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I'm scrolling through Facebook and an ad comes up for those MasterClasses. You know the ones: "Learn acting from Kevin Spacey, tennis from Venus
and something from somebody famous," blah, blah.
I see the voice class one with Christina Aguilera. The slick three-second video looked cool, so I clicked
on it to watch the entire thing. It was fun to watch this
"master" and I was excited to show it to my almost 10-year-old, Aria. I'm
always wanting to show her what goes on behind all the polished, perfect
performances. I want to teach her about blood, sweat, tears, hard
work, ya-da, ya-da.
In the little blurb video Christina talks about recording
the song "Beautiful" and some inside details about what went on during that
session. I then went to play the song for Aria. She loved it.
Cue to: morning with both kids in my bed, Aria and
my 5.5 year old AJ. We're all listening to music on Spotify and Aria plays "Beautiful" for AJ. He loves a good ballad. They both demand to seek out the video. "Sure! Let's all check
it out," I say. I've never seen the video either.
The video loads, and first I have an inner-chuckle about the
cheesiness of the art direction, make-up, hair and wardrobe. It's all so early 2000s. Mind you, what happens next all takes place over the course of
maybe 140 seconds.
The carefully plotted and art-directed story unfolds.
An emaciated teenager, ribs protruding and in nothing but underwear, scrutinizes herself in the mirror.
I start to editorialize.
"Oh, she's probably checking out a new bathing suit!"
"Yah, in a really creepy room … " Aria chimes in.
Then a super skinny boy starts lifting weights, pulling
furiously at his relentlessly thin arms.
"Um, he seems to be in pain," I say.
Then, another self-hating teen with image
issues appears mid-scenario and then another and another. Each is dark, somber and depressed,
suffering through their various self-imagined afflictions.
After a few of these, I couldn't editorialize any more. I
just sort of let it play out, hoping it would soon end, saying things like "Oh right, see, all these people
are just really 'beautiful' but maybe they don't feel that way at the moment."
The blatant men making out for some reason felt like too much in this moment. I hated myself in this moment.
As someone who has personally suffered self-directed emotional and physical attacks as a teen, this all stuck a chord. I was squirming. While it was all too visually abstract for my kids to extract an exact meaning, I still couldn't wait until it was over. I figured, rather than call attention to this by shutting it off, I'd let it play. Because what the heck, it's a few
cryptic moments, they'll probably soon forget them, right?
And then, a new scenario: two men sit on a train and start
furiously making out. I'm talking full on sensual, tongues intertwined, mid-air.
The kids giggled. They giggle when anyone kisses. They giggle when cartoon
character kiss. But here there were giggles on top of giggles.
"Oh, it's just two people in love, guys … "
AJ was not having it.
"Two BOYS KISSING?!"
I sort of mumbled, yah, boys kiss boys, girls kiss girls, we
can kiss whomever we love, you know the full on drill.
The male lovers appeared yet again, even more sensually
kissing this time. And then something came over me that totally took me by
surprise. I wanted to shut off the video. It was too much. Too much kissing. Too much big kissing. Too much in your face kissing. And, to my surprise, for some reason, I had a momentary flash of ... too much men kissing ... Wow, what??? Did I really just think that? What's that all about?!
I am the least homophobic for a zillion reasons that I won't get into.
This has nothing to do with homophobia of any kind on my part. I couldn't help wonder if on some deep unconscious level, if we are born heterosexual, do we come into this world with a hard wired coding for hetero-normative sexuality and extend this "wish" upon on our kids?
I certainly don't give a single hoot what my kids' sexuality will be, but the blatant men making out for some reason felt like too much in this moment. This fact really disturbed me. I hated myself in this moment. We have several same-sex couples in our family and world and I have told my kids many times "you can marry whoever you want!" But wow, did I have an unconscious wish for my
son to be uniquely impressed by hetero-normative images?
I was super relieved to soon learn that it was indeed the overt kissing that felt like too much. The following week, I had a rabid instinct for my daughter to close her eyes when there was a make out kiss in "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants."
"Close your eyes now!!"
Oh! I thought. This is a relief! OK, OK. It's my general sense that my kids are not ready for this type of display of "affection." The deep kiss, even though it was just a kiss, felt way too sexual.
My instinct to shield my kids from the three seconds of men kissing was no different from wanting to do so if it were a man and a woman or two women. But still, I didn't shut off the video in the moment. I wanted to. But then, I thought to myself, what kind of crazy message is that? Just let it go. It's love, it's beautiful. Yes, it's in your face, but calling attention to it, shaming it and shutting it off, especially because it was two men, would for sure send a message that would actually stick with them.
It would be the wrong message and one I could never stand behind. I explained to them again that love is love, and that's what adults do when they really love each other. Love is a gift, wherever it comes from.