The evening began with a very pleasant conversation about proper concert attire with a friendly young man in a sparkly purple leotard, fish net stockings, spike heels, and a neon green feather boa. To say that I felt slightly out-of-place in my black sweater, Mom jeans, and bifocals is an understatement. What does one wear to a Lady GaGa concert when one is in her 50’s, finds sequins itchy, does not own stilettos, and wouldn’t wear them even if she did because she fears falling down and breaking a bone?
Why would a moderately sane, middle-aged woman subject herself to crowds of sweaty, howling teenagers to attend a concert by a performer known for wearing dresses made of round steak? Why would she sit through 54 minutes of a Pre-Concert laser light show and ear-splitting, bass thumping “Techno” music? Why, oh why wouldn’t this fifty-something woman with hands clamped tightly over her ears for 54 minutes beat it out of there at the first opportunity?
It’s really very simple. My Girl wanted to go and she asked me to go with her. She’s in college, I miss her, and I’d probably agree to just about anything to spend an evening with her. What’s more, I like Lady GaGa’s style. I like her voice, her lyrics, and most of all, her unyielding support and genuine affection for the fans she calls her “Little Monsters”. I like that she donates money in every city where she performs to help homeless teens in the LGBT community. I like that she talks about bullying in schools and writes music that resonates with young people who’ve been victimized and feel that they don’t belong.
One advantage to having taught at the college level for many years is that not much shocks me. In 29 years, I’ve pretty much heard or seen it all. I also learned long ago not to judge students based upon outward appearances. Some of the most talented writers and scholars I’ve had the pleasure of teaching were students who didn’t “belong” in high school because of their race, or sexual orientation, or social factors too vague to name. If they survive high school, college is often a fresh start where they can be who they are without fear of the repercussions. During her concert, Lady GaGa spoke to the audience between music sets. She talked about needing to be strong and emphasized how important it is not to care so much what others think of us. To be true to ourselves and live the life we were intended to live. To remember that we are part of a bigger plan and that it’s okay to be unique. It’s better than okay, actually. Great messages for young people. Great messages for us all.
As a parent, there are few worries greater than sending a child you love off to school knowing that you’re essentially sending him or her into a daily battle against an invisible, insidious menace called The Schoolyard Bully. I say “invisible” because I believe that what happens in our schools often happens under the radar and out of range of educators who want each child or adolescent to be safe. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for and most kids know not to do this within earshot of a teacher or an administrator. But it happens to far too many kids in districts large and small. It happens online, too. I know, because I’ve heard the stories and seen the battle scars too many times.
As song after song was performed, I observed the audience. Oh sure, there were plenty of young people in outlandish costumes. But I looked more closely and realized that there were also suburban moms or dads with adolescent children, young, conservatively dressed couples, and even senior citizens. I noticed one older woman in particular who appeared to be in her late 70’s or early 80’s. She was dressed in a gray polyester pantsuit that matched her hair and sensible black shoes. After the concert, as we were leaving I struck up a conversation with her. I wondered if the more bizarre, more vulgar aspects of the concert had shocked her and mentioned that I thought her “brave” to attend a Lady GaGa concert. Her response? “Why? Why brave? I just love her music! I don’t care what anyone thinks! I wish I was that strong and that I could do what she does up on that stage.”
What was it I said about not judging appearances?
Thanks, Lady GaGa. And you, too, Lady Grandma.
As far as I’m concerned, you both Rock.