Sunday, October 27, 2013

Witch or Sexy Penguin?

I love Halloween. Not the ghosts and ghouls and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night part of it, but all the dressing up. As a former drama major, I welcome any reason to put on a costume.

My husband and I, along with another couple, recently bought tickets for a masquerade ball in an antique mansion in our New England town. The party was sponsored by the local Arts Association, and we heard through the grapevine that they were going all out with decorations, refreshments and entertainment. It was scheduled for the Saturday night before Halloween. This meant that the Saturday morning before Halloween I started pulling out costumes.

Story of my life, sadly. Everything I do these days could be described as "just in time manufacturing."

Anyway, we have a trunk of dress-up bits in our cellar. Fancy gloves and costume jewelry, fairy wings, wigs, and elaborate feathered masks from New Orleans' French Market. Our plan was to take an elegant, minimalist approach. My husband would wear his wedding tuxedo. (Yes, he still fits in it, 21 years later. Suffice it to say, zipping myself into my wedding gown would be frightening.) I would wear a long embroidered Chinese coat. We would both wear the aforementioned feather masks.

Er, or not. When we pulled them out, they looked a little sad and bedraggled. On to Plan B.

The masks were a crucial piece of our costumes (let's face it, they were our costumes), so after an hour at the local Y, I drove to a Halloween "pop-up shop" in a neighboring town.

(Quick aside: Saturday was also the annual costume Zumba class. We were all supposed to dress as popular musicians. I was the only Bob Marley in a sea of Gagas. But, I digress.)

I quickly found an entire aisle of Venetian Carnvial masks. They were gorgeous and quite reasonably priced. I chose a long-beaked "Naso Scaramouche" in black with gold patina for my husband and a silver brocade, trimmed with lace and rhinestones for myself. Mission accomplished.


Trying to get in and out of a Halloween store on the Saturday before said holiday was easier said than done. It took me less than five minutes to choose the masks. It took me another 35 to get through the long line that snaked along the perimeter of the shop. I went by an aisle of adorable baby costumes (bees, lady bugs, pumpkins), by another filled with creepy decorations and animated lawn ornaments. Then, I hit trick or treat pay dirt. 

The aisle of Halloween hoochies and hos.

WTF? I had arrived in the land where less is truly more. As in: less fabric, more skin. The typical costume included a bare-midriff or corset top; a short, short (short, short) skirt; and some combination of fishnet stockings, long gloves, garters, a headpiece and/or wings. It was like Halloween with The Girls Next Door at the Playboy Mansion. (Every package, btw, featured a pretty, pouting model who looked 16, exactly my daughter's age.)

There were sexy nurses, sexy vampires, sexy fairies, sexy superheroes, sexy gypsies, sexy pirate wenches. Then there were the sexy animals. Some that made sense (in a warped way), like sexy kittens, foxes and bunnies. Some that didn't, like sexy penguins. Sexy penguins???

Last, but not least, there were the sexy inanimate objects. Sexy crayons, sexy beer bottles, sexy pizza slices, and my all-time favorite: sexy candy corn.

Because nothing says “Happy Halloween” like a sexy piece of candy corn.

I understand that the whole thrill behind wearing a costume is that it gives you a chance to put on another piece of your personality. But why do so many of the options for teen girls feel more like taking off than putting on?

In one of my favorite scenes from the Sex and the City movie, Carrie joins Miranda to shop for costumes and trick or treat candy. Miranda looks at her options with disdain; the only choices for a grown woman: “Witch or sexy kitty?”

Sexy kitty, sexy penguin, they’re all pretty much the same. I’d rather be a witch. 

And — thank goodness — my daughter would too. 

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Wonderful World of Sleep Deprivation

The words "sleep deprivation" mean something very different to me now than they did sixteen years ago. (I'm awestruck, as I am so often these days, by the idea that I've been a mother for that many years.) 

In 1997, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Ten fingers, ten toes, perfectly normal in every way. You know those exceptional babies who sleep through the night practically from day one? That was her ...


We had late nights and early mornings, erratic midday naps and 2:00 a.m. feedings. By month six (MONTH SIX!), I was so perpetually tired that I briefly fell asleep driving in the Sumner Tunnel on my way into the office one morning. What can I say, the light was dim, the traffic barely moving. Luckily, a rather impatient Boston driver behind me sounded his horn before I ran into the tunnel's wall. Yikes.

That particular wake-up call (yes, pun intended, um, sorry) convinced me to try Dr. Ferber's infamous CIO or "cry it out" method. Through progressively longer intervals, you train your baby to "self-comfort." This means listening to them cry and resisting the urge (deep-rooted, instinctive, frrrrkin' primal, maternal urge) to go in. I lay with a pillow over my head through two of the longest nights of my life.

Sure enough, my daughter slept through the third and has done so ever after. My own sleep deprivation, happily, was a thing of the past.

That was then. This is now.

In our house these days, the person suffering from sleep deprivation is my now teenage daughter. Between endless amounts of homework, studying for exams, after school jobs and activities, and a minimal attempt at a social life, she doesn't have enough hours in the day. Sure, she has been known to procrastinate a bit (who hasn't?). But, compared to her peers, she's remarkably focused. It doesn't seem to matter. There is quite simply too much to do.

Add to this the fact that teens biologically need more sleep than adults. Everyone from the National Sleep Foundation to the Mayo Clinic asserts this — in no uncertain terms. In fact, it isn't just the quantity that's important for developing adolescents. It's also when they go to sleep. Unlike younger children or adults, their natural biorhythms and body temperature don't allow them to go to bed early. They naturally tire some time around or after 11:00 pm.

Here's a typical dialogue in our house:

Teen: I'm soooooooo tired.

Parent: You need to go to bed earlier.

Teen: That soooooooo won't help.

No matter how much it may pain me to admit it, my daughter's right. On the odd chance that her schoolwork was actually done by 8:00 or 9:00, it wouldn't solve the problem. She would lie awake and still be exhaustedly unable to get up at 6:30 the next day.

And, that's the other issue. Teens need more sleep. Teens don't tire until late evening. Do the math ... high school classes that start before 8:00 am are not going to make for a success story. Neither are early-morning standardized tests, like last week's PSATs at 7:45. Recent studies have proven that scores go up when teens get up later.

Well, duh!

This is what kills me. The science is there. Sleep deprivation is not just an inconvenience. It's damaging and dangerous (heck, it's recognized — and condemned — as a form of political and military torture). We're all so concerned about improving student outcomes, competing on the global stage, no child left behind ... blah, blah, blah. I propose the following:

• Adjust high school hours to better suit the needs (the actual bi-o-lo-gy) of high school students

• Decrease the amount of homework for these poor kids (I'm definitely of the "longer school day" school of thought myself)

• Schedule standardized tests like PSATs and SATs at hours when students are at their peak performance (hint, that would  not mean at dawn)

To me this is all common sense. Then again, as Voltaire and Horace Greeley both observed ...

"Common sense is not so common."

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Sunday, October 20, 2013


The other evening, my husband went into town to attend a hockey game at B.U. This meant that my teenage daughter and I were on our own for dinner. 

Whenever this happens, we take advantage of it. We plan a menu that wouldn't — shall we say — cut the mustard with her father. He's a self-taught gourmet cook who would rather grill fish and sauté fresh vegetables. Sometimes we just want ramen noodles. But most often, our alone-together meals revolve around a very important food group.


My daughter looks a lot like me. She inherited my natural reserve in social situations. My appreciation for musical theatre. And my love of cheese.

I was wrapping up my work week and my daughter was looking forward to a driving lesson with my sister-in-law (yours truly is no longer attempting to teach after the first and only time I went out with her and she almost hit a parked car and I almost had a heart attack). We had several jars of homemade salsa in the house, so I suggested a simple and appropriately cheesy menu: "Nachos." 

Ah, the best laid plans of mice and moms ...

I had pulled out a large cookie sheet and lined it with foil, spread tortilla chips on the bottom, then layered the salsa, some nice rotisserie chicken, some roasted corn, chopped scallions, and, of course, the cheese, lots and lots of cheese. Then, I preheated the oven and waited for my girl. It was dark and even with her cool-headed aunt, I knew she wouldn't be driving around too much longer.

Sure enough, I heard someone out on the patio. I opened the back door, expecting to see the young driver, but found two of her besties instead. They were wandering around town delivering cupcakes. (It occurs to me that if your teenagers must wander around town, delivering cupcakes is probably not the worst thing they could be doing.) They left a particularly gooey green one and were on their way. My daughter missed them by about five minutes.

I don't remember any of my friends making cupcake rounds when I was sixteen. But if they had, and if I had missed them, I would have been out of luck. Thank heavens my daughter is growing up in the enlightened age of digital mobile technology! A few texts, a quick call, and off she went to join them.

"Be back at 7:30," I told her.

"8:30," she responded.


I know, I know. My negotiation skills — not to mention my authority — are quite impressive, n'est-ce pas?

To her credit, my daughter was only seven minutes late. The nachos were bubbling and smelled wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that my daughter's two friends couldn't resist them either and came on in. I'm not sure whether they had already eaten, but since when does that stop a teenager when there is junk food to be had?

"All right, all right," I said, and added another place setting. I poured three glasses of water and put the tray of nachos in the center of the table. "Be careful, they're hot."

At this point in my story, I'll try to paint a moving picture for you. Have you ever watched a nature program in which a pride of lions takes down some unfortunate antelope? Or watched a cartoon in which termites eat an entire house? Or seen a school of piranhas in the Amazon? Or the movie The Birds? Well, my flock of starving adolescents made very quick work of those nachos.

"Thanks, Mom!" all three of my satiated diners called playfully from the dining room. There were a few soggy chips left, which I happily beagled as I cleaned up. Although the evening hadn't turned out exactly as I planned, it was all good. My stomach was empty but my heart was full. 

Our guests headed home and my daughter went upstairs to attack AP World History and A Tale of Two Cities. As so often happens these days, I went blissfully to sleep while she was still doing homework.

Sweet dreams are made of cheese.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Comfortable Shoes

My husband, teenage daughter and I just spent a long weekend in New York City. We do this a lot. 

People often ask me where we stay, thinking I might have the inside track on an inexpensive bed and breakfast. Well, I do. But, unless they want to spend their visit with my sainted mother, they might want to go elsewhere. (Although her warm croissants are to die for.)

On this trip, however, there was no room at the proverbial inn.  But, I happened to find a wonderful guesthouse in Harlem, for a lot less money than a midtown (or anywhere in town for that matter) hotel. It was elegant but a little faded, much like the places we stay in New Orleans. I immediately fell in love with it. My daughter, meanwhile, spent an evening with a friend, then ended up on a couch at my mom's for the rest of our visit. 

My trips back to New York always include long long long walks. This is how I reconnect with my hometown: people-watching (beyond compare people-watching), passing by familiar landmarks and, even more often, seeing everything that's changed. Staying in a new neighborhood gave me a chance to explore and to extend my usual walks an extra mile or so north.

The first day, I toured around the Upper Westside (my old 'hood). From our guesthouse to 110th, then South on Columbus to 72nd, then back uptown on Amsterdam. The second day, I set out early and walked all the way down to Times Square to pick up my niece for a day with my daughter (her "sister-cousin"). By the time I dropped the girls off at the Loews 84th multiplex for Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 in 3D, I felt like I was home again.

Home again, with very very sore feet. 

We had a little time to kill after brunch, so my sister and I left my husband in a pub and pursued another important New York pastime: shoe shopping.

Before you picture a scene from Sex and the City, let me explain. This was not about fashion or fetishes. This was about pain relief. Did we go to Christian Louboutin? No. To Jimmy Choo? No. Gucci, Manolo Blahnik or Tory Burch? No, no, no. We hoofed it down to Aerosoles.

I discovered Aerosoles many years ago. Some supermodel said in an interview that when she wasn't working, she wore Aerosoles. I figured if they're good enough for Heidi or Naomi or Christy or Linda (or whoever it was; I don't remember), they're good enough for me.  

We went in and in short order, I tried on every pair of flat, black ankle boots they had in my size (10, yes, 10; if they get any bigger I'm going to the drag queen department). There wasn't much of a competition. One pair felt better — way better — than any of the others. I sank into them with an audible sigh of relief and pulled out my wallet. 

For one brief shining Carrie Bradshaw moment, I had second thoughts.

"Do these make me look like a lesbian?" I asked my sister, patiently waiting on a nearby bench.

"Uh ..."

"A geriatric?"

"Uh ..."

"A lesbian geriatric?"

While she searched for a politically correct non-answer, I shrugged and bought them anyway.

On my last morning in Manhattan, I walked across Central Park to Fifth Avenue, visited my old high school on Park, and then walked about thirty blocks down Madison. The sidewalks were filled with tiny children in school uniforms. The weather was gorgeous. The window shopping was fabulous. And, my feet were fine.

Within a couple of hours, we collected my daughter (had a couple of those croissants for the road) and headed back to Massachusetts.

"What do you think of my new shoes?" I asked my 16-year-old fashion consultant. I pulled up my pant hems so she could get the full effect.

"Um, cool," she said, without taking her eyes off her iPhone.

Um, maybe that was a good thing.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

Friday, October 11, 2013

Tears of "Glee"

This morning, my teenage daughter informed me that her cold is back because she cried so much last night. A quick Google search assured me that no, crying cannot actually cause a cold. Sorry. 

But, my daughter is convinced.

I myself do not have a cold, but I did indulge in my share of tears last night as well. 

My daughter and I watched "The Quarterback," a tribute to Cory Monteith, also known as Finn Hudson, on Glee.

The series' critics have long denounced the show for its sentimentality, and — too often, too preachy — overall schmaltziness. In its four years, we've dealt with teen pregnancy, teen suicide, gay bashing, disabilities, alcohol abuse, domestic violence, religion ... the list goes on and on. Big topics, big musical numbers. Interestingly, the show never really tackled drug addiction. When I heard that Glee would dedicate its third episode to the memory of Cory Monteith, who died of an accidental heroin overdose this summer, I assumed that they would finally do so.

But, surprisingly, Glee's creators decided not to address it. At all. In fact, in a quiet voiceover at the very start of the tribute episode, Chris Colfer, as Finn's stepbrother Kurt, explained that it had been a month since his death and that people kept asking how he'd died. But, Kurt asserted that it didn't matter. The focus, instead, would be on how he'd lived.

On the one hand, this seemed a little too open-ended. A major character, arguably one of the most major characters, of the show was being killed off (not by choice, I know, but still ...) and the audience would understandably have questions. On the other hand (and when it comes to Glee, I often defer to that other more forgiving hand), it was a no-win situation for the writers. If Finn died of anything other than a result of his heroin addiction (leukemia, say, or a car accident), it would have felt false. But, Finn would never (never, never, in a million years, never) have experimented with heroin. That's one of the things we loved about him. He made it hip to be square.

So, within the first thirty seconds, Kurt warned us that our questions would go unanswered. From there, we moved into the first group number, "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway hit Rent.

525,600 minutes, 
525,000 moments so dear. 
525,600 minutes — how do you measure, 
measure a year? 

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee. 
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife. 
In 525,600 minutes — how do you measure 
a year in the life?

How about love? 
How about love? 
How about love? 
Measure in love. Seasons of love.

Love. Right. Love Glee or hate Glee (and I have friends in both camps, as well as friends who loved it then and hate it now), you have to hand it to them. For the past four years, the Glee team has rarely hit a false note when it comes to choosing songs. The stakes were higher last night, but the soundtrack was perfect.

Another smart move was to focus on the show's veterans. Sure, the freshmen members of New Directions (a veritable slew of youth and talent introduced last year) are largely likable, but Finn's death, Finn's story, isn't their story. Instead, we heard Mercedes sing "I'll Stand By You" (Chrissie Hynde's anthem, originally featured in year one when Finn sang to his assumed baby daughter's sonogram). Sam and Artie sang James Taylor's "Fire and Rain." Santana tried to get through "If I Die Young," and Puck defiantly asserted Springsteen's "No Surrender."

There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Especially not in ours.

Then, at last, there was Lea Michele. There was no question that the entire cast (and crew, no doubt) were going through a strange and terribly painful collision of personal and public grief. But, Michele's situation had to have been the most extreme. Monteith's real-life girlfriend, Michele stood and sang "Make You Feel My Love," openly weeping. It was a scene worthy of an Emmy Award, although rewarding her incredible acting might somehow negate the incredible reality that she wasn't actually acting at all. What a brave girl she is. And what better way could she honor her loss than by exposing herself and her unfathomable pain like she did? I hope she can heal. I hope she can be happy. She deserves it.

It's tempting to criticize an inflated sense of self-importance built into Glee's tribute episode. "We know how important Glee is to you," the creators are saying. "We know you're mourning the loss of our star. We'll guide you through that. We'll show you how it's done."

But, it's hard to criticize something that came out of so much genuine love and was executed with so much respect and thought and skill and talent. The sheer talent Glee puts on the TV screen each week remains for me a thing of wonder and awe.

As my daughter's renewed cold attests, "The Quarterback" was pitch perfect.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


We have a friend who teaches sixth grade in an economically depressed community in California. She and her husband were visiting us and the conversation naturally turned to students and schools and teachers and parents. 

I complained about all the helicopter moms and dads, hovering around our comfortable little town. These parents can be loud and bossy. They disrupt PTO meetings. They challenge grades. They demand only the best for their precious scholars.

Our friend replied that she wished it were like that at her school. "I never see a parent," she said.

Wow, that put some things into perspective. We're all so focused on our children's success. But, her students succeed or fail on their own, and against the odds. They have to get through school without much aid from (or intervention of) their mothers and fathers. 

They are hard-boiled kids, like the detectives from pulp fiction. They started out as fragile as any silver-spoon baby. But, they've had to get tough if they're going to get through school. And, sadly, some don't.

My daughter and the majority of her friends, on the other hand, are what I would call "coddled." They've spent the past 16 years gently cooking over a very low flame.

Many moms and dads today (and, believe me, I'm not excepting myself from this observation by any stretch) seem to think that the job of a parent is to make things easier for their kids. So we check their grades on web-based "parent portals." We email their teachers and make mad dashes to the school with forgotten permission slips, papers and lunch boxes. We passionately advocate on their behalf.

Some of the things you hear are just plain silly ...

"My daughter has test anxiety."

"My son is on the varsity basketball team; he shouldn't be penalized for skipping gym."

"Please excuse them from school next week; we're going skiing."

And, what can be particularly disturbing is that with so many parents making so much noise about their average ordinary kids, it's hard for anyone to notice the student that does need extra help. It's as though all the well-meaning mothers and fathers crying "Wolf" are making too much noise to hear anyone else. 

We've become so overprotective, that many of these teenagers don't know how to do things for themselves that they should already be doing for themselves. Back when I was a teen in 1970s New York City, we had more independence, more autonomy, and more responsibility. Unless my charge was turning blue, I didn't call my mother from my babysitting gigs. Macaroni and cheese dinner, bath time, a crying kid? I figured things out.

If I had two tests and two papers due on the same day ... guess what? I figured it out.

If I had after school plans with friends, we took whatever bus or subway we needed to, to get to whatever apartment we were going to. We figured it out.

I realize that living in a small town, it's different for my daughter. She often needs a drive (from a licensed adult) to get where she's going. Coordinating drop-offs and pick-ups means that I'm privy to a lot more of her private plans than I would need to be. (Or, quite honestly, want to be.) 

It's interesting then that a recent wake-up call for me came from her new driver's ed instructor. My husband and I attended the state-mandated parents' class. Of course, I was taking copious notes about my daughter's permit and license requirements. Always a plate spinner, I was already leaping ahead to how I would arrange her schedule for classes and practice drives. It appeared that all the other mothers (and one or two of the fathers) were doing the same.

The instructor (What a cool job, btw, every teen in this town loves her — and why not? She's helping them get their LICENSE!), she stopped us short.

"I'm available by email or cell, but I don't want to hear from any of you." 

This was a surprise.

She continued, "If your kids are old enough to get behind the wheel of a two-ton lethal weapon, they're old enough to schedule their own lessons."


She was right, of course. And this particular (I won't say "helicopter") enabling mother saw it immediately. With relief actually.

Some kids are a little hard-boiled. Some are a little coddled. 

I'm more than a little scrambled, myself.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Give Up The Goat

Last month, my daughter turned sixteen. (A little stunned by that one; where oh where did time go?) Our dining room mantle is still covered with cards, and one of the cutest came from my mother. It has a drawing of a horse and the message:

It's time to ask for a pony again.

The joke, of course, is that my daughter doesn't need to ask for a pony. She has one. You would think said animal would be the key to living happily ever after, right? I mean, isn't that what every girl dreams of? (Well, maybe not every girl, as this amusing ad points out.)

Now, however, she wants a goat.

Say, what?

A goat. Yes, that's right. I've finally gotten used to writing enormous checks each month to pay for the stable and hay and horse shows and vet bills and hoof trimming and trailering and tack. And now, she wants a goat.

Don't get me wrong. The goat is by no means replacing the pony. No, no, no. The goat is supposed to be a friend for it. It's called, "a companion animal." The concept, I guess, is that horses are naturally social. Having a goat (or, in some cases, a pig) in the stall with the horse is supposed to make them happier and less rambunctious. 

We happen to own a rather rambunctious equine.

The owner of the stable where we board my daughter's horse calls him, "a punk." This is said with affection but also with conviction. He's a purebred Connemara and has a lot of attitude. His very first week with us, he reached over his stall and tore the collar off of someone's coat. With his teeth. He's been known to bite my husband, my daughter and a few weeks ago ... moi. 

Have you ever had a horse hickey? Try to avoid it.

Last year, our pony broke out of his stall. (We still don't know how he did it. After that collar episode, he had a metal gate as well as the usual wooden one.) He ran amuck all night, eating any and everything in his path, and cleverly removing all the blankets from hooks in the tack room and strewing them about. Since then, he's lived in what we call "the stall of shame." A truly escape-proof jail of sorts, with stone walls and iron bars, down in the pony barn. Apparently he isn't mature enough to hang with the other grownups.

Is this really a horse who deserves a companion animal? I think not.

My daughter disagrees.

What else is new?

Here's a text conversation we had yesterday (while she was allegedly in school) ...

Her: We need a goat look at how well they get along with the horse

Me: That's not your horse

Her: But its a horse and those are goats

Me: Duh

Her: I want a goat

Me: What next? An elephant?

Her: No just a goat :) 

Me: You do the re$earch, plan how YOU pay for it and get straight A's.

Then we'll see.

Oh, and clean your room.

Ahhhh. The digital sound of silence.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Miley: Here's One Motherf--cker You Should Listen To

When I started in my career in the mid 80s (ouch), I had both women supervisors and men. The men were invariably generous with their time and advice. The women, by and large, were less so. This may be because I ended up (at a very early age) doing my male bosses' jobs for them. And, it may also be that the women I worked for were threatened. 

(This is only my experience, and I'm sorry that it was because I believe that the successful businesswoman is invariably stereotyped as an unsupportive bee-yotch.)

So, let's assume that there's some truth to the idea that women are threatened by their younger, talented peers. (Who can blame them; historically there hasn't been enough opportunity for women to go around.) How much worse it must be for those in the entertainment industry, where middle-aged is replaced by young, young is replaced by younger, and old is forgotten altogether.

That's why I was heartened this morning to hear about a music industry veteran, reaching out to her younger singer-sister with some caring and constructive criticism. The message (rather riddled with profanity) was sent to (the "f*ck it, it girl" of the moment) Miley Cyrus. And it was written by (the "f*ck it, it girl" of the 90s) Sinead O'Connor.

This is only newsworthy to my generation, I'm afraid. My teenage daughter probably doesn't know who O'Connor is/was. She may have heard "Nothing Compares 2 U" on one of my "adult contemporary" (aka "old lady") radio stations. But, she certainly wouldn't know about the Irish singer's infamous appearance on Saturday Night Live, when she tore up a picture of the Pope in a petulant gesture that was almost as big a waste of time as the outrage that ensued.

Every time some hot young thing goes off the deep end (Britney, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes), I always wonder the same thing ... "Where's the mother?" Not that controlling a teenager (even a regular, everyday, not-a-pop-star one like my own) is ever easy. But, you see a train about to wreck — and that train is your daughter — you do something!

Sinead is stepping up to the Miley Cyrus plate here. The letter is long, but fairly literate. And, as she says in her opening, written in "the spirit of motherliness and with love."

Dear Miley,

I wasn’t going to write this letter, but today I’ve been dodging phone calls from various newspapers who wished me to remark upon your having said in Rolling Stone your “Wrecking Ball” video was designed to be similar to the one for “Nothing Compares” … So this is what I need to say … And it is said in the spirit of motherliness and with love.

I am extremely concerned for you that those around you have led you to believe, or encouraged you in your own belief, that it is in any way “cool” to be naked and licking sledgehammers in your videos. It is in fact the case that you will obscure your talent by allowing yourself to be pimped, whether it’s the music business or yourself doing the pimping.

Nothing but harm will come in the long run, from allowing yourself to be exploited, and it is absolutely NOT in ANY way an empowerment of yourself or any other young women, for you to send across the message that you are to be valued (even by you) more for your sexual appeal than your obvious talent.

I am happy to hear I am somewhat of a role model for you and I hope that because of that you will pay close attention to what I am telling you.

The music business doesn’t give a sh– about you, or any of us. They will prostitute you for all you are worth, and cleverly make you think its what YOU wanted.. and when you end up in rehab as a result of being prostituted, “they” will be sunning themselves on their yachts in Antigua, which they bought by selling your body and you will find yourself very alone.

None of the men oggling you give a sh– about you either, do not be fooled. Many’s the woman mistook lust for love. If they want you sexually that doesn’t mean they give a f— about you. All the more true when you unwittingly give the impression you don’t give much of a f— about yourself. And when you employ people who give the impression they don’t give much of a f— about you either. No one who cares about you could support your being pimped, and that includes you yourself.

Yes, I’m suggesting you don’t care for yourself. That has to change. You ought be protected as a precious young lady by anyone in your employ and anyone around you, including you. This is a dangerous world. We don’t encourage our daughters to walk around naked in it because it makes them prey for animals and less than animals, a distressing majority of whom work in the music industry and its associated media.

You are worth more than your body or your sexual appeal. The world of showbiz doesn’t see things that way, they like things to be seen the other way, whether they are magazines who want you on their cover, or whatever.. Don’t be under any illusions.. ALL of them want you because they’re making money off your youth and your beauty.. which they could not do except for the fact your youth makes you blind to the evils of show business. If you have an innocent heart you can’t recognise those who do not.

I repeat, you have enough talent that you don’t need to let the music business make a prostitute of you. You shouldn’t let them make a fool of you either. Don’t think for a moment that any of them give a flying f— about you. They’re there for the money.. we’re there for the music. It has always been that way and it will always be that way. The sooner a young lady gets to know that, the sooner she can be REALLY in control.

You also said in Rolling Stone that your look is based on mine. The look I chose, I chose on purpose at a time when my record company were encouraging me to do what you have done. I felt I would rather be judged on my talent and not my looks. I am happy that I made that choice, not least because I do not find myself on the proverbial rag heap now that I am almost 47 yrs of age.. which unfortunately many female artists who have based their image around their sexuality, end up on when they reach middle age.

Real empowerment of yourself as a woman would be to in future refuse to exploit your body or your sexuality in order for men to make money from you. I needn’t even ask the question.. I’ve been in the business long enough to know that men are making more money than you are from you getting naked. It’s really not at all cool. And it’s sending dangerous signals to other young women. Please in future say no when you are asked to prostitute yourself. Your body is for you and your boyfriend. It isn’t for every spunk-spewing dirtbag on the net, or every greedy record company executive to buy his mistresses diamonds with.

As for the shedding of the Hannah Montana image.. whoever is telling you getting naked is the way to do that does absolutely NOT respect your talent, or you as a young lady. Your records are good enough for you not to need any shedding of Hannah Montana. She’s waaaaaaay gone by now. Not because you got naked but because you make great records.

Whether we like it or not, us females in the industry are role models and as such we have to be extremely careful what messages we send to other women. The message you keep sending is that it’s somehow cool to be prostituted.. it’s so not cool Miley.. it’s dangerous. Women are to be valued for so much more than their sexuality. we aren’t merely objects of desire. I would be encouraging you to send healthier messages to your peers.. that they and you are worth more than what is currently going on in your career. Kindly fire any motherf—er who hasn’t expressed alarm, because they don’t care about you.

You've proved your point, Sinead. And, I hope your pop princess protégé heeds your words. 

And may I also say, nothing compares 2 u.

If you enjoyed this post, order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Facebook: So Many Friends, So Little Supervision

When I was growing up in New York City in the 70s, our family only had one TV. But, that was okay. 

You see, we watched shows together. (Imagine that.) These included classics like The Odd Couple (starring two of my actor father's friends, no less), Monty Python's Flying Circus, M*A*S*H, Upstairs, Downstairs, All in the Family and its spinoffs: Maude and The Jeffersons

I remember a haunting commercial from that period (well, not during the PBS shows, of course, but every evening after all the others). It was a public service announcement with an ominous voiceover:

"It's ten p.m. Do you know where your children are?"

Some of the best parenting books I've read urge moms and dads to make it a point to always know where their kids are and — even more importantly — who they are with. When our town's police chief came and spoke to the middle school PTA, he stressed just how critical this is. He explained that when a child is missing, the first thing he and his force ask is "Who are they with? Where were they last?" He said that at least half the time, the distressed parent calling can't answer those questions.

Knowing your daughter or son's friends is fairly easy when they're little. As they get older, it gets harder. Sometimes they want to protect their private life; sometimes they think you won't approve; sometimes (many times in my particular family) they're afraid that you'll E-M-B-A-R-R-A-S-S them.

And, it does get monotonous asking the same questions over and over "Who are you with? Where are you going? Will there be adults there?" And then, invariably, "Why are you rolling your eyes?"

Our generation of parents have it tougher than my parents' generation of parents did. You see, they only had to keep track of our real-life, flesh and blood, analog friends. It's a whole new ballgame now.

My teenage daughter has 779 Facebook friends! 779! And, I wouldn't even know how to find the numbers that correspond to her other social media channels. (I don't even think I can list all the sites anymore.)

Here's what a recent Pew Internet study on "Teens, Media and Privacy" reported about teens and Facebook friends:

98% of Facebook-using teens are friends with people they know from school.

Okay, that makes sense.

91% of teen Facebook users are friends with members of their extended family.

Also makes sense and evokes a nice traditional "Awww."

89% are connected to friends who do not attend the same school. 

What a lovely way to stay in touch.

76% are Facebook friends with brothers and sisters.

My teen is an only child, but I can see the benefit here. If one sibling is treading dangerous online waters, there's a built-in life saver (or tattle tale, if necessary).

33% are Facebook friends with other people they have not met in person.

Uh-oh. Here we have something a little more disconcerting. At first blush, 33% may not sound like a significant number. But, when you consider that there are about 22 million teens in the U.S., we're looking at a pretty major minority. One hopes that these are all friends of friends, that someone, somewhere, at some time, has met these people in person.

I myself (middle-aged and more careful online than a teenager, I should hope) accidentally accepted a stranger's friend request last week. The man had a Spanish last name and I assumed it was a relative of our recent exchange student. After I accepted, however, he sent a message about how much I look like a friend of his first wife and how he hoped we could get together soon.

Um ... Block, block, block! (If you don't know how to do that, ask your teenager.)

30% have teachers or coaches as friends in their network.

I immediately checked and my daughter has, indeed, Facebook friended all of her equestrian trainers. Good. More authority figures. More responsible eyes watching out for her.

30% have celebrities, musicians or athletes in their network.

Imagine Dragons, Walk the Moon, Atlas Genius. My daughter has Facebook friends from each of these bands (yes, dear reader, these are bands). It's hard to argue with this when I put myself in my daughter's Converse All Stars. What I wouldn't have given way back when to be any sort of friends with Elton John!

Our parents may have had less to worry about pre-Internet. But, they couldn't really (not really-really) keep track of us every minute of every day. (Go see the new version of Carrie if you think doing so would be a good idea.) Once we were old enough to borrow the car keys (or, in my case, hop on the subway), we were on our own.

All we can do is have faith that we've instilled the right values and that they will choose their friends — offline and on — accordingly.

And maybe they do. After all ...

70% of teen Facebook users are friends with their parents.