“I was disappointed by this song, I used to like Miley, but not anymore,” my friend tells me as a Miley Cyrus song plays on the radio of the bus that we were in.
“Why? What’s it about?” I ask, I don’t really have informed opinions on the lives and songs of pop stars. In fact most of the time I don’t even know who they are anymore.
“She really wants you to know that she’s not a little girl anymore,” my friend tactfully says.
“Unh, they all do that,” the conversation continued on to a one sided discussion about Amanda Bynes. I don’t even know who that is. My friend is a few years younger than me, so I suppose these are the Britney’s and Christina’s of her age group. I talk to my friend about a pattern I see repeated over and over again, they start as sweet innocents singing songs about first kisses and first crushes. Then around their 18th birthday (right when they’re legal) their necklines plunge, their hemlines rise, their hair turns a different color, usually a tattoo happens, and their songs get exponentially more explicit.
Their whole image seems to revolve around men. They are either singing sweetly about boys or naughtily about boys. Very few talk about themselves outside of relationships with men. Packaging Girlhood talks about the marketing that is directed at young women; girls are given two categories they can either be ‘for the boys’ or ‘of the boys.’ You can be an attractive cheerleader, cheering men on; ‘for the boys.’ Or you can be a tomboy, playing sports with the men, ‘of the boys.’ Oddly enough all the women I know that have been cheerleaders exist without relationship to men. Same goes for all the tomboys I know.
For the rest of that bus ride I mused about my own ‘coming of age.’ Our culture lacks a true rite of passage into adulthood. Most of us just stumble forward on a time continuum; graduate high school, go to college, get job, get married, buy house, and have children. At some point you scratch your noggin and think, ‘I guess I’m an adult now.’ I thought about when I really felt that I came into my own, really felt like I was my own person. My mind skipped over the two years after I graduated college. I did date someone. Then I broke up with him and was on my own for a long time. I traveled, I took up a sport, I spent long hours in prayer and reflection. These were the years that finished that honing that college had started. I left my home state, moved halfway across the country, and felt that I was my own woman.
When I felt the most myself I was without a man.
Huh, I ‘came of age’ without a man.
When I met the man who was to become my husband I felt an adult. My coming of age had nothing to do with sex.
Isn’t that funny?