How come I'm not on the cover of Us, people? Because I'm all about "bizarre nudity" in front of my kids (wailing in a high-pitched sing-song at the back door for the cat to come in before bed, does that count?). I'm also guilty of demanding the kids share my bed (when I want to sleep in past, oh, what? 7am?) and, yeah, being drunk on half a bottle of pinot noir in front of the oblivious darlings—all incidents that have landed Britney Spears on the cover of the August 27 issue of US.
That's not Spears' only recent appearance as a celeb mag-dubbed trainwreck mommy. I shelled out nearly $18 on US and three more Britney covers last week. In Star, the 25-year-old single mom is accused of not knowing how to brush her son Sean's teeth. (Hello? Have you ever tried to brush a two-year-old's teeth?) In Life & Style, there's a photo of Britney "turning her back" on Sean in the pool. (Observant readers may notice his water wings and the other adult five feet from him). OK! weekly's main concern is that Britney is a lesbian. What this has to do with parenting remains unclear. But it's sure got Britney's ex Kevin Federline in a lather. He's "so worried about the safety" of Sean and 11-month-old Jayden he's hired in an ex-Israeli commando to help keep the kids "away from their erratic mother." Me? Guilty. Er, I guess. I mean, I am acquainted with some lesbians.
I'm not saying I'm like Britney (though I did shave my head once in a bit of a fit and then cried and cried. Because you always picture the shape of your head like Natalie Portman's in V for Vendetta. But sometimes it ends up like Steve Nash's). But I am like Britney. Kind of. We all are. All of us mothers. It's just that the rest of us don't have a helicopter buzzing over the backyard when the kid's in the pool and we turn our backs to answer the phone.
And that's why we buy into this shit, why we are so delighted with the allegation that Spears uses whitening strips on the kids' teeth—because we need to know that Britney is human. We need to know she's a fuck-up just like we are. But the shame goes deeper still. This is schadenfreude, a snooty but handy German word that means, roughly, to make yourself seem more important by putting someone else down. To take joy in someone else's ass-tastic day.
No wonder the world is so obsessed with the newly revived revelations about Mother Teresa's persistent spiritual crisis in the book Come Be My Light. We love the idea that the saintliest woman in recent memory had her doubts; it makes her human. And we love the idea that a pop star we have showered so much attention on might be a less-than-stellar mom. We moulded Britney as a do-no-wrong teen singer and now, fickle as we are (was the turning point when she drove with Sean on her lap? The waxed vulva flashing? The release of Greatest Hits: My Prerogative?) we're tearing her down with our tabloid claws. We have to show she's human. Sub-human. Just like I was, last week, when I fed the kids fries for supper. Two days in a row. Well, an insider says, anyway.
Share your secret shame. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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