Madonna? Flag on the play.

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

Image via Wikipedia

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.