When I read Sinead O’Connor’s open letter to Miley Cyrus I was expecting to think it was dumb and move on, but it actually got me all kinds of fired up in some very uncomfortable places.
When I was in high school I frequently got called down to principal’s office for my wardrobe, or lack thereof. I prided myself on being a rebel and shaking up conformist suburbia a little, and thought I was better than all the girls at school who dressed in sweaters and comfortable shoes and pants that weren’t completely shredded or 5 sizes too small. I thought they were boring and had no balls. I did things for attention that still make me cringe 20 yrs later. My whole life revolved around shocking and outdoing other girls. In reality, the way those girls dressed and behaved protected them from the perils of the dangerous world that Sinead describes in her letter. A world that I have known very well.
When I was 16, I had an affair with 30-yr old. A couple years later I realized he was a pedophile, and had forced his wife to secretly marry him at 12, and have 2 kids at 15. As a teen, I was an angry little fucker and it felt good to me to be a force of destruction in that family. I wasn’t really attracted to him but he paid such special attention to me because of how I dressed and acted. I mistook his intense attention and the various things he did to protect me from a ridic bad situation at home and school for some kind of love. The letter that Sinead wrote really spoke to the exploitation that young girls mistakenly experience as feelings of love and protection from men. Especially older ones secretly seeking to gratify themselves.
As I started to change as a person I developed extreme shame and remorse for what I had done. To this day, I have never told a soul. For so long I was terrified of bad karma, positive that if I ever got married or fell in love I would be cheated on in a really foul way. What I have learned is that Karma doesn’t work in the sense of “an eye for an eye”. It is more that you end up living inside the life of the skewed perspectives that you strengthen. I have always had such weird chemistry with older men and now I see how I brought that on myself and all the ways I embraced it, strengthened it, and thrived on the power of it. And so now I live at the other end of those beliefs about men and the world at 37. On some deeply painful level, I feel like I have no value any more, my life feels like it is over. On some level, I don’t understand healthy relationships without that weird chemistry as glue. That is the karma of that path.
I was an artist, writer, infinitely creative in any direction you could imagine. But I never saw that as my value as a human. I never knew things that came from deep inside your soul are the things that should be the foundation of your life, not your face or the skin you are willing to show, or how shockingly you are willing to compromise yourself. Going down Miley’s path is a slippery slope because it is based on feeding ego and looks inevitably fade, therefore the success and highs of that can only be temporary. I love that Sinead referred to it as ending up in the rag heap. I learned the hard way the importance of growing the sides of yourself that become more potent as your life evolves, and don’t just fade or die because of time and society’s rigid doctrine of what is attractive to men.
The open letter was written to Miley, but I believe it speaks to a much broader issue than just her career. Most of my female friends are several years, if not a whole decade younger than me. Not one of them is in touch with what they really need to have a baseline of happiness and joy in their daily experience, and so they have no ability to go create it. Just as I did, most of them suffer from anxiety, depression or just general feelings of self-loathing and shame. They blame their moods on hormones, depression, not taking the right vitamin, PMS, etc. But I believe the truth is that they don’t have the tools to navigate emotionally in a very perilous world. (The world is not perilous based on whether you see the glass as half empty or full- it is simply a fact that there are a million things out there waiting to eat your soul if you don’t know to protect yourself.) It is smaller scale than Miley, but they still exist within the truths set forth by multi-million dollar industries which operate in the ways described in Sinead’s letter, industries which bombard us with messages that we must be a certain age and look and act a certain way if we want to be worth something in this world.
We are all guilty in furthering this, myself included. I admit, I eagerly pulled up Youtube to see what the big deal was. The thing that really struck me the most about the whole performance was that her tongue was coated, which I think is often a sign of internal imbalance. I sent a little wish out into the sky that she is taking care of herself and someone is truly looking out for her.
Often the world we live in feels like sheer chaos. But the reality is that within a society driven by the dollar, ultimately the consumer is in control. Maybe it is time to step up and think about the consequences of what we consume. Protect our little ones.