Tag Archives: Madonna

This (diet coke filled, boy crazed, jean wearing) American Life

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I was fortunate enough to go to a boarding school for high school.  This was not because my parents were rich or I got an amazing scholarship, no.  It’s because my parents worked for a company that paid for it.  Maybe you think that a fifteen year old is too young to leave home?  Well, let me tell you, I was nervous, but I was ready.  My raging teen hormones had reached a level that was seriously conflicting with my mom’s menopausal hormones.

Hey nature!  This is a stupid trick!  Menopause should be dependent on when your child leaves home.  If they stay forever, at least you’ll be able to think, “gee, I never had to go through that damn menopause crap.”  After all, you’ll have to find some bright nugget if your kid is still at home on their 50th birthday.

I sat down before my prospective school catalogues.  They were all on the East Coast, except for a Catholic all girls school in Washington State.  Yea.  Right. Like I would consider that.  I started taking note of the ratios of girls to boys. Once I had narrowed the stack of catalogues down to the few that had at most a ratio of 1:3 I began to look at the stock photography.  Well.  Sure, I can lay on the grass in New England like anyone.  BUT, can I do it in a uniform? Ew!  I was totally grossed out.  Out of the stack went a few more catalogues.  I was down to two.

Blair Academy and Suffield Academy.

Essentially the same schools, just slightly different New England locations.  One was in New Jersey and one was in Connecticut.  Did I mention that I had the option to go anywhere in the world?  You’d think that at a time like this your parents would step in and tell you that “you are an IDIOT! Go to Spain!  Go to Italy!  Go to Aruba!”  Instead, they left the decision up to me.

I was an American teenager living in Saudi Arabia, and I have to admit, I missed the idea of being American.

The idea of being American to my teenage self: hanging out with Cory Haim and Cory Feldman, drinking can after can of diet Coke, going to the mall, wearing current styles (not the styles of 6-12 months ago.  Madonna was already on to her pointed bra stage when we were sporting lace gloves and perms), listening to boom boxes while people break-danced on a piece of cardboard next to me, going to fast food restaurants (with my boys, Cory and Cory), and for some reason imagining boy after boy hanging on my every word.

I was going to be an American in America!

I poured over the catalogues again.  Suffield or Blair.  Blair or Suffield. This was a big important decision.  I put it off.  I turned 15.  Time was running out.  I grabbed those catalogues a final time.  My best friend was going to Suffield.  This should be a no brainer.  BUT. Suffield didn’t allow jeans as a part of their dress code.  How the hell were boys going to fall madly in love with me if I couldn’t wear jeans?  Really?  Sorry BFF.

It came down to you or the jeans, and I chose the jeans.

The ratio of girls to boys wasn’t too shabby either.  I was outnumbered 3 to 1.

I packed my 15-year-old valuables, which consisted of my vast tape cassette collection and  jeans.  We flew to New Jersey.  We got lost at least ten times. Then, in our rented van, “Red Red Wine” came on the radio.  I stopped listening to my parents argue about directions.  I looked out the window.  There were gorgeous giant trees.  There were rolling hills.  This was actually quite beautiful. Maybe I’d learn to drink some red wine at a place like this.  We pulled up the “driveway” along with the exquisite cars of the other parents that were making giant pools of drool fall from my dad’s lips.  I unpacked and settled in.  My parents left.  Without shedding a tear, I might add.

I was free.

I was at boarding school!

I ate raisin-ettes by the crateful, danced to Two Live Crew with my best friends, I fell in and out of love (sometimes in the same day), and sometimes I scrounged up enough change in the couches to buy a diet Coke.

It’s official:  I was American.

Not quite all I hope for.  As I traveled back and forth across the word, writing love letters to my boyfriend of the moment (who was NEITHER CORY) I started to see the reality.

No one I knew could breakdance.

Most people ate McDonald’s DAILY, and it showed.  Sometimes the ratio of boys to girls means there’s more boys around, but our of that 3:1 ratio, 1/3 are red necks, 1/3 are gay, and the other 1/3 are not even close to resembling a Lost Boy. Americans really did have a tendency to be loud.  They often exhibited a certain arrogance.  While traveling, they were unattractive in almost every way (myself included – never could handle that red red wine – memorably demonstrated on a flight to Amsterdam when I released that red red wine in a most unglamourous fashion).  What had I done?

The important thing here is that I got my wish.  I was born American and I had returned to my country of origin.  But I missed my shwarmas.  I missed the random garbage smell that would knock you over from a mysterious direction.  I missed the incense.  I missed the women in their black abayas casting sheepish, curious glances our way.  I (almost) missed the stares of the Arab boys, because in Saudi I was different.  I was blonde.  That was enough.  In New Jersey, I was one of many (yes, I know you are weeping for my hardship).  But I kept my bubble strong.

With denim.

I wore jeans almost every day for three years.  And while I never saw either of the Corys, but I did see Lou Reed.  Americana personified.  Black leather, sunglasses, in the rolling hills of Jersey.

Good thing I was sporting my jeans.  I’m sure it mattered to Lou.

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I want my MTv!

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I have been fortunate to travel a LOT in my life.  Well, when I was a kid, at least.  Now I am a “Grown Up” and I have to pay for my own travel, and to be honest, I haven’t been out of the country in 9 years.  And that was to Canada.  I no longer have an active passport, and I’ve had a passport since I was 9 years-old.  In those travel years I went all over the world.  I walked along the Great Wall, I took a flash photograph of the Mona Lisa (out of focus – DAMN!), I even climbed a pyramid in Egypt… but most important to me was the hotel room television showing MTv.  It’s true.  Hate to admit it, but there it is.  MTv.  It was new.  It actually consisted of ONLY music television… not reality shows about actor people in rehab.  Bah!  It was Madonna and her Material World, and the Beastie Boys, and Duran Duran.  I could watch it for hours and hours on end.  World history outside my window.  Wellllll…. I guess I could go climb that ancient wonder of the world… right after Corey Hart finishes singing Sunglasses at Night.

I grew up in Saudi Arabia, in the 80’s and 90’s.  There was no MTv.  It was forbidden.  Actually most television was forbidden.  We had a local station that showed edited version of Benson (yes, Benson had to be edited) and occasionally I could find a Punky Brewster episode on the Bahrain network, but there were few options apart from the Indian Movie of the Week.  That may sound fun to you, now that everyone is into Bollywood.  We have sort of adopted India because all of our employees live there.

Soon we’ll be wearing saris and treating our cows much better.

But the Indian Movie of the Week was something entirely different.  I don’t think it translates well into this culture.  Sometimes we’d attempt to watch it, because there would alway be a hilariously strange musical number and a Bollywood scene.  Between those entertaining bits, there would undoubtedly be a murder or a dead baby or something horribly graphic.  Imagine that.  You’re watching SAW and after a particularly horrifying scene, the victims start dancing and singing, in unison with their killer, all in a choreographed parade of bright colors and twangy music.

Needless to say, when I saw MTv for the first time (I remember it SO well) I was completely hypnotized.  Remember that, all you parents out there who don’t allow your kids to watch t.v.  It still exists, and when your kids do finally get to watch it, they’re going to turn into completely obsessed couch potatoes.  I was in Idaho on vacation (okay, not all of our trips of historical greatness), staying with my best friend.  She had MTv (who didn’t?).  We had a sleep over every night, talked about boys incessantly, fretted over the changes our bodies were making (well, I fretted, she enthused), ate junk food, and watched MTv.  She fell asleep around midnight.  Me?  I stayed up the entire night.  I never slept.  I would start to doze, and then there was a CURE marathon.  Oh My God!  My favorite band. I get to see them move and shake and dance!  I kept watching.  In the morning, my friend woke up.  My eyes were glassed over.  She asked if I ever went to sleep.  Well, sure, during the Tiffany video I nodded off.  I must admit.  But then I heard The Reflex, and I couldn’t resist opening my eyes again.  Simon Le Bon!  It was amazing!  What an invention.

I have since relaxed with the music television and no longer find Simon Le Bon attractive.  As I fell victim to the Bouncy Castle Belly Syndrome, he slipped into the British Puffy Faced world of has-been pop stars.  Anyway, it’s hard to ever even find a music video on MTv.  I still wish I could travel.  It was great to bask on the beaches in Greece, scuba dive with the fish in the Red Sea, ski in Austria, float on top of the salt in the Dead Sea, climb mountains in Switzerland, take a cruise down the Nile, and see musicals in London, between marathon EuroMTv sessions.

I need a passport.  I must travel one day with my daughter.  She needs to know where the Bollywood obsession comes from!  She needs to see the art in Paris.  She needs to taste a Ballisto bar.  She needs to see something other than white people.  It’ll be good to leave our bubble one day, when I can afford it.  At least for the time being we have MTv.

Of course, she’s not allowed to watch it.

The other team’s bubbles

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I remember the first time I identified someone as being “gay.”  He was my junior high social studies teacher.  My parents called him “gay,” kids at school called him “gay,” but all I could see was that he wore giant rings, and his bald head was very shiny.  Like my bubble.

Throughout junior high I remained rather unaware of what this concept really meant.  I had a giant poster of George Michael in my bedroom, wearing a pink t-shirt and short shorts.  I gazed at that poster for hours while my sister and I played the Ouija board, asking the spirits to make George appear in my room, to prove spirit-ness.  My sister got a copy of a picture from someone’s dad who had seen Wham! at an airport. We spent hours drooling over George Michael, and wondering if Andrew had anyone to drool over him.

In high school I pretended to no longer like Wham!  as I started at a new school in the states.  Here we were, late 80’s, posters of Led Zepplin and the Grateful Dead were required, for some weird reason.   I still listened to Madonna and Wham, the Cure and the Pet Shop Boys behind closed doors, but was not brave enough to hang up that beautiful poster of George.

I went home for break when I was 18 (home being overseas – high school being in the U.S.).  I met a new boy.  Oh man, he was sooooo cute.  I couldn’t even stand it!  We hung out a lot, and even though he was a little older, I thought I should at least give it a shot.

By now, being intoxicated and blonde should have at least gotton me to first base, friend or not (this is what I learned in high school).

So, I made my inebriated and likely rather messy move.  I ran strongly, confidently, boldly – into the firm and bouncy, yet impenetrable wall of my bubble.

DENIED!

My epiphany took months. I never thought of the possibility that I was completely and utterly wrong for him.  Wait a minute here, he did talk about Madonna an awful lot.  He did have a velvet painting in his room.  He did love to dance. There were signs.  I was just too damn bubble headed to see them.

This hunka burning love went to a few parties in my hometown with me.  He introduced himself as my boyfriend to a couple key players who had been incredibly intimidating to me, back in my junior high days.  One in particular.  She was the social queen of junior high (at least the female queen.  Apparently my social studies teacher had been the actual queen of junior high).  She wanted to eat him up.  She flirted shamelessly.  And what did he do? He told her that he was mine (admit it, you want to hug him, just reading that). That was sweet, especially because he was SO NOT mine.

He was probably hanging out with me, trying to find my old George Michael poster.

So, I learned that this particular boy couldn’t be in my bubble, in that way… but his bubble was pink and shiny, too.  I liked looking at it!  What can I say?  He taught me a lesson in how important it is for every woman to have an exceedingly hot gay friend by her side.  A gay friend can make women jealous, they can make men jealous, and they may steal your Ricky Martin poster – but it’s worth it, isn’t it?

Those gay male friends are always welcome to visit my bubble.  They don’t really need to be in it though.  They have their own shiny, pink bubbles.   And, I must admit, their bubbles are way more fun to dance in.

p.s.  Don’t be a hater.  I didn’t know Matthew Shepard, but he lived close to me, overseas. He was murdered close to me, as well.  If you don’t like something, it’s probably because you don’t understand it.  Eat a banana and be nice.