When I was a freshman in high school, Britney Spears asked to get hit one more time while wearing the proverbial schoolgirl uniform and dancing between rows of lockers in a high school hallway that didn’t look very different from mine. Most of the guys I knew, including the ones who would later come out as gay, went nuts for her in near psychotic rages of lust. A few even went to see her in concert, which was something that I refused to do. I stayed in my bedroom that night listening to Bruce Springsteen and AC/DC albums. Considering that Britney never came within 500 hundred feet of the guys, and that she played her own music, I assume that I had the better night.
I thought she had a pretty face and great legs, but I never felt vertigo for her. In fact, I’ve never been one to develop strong celebrity crushes. Back then I was too busy ogling and approaching the school girls who sat five feet from me, and now I would much rather focus my attention, interest, and energies on a real woman. Celebrity crushes always exist solely in the imaginary world of fantasy—a world that only one, onanistic individual can inhabit.
Fantasy girls, to use the phrase belonging to .38 Special, never seek to bridge the gap between fantasy and reality. They never make their fantasizers believe that actual intimacy or authentic interaction is possible. Their livelihoods and revenues depend upon enhancing the fantasy by increasing its sexual and social distance from reality. The fantasy becomes wilder, more exciting, and thereby gains value in the service of escapism. Britney Spears demonstrated this evolution perfectly by going from the slutty schoolgirl to the sweaty sex-bomb carrying a snake on her shoulders.
When U2 made sexy songs in the early and mid-‘90s, they often sang about the tension between media-driven, and derived, sexuality and the “real thing”, as they call it in “Even Better than the Real Thing”. On the moody and melodic tune “Babyface”, Bono is a ordinary guy who saves his love for a woman who “comes to him from outer space”: Coming home late at night to turn you on / Checking out every frame / I’ve got slow motion on my side / Turning around and around / With the sound and color under my control.”
The ironic twist of the song, and the applicable meaning to the real life character that Bono resembles in it, is that the feeling of control is delusional, and the woman is as illusory as the signal beaming from the sky.
Although I was too young to understand it in high school, something within me sensed all of this and pushed my libidinal imagination into playing movies of imperfect women I saw and spoke to on a daily basis—women with which I may actually create a sexual, romantic, and intimate moment.
Unlike celebrities in music videos—who create products I’m supposed to consume—these real women have physical and personality flaws that can often complicate fantasy and aggravate sexual pursuit. Such flaws are impossible to ignore, which means that they must be incorporated into the fantasy and then accounted for during the pursuit, making the process all the more exciting, mysterious, and difficult.
It’s easy to understand why people go looking on flashing, pixilated screens for an escape hatch. It was always easy for me to understand, but never possible for me to do. I never wanted to dream about the unattainable. I wanted to attain the attainable.
Except now I’m falling in love with Britney Spears.
It all started when I was in Walgreens buying deodorant and I saw her looking me right in the eye with a glossy glow from the cover of an October 2010 issue of US Weekly.
Her sun kissed blonde hair is flowing and falling in perfect waves over her pretty and naturally tanned face. Her penetrating dark eyes are affixed on something at the deep end of the corridor into my soul, while her pink lips curve upwards just enough to reveal half-oval smile lines on each side of her mouth. She’s a woman—a woman who can turn my insides into a car wreck and then clean it up with the wave of her hand. She’s no longer some teenage tart trying too hard to convince me that she is sophisticated and sexy. Now sophistication and sexuality are simply part of her presence.
She’s the woman who creates a hum of silence when she walks into the room. And she’s real. Part of her fantasy campaign was “girl next door”. Now she is beautiful, sexy, and smooth, but I can see her walking into any bar in Indiana and ordering a longneck bottle of beer, pressing the glass against her lips, and then catching me staring at her from the corner of her eye.
She’s a mother. Her handsome little boy has one hand on her shoulder while the other holds a plastic cup with a straw in it that they could have picked up at Dairy Queen or Burger King. She’s lifted her son into her arms and his body is pressed against the round mass of perfection bulging out of her sleeveless, pink blouse. She’s left the top button undone. It doesn’t show more than the top of her chest and curve of her neck, but that’s all the invitation the imagination needs to create carnal worlds of possibility that court insomnia until they are realized in the flesh.
The child’s soda cup matches her blue jeans that beautifully and sweatily hug her feminine hips and thighs. The way she holds her son somehow manages to accentuate her assets. The way she looks at me while holding him—with that confident grin in a contemporary heroine’s pose—gives insight into a personality of strength and warmth.
Waiting in line at the drug store, I suddenly have an entire fantasy playing out in my head. I’m an English teacher at a Texas elementary school. Almost immediately following the end-of-the-day dismissal bell, her son runs as fast as he can out the door into her arms. She lifts him in the air and gives him a milkshake that she bought on the ride over. I’m walking out the door a few seconds later. We lock eyes and she gives me that look. I can feel a shot of lightning through my loins, and my heart falls into the heel of my boots.
The next thing I know I’m buying her dinner at a restaurant or she’s cooking me dinner in her kitchen. We’re going out dancing and drinking until the small town bars close up. We make love to a rock ‘n’ roll beat, while the son sleeps at his grandmother’s house, where we pick him up the next morning for church. Then on to the rest of the week of me teaching, her staying home and writing songs on her beat up guitar, and then when I come home, her kissing me for a few minutes on the beige living room sofa after I set a cold beer down on the coffee table.
I walked out of Walgreens in a whirlwind with a bag full of deodorant and a head full of fantasy. I became a character in a Larry McMurtry novel. Naturally, Britney would be the protagonist—a tough and beautiful woman who is smarter than everyone else around her—and I’d be the cool and decent guy hanging around. Eventually feelings would get confused and our lives would become unbearably complicated until we eventually found a little victory of redemption. That’s Larry’s department. I’m merely the author of my own fantasy.
Britney Spears is currently on the predictable media blitz to market, promote, and sell her new album, Femme Fatale. On some awards show or at some sporting event, she’ll get shot out of a cannon wearing thigh highs and a sheer bikini top. She’ll land on Madonna, they’ll press their tongues against each other for those crucial camera friendly seconds, and then she’ll end a highly choreographed dance routine with a severe pose set to pyrotechnics. At that precise moment millions of men will start writing the beginning of their fantasies.
Mine will end.
The point that Larry and I could come together on is that all of Britney’s bullshit scandals, which the vulturous media obsessively covered with such pleasure that to call them “cruel” would almost be complimentary, are nothing to hold against her. The drive-thru wedding, the shaved head, and everything else were all character-building exercises through which she has emerged stronger, smarter, and standing on solid gound. I might have left, dabbled in affairs of lust and vain attempts at replacement with other women, but eventually we are both back where we belonged.
Recently I saw another photo of Britney that captured my imagination, heart, and libido. She is the bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding in a small church. She’s walking down the aisle with another bridesmaid and a groomsman. She’s wearing a loose and light blue dress, holding a small and ordinary bouquet of flowers, and she has her hair combed back. Her gaze is cast to one side as she flashes a welcoming smile to someone sitting in a pew. That someone is me.
End of story.
// Notes from the Road
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