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When I Was Britney Spears

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I was never as pretty or as talented a singer as Britney Spears, but in 1987, when I was 25, I was a young mother of two children under two years of age. I was married to a man who would shortly announce he no longer wanted to be a husband or father. He would later, and conveniently, seek full custody. He was not successful, but not for a lack of trying.

My coping skills at that time were more infantile than my children. How I dealt with everything was less than polite and often described as scandalous. I was able to retain custody and would eventually salvage my dignity, but it was not a well-paved road upon which I’d traveled. Fortunately for me, the world wasn’t watching.

I didn’t need society exploring my duodenum with a microscope as has been done to Ms Spears. My Catholic upbringing – to include my mother, her mother, and a parish of wholesome, young mothers who, unlike me, got married first and became pregnant later – was ample for the task of judging my every move and bringing down the gavel on my parenting and marital skills.

In my defense, I was a drug-free and appropriately-coiffed stay-at-home mother. I did not gallivant through my city’s nightlife and refrained from public appearances except to buy groceries and attend mass.

In Ms Spears defense, she could’ve behaved the same way I did and still my mother and her entourage ala Catholicism would’ve found ample reason to strip her of her titles as woman, mother, and wife. Even having married first would not have provided protection from those determined to bring others down.

Having recently returned my residence to the United States from Germany – where motherhood is a respectable choice and mothers are supported in that choice – I feel alarmed at the way American society and its media have seen fit to go after Ms Spears. It being easier to secure a child than a driver’s license in any state in the union, it should come as no surprise to anyone that any young parent perishes, and yet our society is forever aghast.

While I am loath to point out what she isn’t (a homeless crack whore pimping or selling her children outright for her next fix) rather than what she is (a young mother who was already caught up in public mire before her children were born and who has since made questionable, if not wholly inappropriate, choices for herself and her family), it is worth noting the double standard with which the woman has been judged. Ms Spears was no more told of the rules than those rules changed without her knowledge.

The yardstick used on me (figuratively) measured me as an unknown. I was at the mercy of only those in my corner of the world, not the entire world. It was stressful, stomach churning, and demanding enough to attempt to meet my mother’s expectations (whose rules of child-engagement curiously and secretly changed when she went from the role of mother to grandmother). To have had the expectations of a million or so mothers to live up to in addition to my own would’ve sent me over the edge. Shaving my head would’ve been the least of it. Ms Spears only aspires to what would’ve been my worst, and yet I still would not have been subjected to the judgment of anyone but my mother and those in moral cahoots with her.

As if enduring the tsk-ing of every gossipy, maternal figure in the land weren’t enough, Ms Spears is also dealing with the leering (and equally questionable moral centers) of her peers. Too, there is the spying eye of every man, young and old, gay and straight, who feeds into the gossip when no one else is looking.

While having (youthfully, therefore only tentatively) agreed to a relentless spotlight when entering the entertainment field, she did not agree to a barrage of the self-righteous. It was instead, and in fact, the other way around.

The society-paid, rag mag-feeding paparazzi machine is not a creation of the entertainer. That machine is the bastard child of all of us, created to satiate our need to focus on someone else‘s faults rather than our own. Initially allowing the rest of us to live vicariously through their successes, we now use that machine to revel in the their every mistake as if we were above making any such errors, as if we weren’t also human.

On behalf of every American who has fed into the idea that it’s okay to judge at all, much less from a cowardly distance, I apologize to you Ms Spears. I understand your pain, I empathize with your plight, and I hope you’ll get past it all in time to be the woman and mother you were meant to be in the first place.

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About Diana Hartman

Diana is a USMC (ret.) spouse, mother of three and a Wichita, Kansas native. She is back in the United States after 10 years in Germany. She is a contributing author to Holiday Writes. She hates liver & motivational speakers. She loves science & naps.
  • http://www.myspace.com/michaelfreeby Michael Freeby

    A great read and I completely agree.

    Very brave of you to come forward with your own experiences in the defense of someone experiencing similar problems! You made some very, very good points.

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    Great piece, Diana. What really frustrates me is the phony indignation of the bottom-feeding gossip-mongers, who are actually happy eking out an existence on the downward spirals of Brtiney, et al.

  • Frazzle

    Outstanding! i agree 100% with what you have to say

  • http://www.myspace.com/katieslostinthesouth Katie

    WOW… VERY well said.
    I hope Britney has the opportunity to read this. You will not only maybe give her a little encouragement to be a great woman and mother despite the cruel things people have said and done to her, but you have also done the same for me. I’m 21 years old, a USAF wife and mother of two. I also know that life isn’t a stroll in the park. Thank you for writing this article. I love it.

  • KABBY

    I agree 110%! We have all these people that are not living under a microscope judging Britney as if their hipocritical butts are saints and are so far from being one that even satan wouldn’t have them. I have seen hundreds of parents riding with their children in their laps, standing up in the front seats, hopping from man to man, and smoke more crack and drink more alcohol than any rock band in history. “Do not judge lest ye be judged!” None of us has any room to try and make Britney feel like less than a mother because I have yet, including myself, to see perfect parents and I consider myself to be an excellent mother. How many of us would be bad mouthing Britney if the tabloids were scrutinizing our every move? I think very, very few!

  • donna

    Very Intelligent Message from a real heart of a woman!A fair judging of Two sides of life!

  • James

    Great piece, Diana!! I too find it frustrating the double standard applied to all the ‘it’ girls in the spotlight at the moment. While their behaviour is sometimes (nay often!) questionable, the barrage of self-righteous “tsk-ing of every gossipy, maternal figure in the land” (often not limited to the maternal figures) is sickening.

    Well said and well written!!

  • Louis

    Let’s suppose B.S. is not in the least her fault the way she has turned out. Let us also suppose she has never heard “it be better that a millstone be tied around her neck and she be cast into the sea” than to scandalize the little ones

  • Ciara

    Absolutely excellent article, now village gossip has been elevated to global news, but its up to us to buy into it or not!, so as you said in several of your other articles we all need to grow a set and NOT give succour to the moral majority…Anyway it just goes to prove the more things change the more they remain the same.
    Cheers,
    Ciara

  • daryl d

    I find it absolutely pathetic how people enjoy a public figure’s misery. If Britney committed some crime, I would understand. She did nothing but make some bad choices, which we all have done at one point or another.

  • Nancy

    Shadenfreude is a seemingly normal human/anthropoid reaction to situations wherein people feel that someone who has fame & fortune does not deserve them, & that they themselves would be far better behaved in that person’s place, given their good luck & superior resources. It usually involves a celebrity who does indeed indulge in more-than-ordinary brattiness, arrogance, or just plain Bad Behavior and/or shamelessness. Not being a fan of hers, or interested in celebrities whatsoever, I can’t say if she’s guilty of just a few bad choices – or outright nasty or arrogant behavior. It seems to me I have the general impression from what I’ve been unable to avoid hearing of her that she behaves badly, then deliberately goes out of her way to attract if not demand attention to it. That being the case, how can she complain of public exposure?

  • http://culturesalad.blogspot.com Ray Ellis

    Schadenfreude has absolutely nothing to do with some sort of celebrity jealousy. It’s a uniguely German word that has no equivalent in English. Loosely translated, it means “taking pleasure in the misfortune of others,” and it generally works on a more intimate level than the oh so sad life of has-been pop stars. And it has absolutely nothing to do with placing oneself in a superior position.

    That being cleared up, Britney Spears has had more than her fifteen minutes. Comment #5: I certainly hope you grow out of your blase attitude concerning child-rearing. If the parents you know are “riding with their children in their laps, standing up in the front seats, hopping from man to man, and smoke more crack and drink more alcohol than any rock band in history,” they have no businsee being parents, and should be reported to Child Protective Services.

    It’s one thing to express empathy, as the article did eloquently. It’s another to make excuses for unfit parents merely because they’re famous.

    The blade slices both ways.

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    I remember when I was Vanessa Hudgens. I just wanted the attention.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    kisses, van…if i may call you that…

    what’s with the mustache?

  • Sean Mahoney

    Wow! what a brave and well written article! Kudos!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writer/diana_hartman diana hartman

    thank you everyone :)

  • http://trytoremaincalm.blogspot.com highheels

    Excellent. Thanks. Keep going. ;)

  • http://www.tipiace.it Ti Piace

    She is one of my favourite singer .. anyway I think she lost a bit in last two/three years… Anycase for me is still one of the best!

  • charles olson

    Good article. I don’t feel a lot of pity for the rich and famous when it comes to the flip-side of the fame coin, but what concerns me about our obsession with tabloid gossip is the deterring and sterilizing effect it has on our political leaders. If we scrutinized the private lives of our forefathers the way we do now, we wouldn’t have had any.

  • Courtney

    I agree 100%.