The first and only time I ever skipped school was junior
year in high school. My mission was
worth the risk: Madonna tickets were going on sale at noon, and I
intended to buy four for me and my friends. When I returned to school, my algebra teacher could smell my guilt. "Where've you been, Miss Tate?" I crumbled like an Oreo dunked in warm milk. "Ticketmaster for Madonna tickets." She let me off with a single detention, and
two months later we sat in our floor seats at Reunion Arena in Dallas, in thrall
to the music, the mayhem and spectacle that was Madonna's "Like a Prayer"
She was the perfect idol for a repressed Catholic school
girl like me. I watched her videos, spent my allowance on her tapes (it was the late 1980s) and corralled all my friends to see her movie "Truth or Dare" in 1991. When I was 16, I needed an idol who was everything I wasn't.
In the intervening years, life has interfered with my Madonna hobby. I now lose track of her for months at a time because I'm busy emptying diaper pails and searching for that elusive unicorn of motherhood: work-life balance.
Recently, I caught up with her again. My Facebook feed was full of commentary about her newest video "Bitch, I'm Madonna," which has been described as "a party anthem," that showcases the now 57-year-old Madonna "romping" through Manhattan hotels in her perfect body and making out with some young guy in the hallway.
I want an idol who lets us peek behind the curtain of celebrity to glimpse some flaws. Any flaw. Something that makes her seem relatable.
By all accounts, she should be a bigger idol to me now. She's showing the world how sexy a woman can be at any age. She's rocking out at the age I plan to be packing it up and motoring around the country in pedal pushers with a purse full of Metamucil. In interviews, she's explicitly stating that she hopes to kick down doors so that the next generation of women won't have to deal with ageism.
All of that is admirable, entertaining and inspiring. I don't want her to stop, or God forbid, "act her age." I salute her being the raunchiest of us all and parading around with her fishnet stockings and assless chaps. You go girl.
But in terms of idols, I needs something different today than I did back in high school. I need someone to look up to who is more like me, someone who struggles , at least a little bit, as I do. I need someone who has a butt that giggles, skin that wrinkles, and a back that aches, yet still carries on.
More than that, I want an idol who lets us peek behind the curtain of celebrity to glimpse some flaws. Any flaw. Something that makes her seem relatable. There's none of that with Madonna for me. The gulf between us is too wide. I've gotten soft in my old age. My idols have too, which is, ironically, why I look up to them. They've gone soft and carried on, as I hope to do myself. For example, I'm never going to look like my daughter's sister. I'm all mother, all the time, no matter how much concealer I use.
Madonna, though, she's (still) all hard body and perfect skin, and damn if she doesn't look like Lourdes' sister. I'm glad she's out there doing her thing, but it's too far away from my thing to keep her perched in my imagination as my idol. That ship has passed.