn to those in the know.
For an artist, that's a big ouchie since originality is key. I hate to disappoint you, but sexual antics are garden-variety stuff. Nudity may seem bold but hardly novel. Honey, I fear your riding astride naked on a wrecking ball may be a prophetic metaphor.
This is my birthday advice: Too much sizzle leads to fizzle. Don't let this be you!
Yes, I realize you expect such nonsense from someone my age. But too many a young entertainer thinks scandal or sensationalism is necessary to stand out or the only way to leap into a newer, more exciting persona. It's such a predictable march, so are you just another performer goose-stepping along?
Sure, there are many singers who have used shock value with success in their careers. Look at Madonna. I can remember the raging controversies Madonna courted in her early career. (Later in her life, I read that The Material Girl did not allow her own children to watch a lot of TV. Pretty ironic, huh?) But love her or hate her, Madonna endures through talent and for always evolving as an artist. It remains to be seen if you can pull that off over time, too.
But right now I'm a little worried about you.
I know, Miley. Sexuality is a badge worn fearlessly by the new guard, but there are no new sheriffs in town. The law of biology has been in place since the dawn of time, and overt sexual expression dates back to the ancients. Please. I was raised in the sixties and seventies in San Francisco, and today's concerts would pale in comparison to what went on at the music festivals held in Golden Gate Park's Speedway Meadows back in the day.
What is different now is that technology allows for bad judgment to replay to a global audience ad infinitum.
Let me ask you, what is the line between acting out sexual independence versus affirming sexual stereotypes? The Feminist movement was about overcoming limited perceptions, such as women as sex objects. Over forty years ago women said, "No! I'm more than that. Don't presume or impose that on me!" Yet today, a disconnect remains. Today's female message seems to be, "I can choose to be a plaything, and I do!" Are you playing a part in sending that message?
Miley, all I'm saying is that who you think you are at 21 will be very different when you're 30, and more so (Gasp! Horrors!) when you're over 40.
You may think that I (and other fuddy-duddies) don't "get you" because, as you pointed out, interest in sex wanes after 40. Fair point. Kids, career, responsibilities, and yes, the wind-down of the biological clock, bring different things into focus -- like perspective and maturity! Hormones, money, and freedom are a combustible lot. Don't set yourself on fire. Those who stake an identity on sexuality have to keep raising the shenanigans bar to live up to a contrived image. A "whoa buddy" might be in order, somebody who says, "Whoa, buddy! Is that a good idea?"
I do "get you," Miley, more than you realize. The lens of maturity may seem oh-so-boring, but you'll be changing your glasses soon enough. Trust me.
And you're right. Lots of others are doing the same thing, if not worse. So why am I picking on you? On your birthday, no less! Well, I don't want to see you crash and burn. It's getting harder for me to separate the turnoff from your talent, and I fear the blur will be an unfavorable tipping point.
Right again, Miley! Who am I really? Not a celebrity of your stature, not an expert, and for crying out loud, I'm old enough to be your great aunt. In your world, case closed. But I'll still pull rank using that card.
Is it fair to say we project an image of who we think we are? They call you the Queen of Twerk. Oh, Miley, you'd laugh. I had to look it up! I learned that twerking is a sexually provocative, low squatting, up-and-down bounce movement in dancing. The linguists think that twerk may derive from the words, twist and jerk. To me, twerk could derive from a "twenty-something who's a jerk" when referring to the arrogant and immature.
I really like you and your music, Miley, so I'm just sayin'.
Email Suzette Martinez Standring: firstname.lastname@example.org Her new book, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists will be published in early 2014 through RRP International. Suzette is syndicated with GateHouse Media for her spirituality blog, http://www.patriotledger.com/community/blogs/spiritual-cafe
She teaches writing workshop nationally.