Anyone that's been following the news over the past week or so has heard of the meltdown of Britney Spears. It's been fodder for gossip hounds, the mainstream media loves it, and I suspect comedians have been feeding off it all along. Very funny. A young woman falls apart (no doubt due in part to drugs and/or alcohol), and we all have a good laugh.
In the end, it's a tragedy. Some people are claiming that she tried twice in one night to kill herself. Boy, my sides hurt from laughing at that one. Those close to her say she is- at best- a poor mother, possibly even completely unfit. Geez, I can't breathe for laughing.
What's wrong with this story? Look, she is an enormously lucky young woman. I'm not a fan of hers, and I frankly wouldn't recognise any of her music if I heard it- which is doubtful since I don't listen to commercial radio, and certainly not Top 40. But nevertheless, to make it as big as she did is winning the lottery in a big way. So hey, God bless her for that.
But somewhere, it all went tragically wrong.
First off, she rose to the top of her chosen profession when she was barely old enough to vote. By the time she hit legal drinking age, she was worth, I gather, somewhere in the neighborhood of $75 million (or more). That's almost inconceivable. To have the money to do anything you want, and know you'll never ever have to work or struggle again, when you're likely, from a statistical standpoint, to live another 50+ years is just something most people could never imagine. Nor I suspect could most people deal with it.
And the entertainment business chews people up. We all know it. They're obsessed with youth, of course, and beauty. Ms. Spears had both-even if some of her looks came from plastic surgery, which is certainly possible. So given the enormous success of her most recent CD, which I guess is at least several years old, she had won the jackpot. It's all downhill from here, baby.
I wonder if she knew that. From what I've seen and heard, she's hardly the sharpest knife in the drawer, but I can't believe she didn't realize-at least on some level- that it was all gonna be downhill. If you sell 7 or 8 million records (sorry, cds) by age 20, odds are that even if you last in the music business for another 20 years, you'll never do it again. Hell, you might not even sell that many total for the rest of your career.
Talk about instant gratification. You can afford anything before you can legally buy half the fun stuff, and have free time since you apparently only need to work a few months out of the year. Surprisingly, she apparently started going out to clubs and drinking. Probably doing a few other mind-altering things as well, I suspect.
Again, why not? You go out, people freak out at the sight of you, fawn over you and tell you how incredible you are. You're on top of the proverbial world. As far as anyone can tell. But when you're home, and all alone... perhaps you wonder if it's all true. And you wish you had someone near you that could talk to you, and listen to you.
Of course, none of what I'm saying is new. It's been done to death, in fact. But it's still true, and in this case might even bear remembering.
When a person is 21 and frankly still immature, in a position where true friends are pretty unlikely, then it's up to one's family to keep one grounded. And personally, I doubt her family was a lot of good at this. They might try, but probably not hard enough. And my understanding is that the normal ones in her family-her dad and brother- were back home in Dixie, while the Spears women are all in Los Angeles.
So here you are. You're barely into your 20s, you're an attractive young woman (talented also, we'll assume for the sake of argument), rich, and successful. You've got it all, and you got it when you're young enough to enjoy it. You can do it all, and have it all, just like the media tells you women can do. I'm woman, hear me roar and all that. Or, perhaps girls just wanna have fun. Maybe both. Why not? It's your right as a woman.
So you start to realize that there's only one thing you don't have to be complete. A child. If one is of the old-fashioned ilk, there's also the matter of a loving relationship with a great man, so you can have the perfect life. Yup, you go out and look glamorous, get adored by all your fans, and then go home to your doting husband and your perfect kids. You're ready for it, right? Of course right. You don't need to work on your career like most young women, you've met a hot(!) guy, and you're only 22. Still ahead of the curve, aren't we?
So you get married, and promptly get pregnant. Wonderful! You've got the perfect guy, why wait more than a few months to start a family. Kids are great, you know you'll be a great mother, cuz hubby and your fans all say so.
Congratulations! You're now on your way to becoming a feminist icon, right?
But a funny thing happens. Your new baby cries all the time. He demands all your attention. You realise that your instincts only take you so far, and then there are things you don't know. And you didn't bother to learn them, because you're rich and fabulous. Hell, you already hired a nanny before the baby was born, so you could still have your career. Nothing wrong there, either.
Then you realise that you don't have the time to go to the movies when you want. Or go clubbing with your friends. Even the big publicity machine can develop problems if baby is sick. And people are now watching how you hold your baby, how much time you spend holding your baby, how your baby acts when you hold it, and so on. The slightest mistake gets you under even more scrutiny than you're used to.
And then you realise your husband is a loser. Sure, you knew he didn't have a career, but it doesn't matter. You have more money than you need. Unless he keeps spending at his current pace. And of course, you have a hard time getting out if he's always out with his boys (or girls, as the case may be). And sometimes you go out together. And you let your hair down, cuz hey- you're young and fabulous.
And people criticise you for being out at the bar getting drunk when you have a baby at home.
And gradually, it begins to spin out of control. You have another baby, in a surprisingly short time. And now your concerns double. Now if one kid doesn't need something, the other does. And your husband is busy trying to get his career going, using more of your money. And all people are doing is laughing at him, and laughing at you for supporting him. So he tries even harder to prove he's his own man, and that he can succeed. And he talks himself up, and people laugh. So he has to try harder yet. And he goes to clubs to get "seen", and try to promote himself. And you sit at home, bored, frustrated, and tired of dealing with kids.
Well, you decide to dump your hubby. And he starts trying to get millions of dollars out of you, since he's a flop, reduced to making fun of himself for money. And you're trying to kick-start your own career, so you can get back on top where you belong. Only that isn't going so well either. The record label thinks the new stuff you're doing is crap. People are now laughing at you. It's looking like it's all over. Congrats, and welcome to the Real World. You're 24 and washed up.
So it's back out to the clubs, hanging with the other Beautiful People. But a lot of them won't be seen with you, since you're now a second-rate celebrity. And the ones that will go out with you are pretty trashy. So you're going down....
And now the instant gratification gene kicks back in. Hell, you wanted to be rich and famous, and that only took a few years. You wanted to "have it all", and you did it within a couple more years. When you look in the mirror and realise you aren't the pert-breasted, flat-bellied nymph anymore, call for some liposuction. Now, you want to be a sex symbol again, so you go out dressed like a slut.
And people laugh. They shouldn't be laughing, you're fabulous. You're Britney.
So you're lacking friends, your career is looking like it's over, and your kids are driving you nuts. But you still have other outlets. Like sex. Sex is good. You like sex. It's fun, and it sometimes even proves that someone "loves" you, right? Isn't that what sex is about? Except when it's about your old friend, instant gratification. It feels good, so what the hell. After all- that's another piece of being a modern, 21st century woman. Enjoying sex, with either men or women. Or both. Or a toy. Or your hands, or anything else that comes to mind.
And you hook up with other guys that are losers. And when it doesn't last- and why should it, you're a mess and they're using you to be "seen", they show their true colors by telling everyone what a slut you are. But hey, that's "Slut" in the good sense, right?
And in the end, you become a slutty looking overweight woman in her mid-20s. You look and sound like the trailer trash everyone accuses you of being. (They never said that when you were at the top of the music charts, did they?) You have two babies, and you've figured out what millions of people across the country know, even though they've never met you: You weren't ready to be a parent. Nor were you really ready to settle down and be married.
And you hit the bottom. Your career? Finished. Your personal life? A shambles. And you have to face the 50 or so years of the rest of your life. Starting today. Because now people in the entertainment business are starting to ignore you, or even to smack you down in the media. And you remember what they say about kicking someone when they're down. Well you're down, and don't look like you'll be getting up anytime soon.
So have a drink or ten. Spend more time away from your kids. Get drunk, puke in your vehicle, fall asleep in clubs, wear clothes that are too slutty for a childless, hard-bodied nymph, and hang out with racist, drugged out sluts that are famous for far less than you. Sure, it looks bad, but what do you have to lose?
Your children, your pride, and what's left of your reputation. And you try rehab and it just sounds too tough. Besides, it takes a whole month. That's too long for you. By then, you'll need to be back with your family, on the road to your comeback.
And eventually, you wind up outside your estranged husband's house, looking to everyone there- and through the magic of the internet, the whole world; like a crazy, drunken loser of a woman. The same people that called your husband a loser and a poor parent are talking about how lucky the kids are to have him, and rooting for him to take you to court and get custody.
Congratulations. You're a feminist icon for the 21st century. It's great when celebrity, the "instant gratification" generation, youth, and the feminist desire to "have it all" meet, isn't it? Right in the middle of the intersection? It's just like one big happy media bloodbath.
Good luck kid. You need it.