A departure from my usual light-hearted fare, but sometimes I just need to speak my mind. Non-Trinis may find my Trinbago Dictionary useful. Be sure to leave your comments after reading! Enjoy.
Much has been said about Miley Cyrus’s recent appearance on the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) and her new raunchy persona. While watching a clip of the controversial performance on YouTube I remember thinking – “If that were my daughter I would slap her so hard”.
My talented young cousin Battymamzelle wrote a thought-provoking post about the racial implications of Miley’s performance. A perspective which I do not fully share, but interesting nonetheless.
Forget about the twerking. Twerking is nothing new. Here in the Caribbean we have been wukking up for generations. It irks me however that a sizeable portion of the US population think they invented the move because it’s new to THEM. (Those of you old enough to remember the oohing and ahhing over Bo Derek’s hairstyle in 10 know exactly what I’m talking about).
Questions swirl around my head about Miley’s very public embracement of her sexuality. What does Liam (Hemsworth) think? What does his family think? He and Miley are supposed to be engaged, after all. But more importantly – what do Miley’s parents think?
Publicly, Miley’s parents have expressed nothing but love and support for their daughter. Rightly so. But I want to believe that privately they are gritting their teeth and harsh words have been exchanged.
At twenty years old Miley has the right to do whatever she wants. She is legally an adult. I wonder though – did Miley consider the possible impact her performance would have on her parents, and if so – did it influence the actual presentation at all? Somehow I think not.
The issue here for me is – at what age do we stop being under parental control?
I want to argue that for many of us, particularly people of colour, the answer is never. There are many things I would never ever consider doing because if my mother found out she would kill me.
Black parents live by the Bill Cosby motto – “I brought you into this world and I can take you out”. I dodged countless pot spoons and slippers as a child. The scent of disapproval from my mother still strikes fear into my heart. As West Indians we have the added pressure from all the relatives constantly reminding us – “Don’t make the family shame!”
If at age twenty I had climbed onstage in a worldwide broadcast and simulated masturbation with a giant foam hand – my parents, aunts, and uncles would have collectively jumped on me and beat the black out of me. Even now – despite her Zimmer frame – I’d risk serious injury from my mother. When you live in a society where the extended family is a norm; adult offspring live at home; and many generations often live under one roof; it is hard to escape that sense of family responsibility.
In Trinidad and Tobago we are identified by our familial alliances – Greta’s daughter. Indra’s sister. Nazir’s mother. My blogger cousin Battymamzelle recently pointed out that there is no such thing as six degrees of separation in T&T. The most you will get are two. Everybody knows you AND your family and they are quick to report on the slightest perceived infringement of the T&T Broughtupsy Code. Forget about the middle class – T&T only has two social strata – ghetto and stush. Guess which one so-called Nice Boys and Girls don’t want to be identified with? The result is that long after we stop pitching marbles we still feel obliged to do what our parents want.
I am not putting forth an argument for full parental control from womb to tomb. But that sense of responsibility to those who raised us – and fear of disappointing them – has stopped many people (myself included) from doing something which they might later regret. It didn’t stop me breaking into a public swimming pool in Cambridge at midnight to skinny dip with a group of friends but I figured there was NO chance of my parents ever finding out. Oops…
Billy Ray Cyrus admitted a few years ago that he spent too long trying to be Miley’s friend instead of her parent. “How many interviews did I give and say, ‘You know what’s important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids’? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, ‘You don’t need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.’ Well, I’m the first guy to say to them right now: You were right. I should have been a better parent. I should have said, ‘Enough is enough – it’s getting dangerous and somebody’s going to get hurt.’ I should have, but I didn’t.”
Here’s the thing - your children will make and break many friendships as they grow up. But building a healthy respect for the parental bond and influence? You’ve got one shot. No do-overs. Get the parenting right and the friendship will follow.
Talk to your kids. I’m willing to bet twenty years from now when Miley looks back at the video of her VMAs performance she will wish her mum and dad had said to her “I brought you into this world…”
At the end of the day, we are all the product of our parents and the degree of control and influence they have/had over us.
But that’s just my opinion. What do YOU think?