Sadie Says… Make Some Noise
Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not strong enough
Don’t give up
There’s nothing wrong with just being yourself
That’s more than enough
So come on and raise your voice
Speak your mind
make some noise
And sing – Hey! Hey! Make some noise
Use your voice. Make some noise
So in case you couldn’t tell, that was a song lyric. Not a terribly sophisticated song lyric but a song lyric nonetheless. But it’s a pop song that is sung by a chick whose audience is primarily teens and tweens, so there you go. And yes, it does sound somewhat trite. But its context has, I believe, some intrinsic social value. The message in this lyric is, to me anyway – Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in” and its directive is, essentially this – “Be vocal about what you believe in as you cultivate authenticity within yourself and extrapolate sources of meaning as to why you are who you are while intently searching for fundamental links between yourself and others as you remain loyally committed to your core beliefs, and develop your individuality, as you pursue social harmony devoid of intolerance.
But that’s not as easy to sing along to as “Hey, hey. Use your voice, Make some noise.”
It just doesn’t have quite the same ring.
Do you recognize these lyrics? Well… I would forgive you if not. It is from a song that was recorded by Disney’s Hanna Montana.
Miley Cyrus, who once played Hanna Montana, has caused a bit of ruckus lately because she is 19 and recently engaged. The media uproar to her engagement is compounded by the fact that Miley succumbed to that inevitable post-pubescent biological imperative … she had the audacity to grow up and grow into her sexuality.
How dare she?
Miley’s influence on her impressionable demographic – the tween set – has been called into question by the conservative media. How can she possibly continue to be a role model in her current manifestation as a pole dancing, pot smoking, cleavage-baring slut?
When she recorded the song whose lyrics I just quoted, which is called Make Some Noise, she was but a tween herself, and no doubt had to grapple with many of the same issues that other tweens contend with. Having to find the answer to questions like –
- How to get lip-gloss to stay on until at least third period.
- And what the hell do I do now that I have …. My period?
- And what color to paint the dollhouse.
- And whose house will I live in after my parents split up?
- Or what to be for Halloween.
- And how do I learn to be comfortable inside my own skin?
And I discovered that some of Miley’s music, as poppy and prosaic as it appeared on the very slick and stylized surface of it, actually reflected some social issues.
Whether or not Miley is or was a role model is not an assumption I care to challenge, but I will say that her music has had some personal influence.
By the way, this story is not about Miley Cyrus ….
I was deluged by the tween torrent that is Hannah Montana exactly the way any woman is – I have a daughter. And for the better part of her 7th year, my daughter was positively obsessed with Hanna Montana. We’d get in the car – What do you want to listen to baby? I’d ask. Hanna Montana! she’d announce. We listened to her music constantly in the car, at home, and as such, I learned all her songs. We sang them together as we drove around town or made dinner. She had Hanna Montana dolls. Hanna Montana Hairpieces. Hanna Montana lunchboxes and backpacks and notebooks. Pajamas.
On my daughter’s birthday I created a large framed picture of the lyrics to the song and presented it to her, regally in fact … as if she were my queen and it was The Sovereign’s Sceptre. I might have even kneeled and bowed before her with it –
For your majesty.
And I even signed up for guitar lessons with the express purpose of learning this song so that I could sing it with her. Yeah, I was a little obsessed too.
Here’s a little back-story – My daughter was once painfully shy. She couldn’t talk on the phone to relatives, she was unable to place an order with a waiter at a restaurant, she had difficulty just making eye contact with anyone in a presumed position of power outside of her immediate sphere – which meant most anyone over four feet tall was deemed threatening. But, despite this shyness, from a parenting perspective, she was an easy kid. She still is. She’s laid back, super sensitive yet strong willed, whip-smart, and extremely creative. She also is very tuned in to others, feels what they feel – empathic to her very core.
In addition to her shyness, when she was little she had a very difficult time expressing herself with words – when she became overwhelmed, she’d clam up; she wouldn’t cry but she couldn’t say how she felt. So whenever that happened (and anyone who has kids knows how much inner turmoil they contend with) I could practically see the disturbance inside of her, whirling around with no outlet, no avenue for expression, no container in which to put it. When she was five or six, I gave her a sketch-pad that I told her was to be her “Feeling Book.” In it she could draw pictures or whatever she wanted to – a place to safely express her emotions. And she did. She filled it up with pictures of butterflies and wind blown flowers when she was happy, and fire breathing dragons and big grey scratchy monsters when she wasn’t. She wrote poems and songs, and drew self-portraits that had big bulbous speech bubbles hovering above, filled with sentiments like,
“I’m angry but why?”
“I don’t like feeling sad”
And since then, I’ve witnessed some steadily dramatic shifts inside of her. Slowly she’s opened up, and as she has she has started speaking up.
She has learned to use her voice.
So, while she once had difficulty looking authority in the eye, now she challenges it. And she doesn’t accept complex concepts at face value. She asks questions, and more questions and then she comes to her own conclusions … and she is vocal about what she believes to be true.
So I guess that Hannah and I did a pretty decent job? Because even if it might take her a few minutes to feel comfortable doing so, my daughter will almost always speak up and speak her mind.
And she has a lot on her mind these days – she is having to confront that inevitable shift from childhood into womanhood and the change which accompanies it – periods. And she has had to adjust to the divorce of her parents and having her home be divided into two separate places.
But she’s still just a kid, she turned twelve last week and since it’s summer, everything is really good in her world; or, according to her, it’s majestic. Majestic is, apparently, the descriptor that is replacing awesome; at least in her circle of friends.
Like, OMG, This donut is Majestic, mom.
And, Gah, I really I loved that movie, it was so sweet. Totes majestic!
About a month ago, she came to me intent upon speaking her mind. I could tell by the way she tapped her fingers along her thigh that it was …. important. And it was. It was so important, in fact, that she temporarily tabled the label majestic.
Mom? I have something to tell you.
She stared at me for just a moment and then sat down on the couch, back straight, hands on knees. I fell in beside her, kinda casually, attempting to announce with my relaxed demeanor that she could be easy with me back. Our legs were touching, and I could tell she was slightly nervous; and because she’s my little girl and I pretty much feel what she is feeling, I began to get a little nervous too. In fact, the entire room began to feel rather weighted with a dark forboding; my overactive mother-mind’s almanac flipped quickly through its vast index of alarmingly fatalistic stories while she just sat there staring ahead, eyes wide, unable to speak. The longer she took to reveal what it was she had to say, the more I thought I might jump right out of my fucking skin.
But I didn’t. Instead, I rubbed her hand, then her arm. Kissed her head, reassured her that she could tell me anything. Anything at all. I resisted the natural urge to pull her into my lap and rock her. It’s good, though, that I didn’t, because I think that she needed to stay disconnected from me so that she could have a place to reach towards.
I love you, I said. I know, she replied softly.
Then, after a moment, she found her words ….
“Okay, (exhale) …. I’m bisexual.”
I just looked at my sweet, darling daughter and, after exhaling a MAJESTIC sigh of relief at this news that was nowhere close to fatalistic, I said
“Goddam, I love you so much! I know that was hard to say. How do you feel?”
“I feel really good!” And she did, I could tell. She was glowing.
And so we sat and talked. I asked her if there were any particular circumstances that lead to her identifying as bi and she told me that she had been having some strong erotic feelings towards a girl at school. I remember being her age and feeling the very same way about a girl at my school. But I didn’t have either the language or the self-awareness to identify myself as bisexual – which, honestly, would have helped me navigate my own erotic feelings so much better. I was convinced that I was some sort of freak because I felt the exact same way for both Jackie and Craig. I wanted to sneak them both into the art closet and get busy among the tempera paints and the butcher paper. But I was ashamed of this desire, simply because I didn’t know not to be. But my daughter, at twelve years old, knew better than I had at her age. And because she knew better, she had successfully bypassed this torturous self-condemnation … by coming out and coming into herself all at once. And this filled me with such transcendent joy that, as I was writing this story, I was totally unable to string together a sentence that could accurately describe it.
Believe me, I tried. Respect, Fulfillment, and Peace are all words that I might have used, though. And words like Adulation. Adoration. Shiny. Reverence.
And maybe even majestic.
Later on that night when I tucked her in bed I asked her if she thought I’d be angry at her, or love her less, or react otherwise negatively. She said – “Nah, I know what you’re about mom…” and then she continued, “But isn’t it really awful that there are parents who don’t accept their children’s sexuality? I’d like to see that change.”
And there they were …. The tiny buds of activism beginning to bloom inside the residence of her 12 year-old psyche.
Now that was majestic.
Throughout the following weeks my daughter periodically asked me things pertaining to my bisexuality (she’s known for a very long time that I am bi) –
Does your mother know you are bisexual, mom?
Yep, she sure does.
Do you talk about it?
Yes, sometimes we do. But not very often.
What about your dad, does he know?
No, I don’t think so. If he did, we definitely wouldn’t talk about it.
She got pretty clear on why he and I wouldn’t discuss my sexual identity, as we were leaving a restaurant with him recently. It was mid-afternoon in Dallas, concrete-jungle, hot as hell outside. My dad asked her if she had a boyfriend. No, she replied readily, while looking at me for moral support. I reminded my dad that she goes to an all-girls school and so she doesn’t see boys very often.
This news registered and then tripped one of my dad’s circuit breakers, his wiring can be dodgy sometimes – Oh, right. That school goes through high school, doesn’t it? Well, I hope that doesn’t mean that you are going to have … girlfriends. And then he said, as if to affirm his stance … Nah, you wouldn’t do that.
I looked at my kid, suddenly feeling extremely protective … I put my arm around her neck and pulled her in to me, and we walked through the warm Texas air that had begun to feel much hotter at the sudden confrontation with my own father’s passive aggressive intolerance.
We had both, she and I – in an instant – lost our voices.
And there are other people, open-minded, forward thinking people that I have told about this who have exhibited their own brand of … not necessarily intolerance …. but ignorance.
With this question – Well, how can she know she’s bisexual at her age?
I think this question stems from the inability for to people to grasp the fact that children are sexual creatures. Which I don’t get. Weren’t we all kids once? I know I was horny all the time when I was her age. Kids are little bubbling cauldrons of sexuality; completely capable of having erotic feelings and sexual desires for other people. They can even have orgasms.
Hmmm, maybe I shouldn’t say that out loud. We wouldn’t want anyone to know.
But my answer to that question, how does she know that she is bisexual, is this –
She knows she is bisexual the same way you knew you were heterosexual when you were 12 years-old.
But that is easy for a straight person to know, because heterosexuality is (according to some feminist theory) the default sexual identity. We have been cultured to possess ingrained assumptions that we are all straight until those of us who aren’t “figure it out”.
Which is, in my opinion, bullshit. We are who we are, regardless of whether or not we’ve acknowledged it. What we have to “figure out” is how to navigate the cultural minefields of ignorance and shame and determine how to speak up about who we are – how to speak up to ourselves and how to speak up to others. One day my daughter will be able to speak up to my father.
One day maybe I will too.
Back when I was12 years old and I fantasized about kissing Jackie in the art closet? I was bi then. But it wasn’t until I was 18 and in college watching Patrice Pike play that I finally started to pay attention to the twinge in my cunt when she sang and I finally acknowledged the urge to introduce my tongue to the side of her neck after I’d thrown her up against a bathroom stall (apparently I have a kink for confined spaces) … it was then that I could accurately identify as bisexual. But it took me that long to reconcile these embedded expectation of straightness against my natural inclination to desire both boys and girls. It wasn’t a phase. And it wasn’t a stopover on the way to being all the way gay like it may be for some.
But who knows if it is a phase or a sexual identity waystation for my daughter (as Dan Savage suggests it may be.) Only she will know the answer to that, and the truth is that it doesn’t really matter so much.
What matters is that my child has the audacity to grow up and grow into her sexuality. And that she is strong enough, at twelve, to be simply, herself.
And I have to say, I can hear her voice right this very minute … she knew I was going to be telling you this story and she wanted to make sure that I let you know that while Miley Cyrus’ music was fun back then when she was young … she’s totes outgrown her now.
Yep, my little girl is growing up.
Time to make some noise.