I’m laughing at a story about Madonna and her daughter Lourdes at the Vanity Fair Oscar party. Madonna is wearing a lacy, see-through dress with boy shorts that leave half her well-toned, 53 year old buns out on display. Madonna sticks her bottom out at photographers to which Lourdes plaintively says, “Mum, do you have to?” And later, “But you’re always telling me to behave like a grown up.”
I’m laughing because for every shocked report I get of someone’s ‘little cousin who was born just yesterday now taking sexy vanity selfies’ or another one’s ‘pre-teen daughter pouting with one of her t-shirt straps down for Facebook’, I see similar photos of mums in their late thirties and early forties doing exactly the same thing. It’s one thing to have an inner child, but really, an inner teenager?
You’d probably guess, but let me just be clear, I’m not a prude. And I certainly don’t believe any woman, no matter what her age, marital status or body type, should hide that fine light she has under a bushel of clothing or chores or whatever. I’m no stranger to the vanity-selfie and I’m certainly not about to judge.
It’s just that while there’s so much discussion on whether our pre-teens are growing up too fast, there’s not enough on whether their mums (and dads) are growing up simultaneously. While the little ‘uns are experimenting with duck(ling) face and gelled quiffs, their mummies and daddies, with their thriving Facebook and Whatsapp are putting up display photos and albums full of… well, slightly bizarre photos.
I’m going to put some images in your head now. Concentrate. 40 year old woman lost 10 kilos last year, wears tight tank top, skinny jeans, belly button showing, bed-hair, takes off her spectacles so she’s got that unfocussed look, in a series of rather suggestive selfies around her hall; FB album title, Bored. 37 year old, slightly underweight, top angle, showing two inches of cleavage, face squinched up somewhere between duck-face and fish-face; Whatsapp. 42 year fitness fanatic, now 8 kilos overweight, posing sexily, WITH A POLE, making NancyDrewSexy face; FB profile photo. Then there was that couple in tandem sexy-pose in swimsuits. I’d describe it, but my mind’s eye erased the memory, leaving only trauma.
You could forgive them. After all, born in the seventies, ours was the last generation who weren’t really given a proper teen-hood. There were no coffee shops to hang out in, we had ICQ on a dial-up modem with which we had awkward flirtations with people on the other side of the world, (axe-murderers with insomnia, no doubt). Someone took your photograph and you prayed until the print came home and then cried a little. At least I did. Many of us still got our clothes tailored. The ‘Like’ button had not been invented and if anyone spoke of a MILF, it was likely there’d soon be a HWF (husband with fists) involved too.
All the lovely people like us, who had curfews tighter than Madonna’s pants, had to wait to get married to be sexually active, have a social life or even go on holiday.
Then along came the digital age with low-carb diets, pilates, power yoga, body conscious clothes, bars, mothers-in-law with gym memberships and cameras with immediate-check and infinite photos.
Bring on the Adultescent Apocalypse!
I blame this obsession with documentation.
I’ve eavesdropped on conversations between sets of parents, who were planning weekend activities so ribald and debauched they’d make Hugh Hefner seem like Barney the purple dinosaur. But there was also a discussion on The Facebook Album and how it had to be put on Limited or Restricted. On holiday recently, two really very conservative looking women (their swimsuits had skirts and sleeves, okay) were sitting by the pool, talking about how much fun tequila was, how crazy it made them feel and how many ‘likes’ a certain photograph one of them took, got. I know mums whose fitness and beauty routines in addition to their work lives mean they only see their kids at bedtime and on the weekends. These are the same mums who have a new profile photo up at least twice a week.
The children are all ears (and eyes). Already my 12 year old’s classmates are on diets, watching age-inappropriate television while their mothers Zumba and I’m this close to calling at least one young lady and telling her a new fairytale involving the Big Bad Wolf and pre-teen Red taking selfies with her hood slipped off her shoulders!
I do mourn our teen years lost to a country that had not hipped-up enough. But the upside was, our childhood stretched out a little longer and the recklessness of our teens was tempered with pre-adult responsibilities. Also our mothers were there to tell us it was okay and our dads never ever called us fat.
Maybe it is true, social media does make everyone feel like a celebrity. And in small doses, that’s okay. But if you’re worried your child is growing up too fast, maybe its time to curfew your inner-teen, embrace your fabulous forties with panache, replace vanity with self-esteem for both you and your little human and stop with this Main Bhi Madonna baloney.