Madonna? Flag on the play.

English: Madonna, the original Material Girl, ...

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I’m not a big fan of Madonna’a music, and the Super Bowl halftime show didn’t do much to change that, despite my grudging respect for her athleticism. (Though for the record, I can do a cartwheel, too.)

But this is the last time I’ll complain that Holiday gives me a headache, because after last night, I actually feel a little sorry for Madonna.

And not because M.I.A. wrung more press from one finger than Madonna did with a throne, gold pompoms and a trapeze, though I’m sure that didn’t sit well.

Madonna, in my opinion, has crossed the line from daring to desperate, and that’s sad to see. She’s a genius who has left indelible marks on music and fashion, a master at reinvention whose confidence and drive empowered a generation of girls. Isn’t going Gaga now a step backward for the star who strode onstage in a rocket cone bra over 20 years ago? Can’t she make 53 look fabulous, instead of like a haggard, albeit highly toned, 33?

Trying too hard is never appealing, whether you’re on a first date or onstage at the Super Bowl, and Madonna is trying too hard to turn back time, if you ask me, like poor Demi Moore partying with Miley Cyrus days before she checked into rehab. It must be exhausting to wage that losing battle, even if you look taut doing it. Because no matter how much you starve yourself, or what you inject in your face, you’re never going to look 20 years younger. You’re just going to look like someone who’s trying really, really hard to.

Embracing your age doesn’t mean giving up; it means not pretending to be something you aren’t anymore. It means loving all the things you are, and being enthusiastic about all the things you still can be. It means having hope, earning grace, and keeping a bucketload of forgiveness handy, because holding grudges gives you wrinkles.

You can still do cartwheels.

And you can definitely play center stage at the Super Bowl, but with enough self-awareness to not look silly. Confidence polished with a little humility is attractive at any age. Insecurity doused with hubris? Not so much.

At the end of Madonna’s performance, lights on the field spelled out “World Peace.”

Yeah, that’ll do it.

I probably shouldn’t feel sorry for Madonna. She’s certainly not worrying about me. I just would hate to see a woman who’s worked so hard for so long and accomplished so much, be tossed in the same category as men who wear toupees because they think it makes them look young, when they just look like old guys who wish they weren’t bald.

In all fairness, if I could do deep knee bends wearing five-inch heels like Madonna can, I probably would find a place to show that off, too.

In fact, I think I’ll go practice now.

Right after I swallow a fistful of preemptive Advil.



4 Comments on “Madonna? Flag on the play.”

  1. Kathy says:

    Of COURSE you can do cartwheels….you can also do splits! (Go ahead – take TWO Advil first).
    My favorite post yet.

  2. Regis Boff says:

    We are trying to sell your house; that is, my wife is. Hope you don’t move far. I subscribe to your blog in hopes of stealing your cadence, having at last mostly given up on achieving it’s gentleness. I blame the aging testosterone sitting around in my body forming anger puddles which have no sensible tributaries.
    I had a take on the Madonna piece. Madonna really had no choice at all in what she perofrmed, in my opinion. She had to be as people remembered her because people would have gotten angry otherwise. This is what she was hired to do. All live artists learn the same lesson, if they last long enough. You must play your hits. I can’t tell you the number of flopped tours I have been on where artists have decided to do only their new album because art demanded it, or to play the blues ( Clapton),or Quadrophenia ( my old band). The Who were far more ridiculous than Madonna ( was that last year?).
    It is an odd covenant I seem to have with celebrity. I have spent so much of my life around performers that instinctively I can’t help but feel for them. It is because I have no art that competes with theirs ( this is also why I was successful).
    Love your writing and I am listening closely. Regis

    • You’re right about artists having to play their hits. It’s not the song choice I object to, though. The spectacle overshadowed the music, and Madonna’s antics looked strained and silly. Where was the joy? I agree The Who looked ridiculous (but at least they didn’t appear to be trying too hard, except for the labored breathing). On the other hand, my only criticism of 60-year-old, gray-haired, wrinkly Bruce Springsteen’s Super Bowl performance was you couldn’t compact that energy into a 12-minute show. And Mick Jagger electrified last year’s Grammys with a performance that was about the music, not theatrics. But I guess ageism demands more of women. I like Bette Midler – I don’t think she puts all that work into looking younger, just Bette-r.
      I appreciate your kind words, and your attempt to sell my house. I plan to stay nearby enough that everyone can still hear my dog bark.
      As for the anger puddles, I’ve found Chai tea works wonders.
      Looking forward to your next letter in the Enterprise – do you have any idea how many people love those?

      • Regis Boff says:

        You have given me loads of ideas. When I started out as “less than a roadie”, I used to hang out with Bette, Monty Python, and Genesis, all of whom were just beginning as well on Buddha Records. Sometimes I think my whole life was about learning to laugh. I reckon women laugh a little differently than men do. Maybe it is because men had to ready themselves against early death in war and women had to steel themselves for a late one. I agree Bette Midler holds a load of answers to growing old gracefully, clearly one of which was being a comedian all her life.I think another was to saturate herself with gay men. I often think God gave gay men a way of laughing he denied women or was that He denied men the ability to ridicule without resorting to war. I think I need a damn fine cup Chai tea.

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