i must’ve been a gay man in a past life

in case you're wondering, yes, i have this framed and hanging on my office wall.

b/c my love for madonna runs so deep and so strong, it’s just unbelievable. it literally takes my breath away. i simply have no words. (yes, you can laugh. b/c i know it sounds ridiculous. but i promise you it’s true.)

i’ve never met her, and to tell you the truth, probably wouldn’t want to. (i’ve also found thru my forays into celebrity journalism that the more celebs i meet/interview, the more disappointed i become), but now, on the eve of her FIFTIETH (!!??) birthday (and despite my ongoing sighs re: her new album) feel i must pay homage to a woman who–besides the obvious female role models in my life, i.e. my mom, late grandmother, teachers, etc.–has perhaps had more impact on my life than any other. i think a lot of women (and perhaps more than a few faaaaabulous men??) my age feel the same way. so after reading this washington post article, i thought it was the perfect time to share my own madonna tribute with you. it’s a little essay i wrote three years ago. i shopped it around to different publications, and they were all, “hmmmm….thanks but notsomuch.” nevermind. anyway, it’s not the greatest thing i’ve ever written, but it’s full of gushy madonna love. i sent it to a few friends over the years, so if you’re one of them, just bear with me.

madonna, i love you. happy 50th! you are an inspiration and a revelation and now, omG, i’m tearing up again! so, without further ado, an essay i like to call…

My Life With Madonna

It dawned on me one day over the summer—quite suddenly and without any warning—that I barely have any recollection of my life without Madonna. Just like television and Hershey bars, every coherent memory I have of my childhood, every ache and pain of adolescent, she’s there in the backdrop, like a timeline. All of my personal milestones I can place next to a Madonna song or Madonna look.
By Madonna, of course I mean Madonna. Madonna the Material Girl. Madonna the instigator. Madonna the once oversexed New Yorker, now Kabbalist mother-of-two, wife and Anglophile.
Like Cher or the Mona Lisa, she’s a woman who doesn’t need a last name. And though technically she has one (it’s Ciccone for the record) it’s really just a footnote.
How can I express my feelings for her without sounding like a complete loon?
Though we’ve never met—and chances are, never will—I feel a very strong connection to her. It’s not like a stalker-type connection. It’s like when you lay eyes on that stuffed animal or anything near and dear to your heart that you’ve hauled around to every place you’ve ever lived. Suddenly you’re in your twenties and you realize it’s been there for you all along, silently sitting there, not offering any guidance or kind words, yet you can’t remember your life without it. You realize this one day, and suddenly you love it more than ever.
That’s Madonna for me. Not quite a snugly stuffed animal or a safety blanket, more like some kind of evolving muse or far-off friend. And although she doesn’t know it, we’ve been through a lot together.
I have memories connected to every one of her singles and every one of her videos. Report cards and friends and school dances. Crushes and outfits and secrets. Dorms and first apartments and train rides back home. Madonna was the backdrop to my entire childhood, adolescent and young adulthood—from kindergarten to college to the workforce.
I guess I must have been about five when Madonna really hit the big-time. It was 1983 or 1984 in northern New Jersey, and I remember seeing her video for “Lucky Star.” I’m not sure how I managed to see it because my parents strictly prohibited MTV back in those days, but I can recall the wonder of that moment: chewing pink Trident in the dining room, watchingher dance moves with tiny eyes and Velcro sneakers. I was completely fascinated. The singing, the dancing, the black lace and jelly bracelets and stretchpants.
I was hooked.
As I grew, there were more videos and then magazine covers and even movies. Most of the videos I didn’t really understand: grown men fighting for her pink-gowned attention in “Material Girl”; that she was “keeping her baby” in “Papa Don’t Preach” (Whatever that meant, I thought. Why was she calling her boyfriend baby and why wouldn’t her father let her keep him?); burning crosses in “Like a Prayer”; cone-shaped and tasseled bras; and her mermaid suit in the “Cherish” video (Though I don’t think anyone understood that one).
Madonna kept me guessingand I think that’s what I loved about her. Just when I figured something out, she busted out withsomething—or someone—new. It was exhilarating.
I made up my first (and last) choreographed dance with a middle school friend to “Into the Groove.” I remember there was a lot of skipping in it, and to tell you the truth, I thought it was a pretty darn good dance at the time.
My childhood friend Sara, as she suffered with leukemia throughout middle school and high school, always loved Madonna. I remember going to her house a few years before she passed away, and we listened to “Secret” in her ruffled bedroom. I still think of her every time I hear it.
At my bat mitzvah in 1991, Madonna was there. I have a distinct memory of “Vogue-ing” at my party in the synagogue auditorium. There was a smoke machine and I was wearing a pink, ruffly, sequined dress. My hair was in a French braid, my lipstick was frosted and my number one passion was “Beverly Hills 90210.”  
Madonna was especially feisty those days and I was an especially awkward middle schooler. As I tightly cuffed my size 5 Guess? jeans and danced the running man, I unknowingly studied her evolution.
Her looks kept changing and she seemed to do the opposite of what everyone else wanted her to do. I nodded and agreed with frustrated mothers and teachers but silently I cheered her on. I didn’t really understand what she was doing but I felt somehow it was important. And it was, not just for me but for millions of other girls everywhere.
While I was doing homework and growing up, Madonna was busy breaking all the rules so I wouldn’t have to. She’s always been there for me, some kind of silent reassuring voice telling me throughout my life that I should be who I am, do what I need to, and, perhaps most importantly, that I can always reinvent myself.
People can say what they will. Granted, Madonna’s movies aren’t usually smash hits and her new albums really can’t hold a candle to her old ones. But I’ll never change my mind about her. Ever.
They just don’t make ’em like Madonna anymore. She did it first and she did it best.  Britney and the Simpson girls and Christina Aguelira, they’re copycats, “poptarts,” as a friend of mine calls them. 
Madonna’s more than a couple hits singles and a bare midriff. As wild as it seems, she’s comfort to me—the rock star equivalent of lox on a bagel, “Golden Girls” reruns and my favorite worn-in boots. Madonna is the bad older sister we never had. Madonna is forever.


4 responses to “i must’ve been a gay man in a past life

  1. I’m so glad you published this essay on your blog. It’s always been one of my faves! I also took a moment to reflect on the day that my relationship with Madge began. That “Cherish” video footage is forever imprinted in my brain.

  2. Starlight. Star bright! Yeaaaah…

    I have a distinct memory of the very first time I ever saw an image of Madonna. It was 1983 or 1984. I’d already heard numerous songs on the radio, and my brother and I happened to catch a video of the song “Borderline.” I recall my thoughts being something along the lines of “so THAT’S what she looks like…she’s pretty…why is she on the roof of that building?”

    I recall my older brother refusing to explain to me what a virgin was, and why Madonna was “like one.” Using my amazing powers of deduction, based on the astrological sign of Virgo, I figured out that a virgin was a bull-like creature (apparently conflating Virgo with Taurus). I found the song very confusing. Exactly how was Madonna similar to this bull-like creature?

    My next memory is having the mother of a friend mine explain to us what Madonna meant when she sang of herself as “material girl,” and how “we are living in a material world.” I was happy to have the explanation, as I’d taken her quite literally, thinking that she was communicating both she and the world were made of fabric. There were also “clues” in the video related to my literal interpretation, in the form of the various outfits she was wearing, especially a shiny pink dress.

    I also remember folks crowding around David Canova (the only “out” guy I remember from high school) during my junior year, David having brought to school Madonna’s “Sex” book, with its scandalous shots of her and Vanilla Ice.

  3. This blog brought tears to my eyes. I totally feel you. Madonna has always been there. OMG I think I am a gay man too!

  4. loving your blog!

    I always thought Madonna’s music was sub-par, and that she was more talented as a business woman than as a musician. If she’d been more talented, musically, then I doubt she would’ve been able to stick around as long as she has. Being a sub-par musician to start with allowed her to grow and to exceed our expectations.

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