Monday, August 26, 2013

Twerk This!!

Dear Little M,

Apparently, your parents are the only two people in the Western Hemisphere who did not see the Miley Cyrus spectacle on the VMAs last night.  How were we supposed to know that by watching Cars 2 on DVD instead, we were depriving you (and ourselves) of several teachable moments?

We'll start with the fact that I had no clue what "twerking" was, even though my Facebook feed was completely littered with the word, thus implying that everyone else on earth knew what the hell it was.  So, I did what any reasonable person would do in such circumstances and consulted the infallible reference library that is Wikipedia... which, incidentally, was no help.   Describing twerking as "the most popular dance move since the Dougie" really did not clear matters up for me, Wikipedia.  I know exactly one dance move, which I have dubbed the "Drunken Karaoke Pantomime", and I'm sticking with it.  It's not exactly like other wedding attendees moonlight as judges on "So You Think You Can Dance", so I'm not terribly concerned.

Since Wikipedia was a dead end, I had to resort to YouTube.  YouTube scares me.  The only time I've ever used it was when you were a baby and you would stop fussing whenever you saw that Godawful McDonald's Filet o' Fish commercial that is played during Lent.   You know which one I'm talking about...heaven knows, we can both sing it left, right and sideways....

Give me back that Filet o' Fish
Give me that Fish
Give me back that Filet o' Fish
Give me that fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiish

I had exhausted my other avenues, so I researched "Miley Cyrus" and "twerking" on YouTube.   In summary, I'd like to bleach my eyes, and my brain, and quite possibly my ears.   I now understand why my own mother forbade MTV back in the olden days of the 1980s, but seriously.  Seriously.  As compared to this spectacle, 1980s Madonna looks like a futuristic cousin of a character on Little House on the Prairie.   These are words that I thought I'd never say, but I long for the wholesome times of the late 1990s when an underage Britney Spears tramped it up in a Catholic school uniform.  I shudder to think about what you will wistfully compare Miley-gate to when you have children.  Sadly, for you, these probably are the good-old days when things were relatively wholesome.  In other news, societal devolution marches on.

Well, anyway, I think I now know what twerking is.  I'm still not entirely sure how the lewd integration of both teddy bears and foam fingers factors into the art of twerking; however, I am entirely certain that I definitely don't ever, ever, ever want to know that piece.

In response to that spectacle, I could spew venom...more or less ad nauseum...about the over-sexualization of young girls, about how young girls exploit themselves, and make Miley Cyrus a representative example of all the things wrong with the world, but I won't.  Not because better minds than mine already have, but because Miley Cyrus is someone's daughter.  She is someone's little girl just like you are my little girl... and I would knock the ever-living lights out of someone who verbally assaulted my little girl, no matter how poor her decisions were.

Think about this, though, sweet Little M...not only is Miley Cyrus someone's little girl, there is a really good chance that someday she will be someone's mother.  Teachable moment #1--before you do something particularly outrageous or graphic, think about your future children watching it someday. Forget about your parents watching it.  Think of your children.  Could you imagine any circumstance where you found a video of me prancing around in vinyl underwear and shaking my ass in the air and not being completely horrified????

The real teachable moment, though, is so much bigger than the VMAs.  It's seen pretty much every single day in every single person's life.

I want you to think about what you're trying to say and what you are trying to actually accomplish after  you get someone's attention.

Yes.  I want you to be thoughtful in your actions so that you achieve what you intend to achieve.

You are 5 years old.  This probably makes no sense to you and that's okay.  This concept doesn't make a hell of a lot of sense to most people at 30, or 40, or 50 either.

As a culture, we've devolved to the point that we spend so much of our precious time trying to get the attention of others---only the problem is that most of us stop trying once we actually get that attention.  Think about this for a second, and think about it like a 5 year old.  When you are in school, you raise your hand when you want to get your teacher's attention...and when you do, you are expected to actually SAY or DO something.  You are expected to accomplish something.  THAT'S how this is supposed to work.  

So few of us, particularly the adults, actually remember this.  Attention is the conduit.  It isn't intended to be the final destination.   Somehow, as a culture, we have forgotten this.  We attempt to outdo each other and we outdo ourselves trying to get attention in increasingly outrageous ways.  We scream louder and louder when a whisper would suffice.  We bang on tables, and call each other names, and throw magnificent tantrums...each one louder than the that we're "heard".  It's gotten so far that we often ignore, or simply don't hear, those people who still attempt to behave and conduct themselves reasonably in a world gone mad.  We call those people "boring" with a level of contempt and disdain normally reserved for people who commit violent crimes.  We'd rather be showboating assholes (albeit, colorful showboating assholes, but assholes nonetheless) than boring.  Who would ever want to be boring?

I like boring.  Boring rocks.  Boring is cool. Guess what?

I want you to like boring, too.

Boring is knowing what you're trying to accomplish and acting in a civilized way to achieve that goal.  It's asking the question "is my behavior bringing me closer to what I actually want, or is it bringing me further away?"

Let's use the VMAs as an example.  Miley Cyrus got certainly got the world's attention last night, but what do you think she was trying to achieve?  Was it to be considered a creative, innovative artist?  Was it to be a respected public figure?  Was it to remain in the limelight just a little bit longer?  Instead, she has the world talking, and very little of that talk is good and even less of it is kind.  I can't imagine that's what she wanted.

And let's look at some real world examples.   When some people are hurt, instead of telling the offending party that their feelings are hurt, they will yell and scream and name call.  When some people receive the wrong order in a restaurant, they will bash the wait staff, the kitchen and the management of the restaurant.  They will put the offending party "in their place."

Here's the problem- putting offending people "in their place" in the form of a spectacle may certainly get attention, but more often than not, the original problem still remains after the fact.   You can call someone an asshole, or an incompetent asshole, or an inconsiderate asshole all you want, but that won't get you the right dinner order, and that won't prevent someone from hurting you again.

Be boring, Little M.  Know what you're trying to accomplish and make that your focus.  And always remember, you already know the proper order of things:  the important part happens AFTER you raise your hand and AFTER you get called on.