by | May 21, 2000 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

First of all, I can’t tell them apart. Britney. Christina. Jessica. Mandy. I’m not talking faces. Who’s looking at their faces?

I’m talking belly buttons.

I’m talking midriffs. Halter tops. Push-up breasts in push-up bras.

I’m talking slithering bodies, leather pants, come-hither looks, moist lips —

Wait. I’m getting hot.

And then I’m getting guilty. Because these girls are exactly that — girls. Or, as we used to call them: jailbait. When did being a teenage singer involve so much skin? When did naked waists become mandatory in the record business? When did 16-year-olds begin slithering like that? When did I start sounding like my parents?

Last week marked the much-hyped release of Britney Spears’ second album,
“Oops! …I Did It Again.” (If you have preteen children, you already know this, because they demanded limo service to the record store.)

To mark the event, Britney, who is the age of a high school senior, appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine in leather pants, bare waist, hips jutting. This is mild compared to last year’s cover shot, in which she lay back with her shirt open, her breasts pushing out of a bra, her bottom covered only by slinky boxer shorts —

Wait. I’m getting hot again.

How old is she? Why isn’t she in school? When did I start sounding like my parents?

“I don’t want to be the object of someone’s ‘Loilita’ thing,’ ” Britney clucked in an interview last week.

Ah. Good point, Brit. Here’s an idea.

Button up.

What age difference?

This must be a confusing time to be a kid. When we were young — and dinosaurs roamed the Earth — there were pop stars, even sex kittens. But they weren’t our age.

If we fantasized about sexy women, it was Mrs. Robinson in “The Graduate.” It was Raquel Welch in “One Million Years B.C.” They were adults. And, therefore, out of reach.

Which was just as well. Females looking that hot should have been out of reach for 12-year-olds. We wouldn’t know what to do with them.

But today, the sex kitten could be sitting next to you in homeroom.

What worries me here isn’t the stars themselves. Most of these girls are typically spoiled child performers, complete with a pink tour bus, teddy bears and parents who insist that “we’re only doing what (insert darling child’s name here) wants.”

I also don’t pay much attention to their cries of self-pity. (“I wish people would care more about my music than my looks,” they moan, while boasting a sports bra and thigh-high shorts.)

No. They asked for this life. Let ’em have it. What worries me is the effect these sexed-up schoolgirls have on their fans. For while Spears and fellow blond bombettes Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, Mandy Moore and Hoku may be nearing the end of their teenage years, their listeners are not.

In fact, an 18-year-old wouldn’t be caught dead listening to Britney Spears. Her fans are 12-year-olds, 10-year-olds, even 6-year-olds.

And the sight of your 6-year-old daughter writhing like a snake and cooing
“Hit me baby one more time!” is enough to make you lock her away until a safer age. I’m thinking 35.

A more innocent age

Then there’s the preteen boy. What idea is he getting from all this? That every girl worth his attention should be naked between the belt line and the bra line? That lip gloss, cleavage and blond locks are musts for attraction? And by the way, how is he going to live up to a girl like that — especially when he’s yet to sprout his first pimple?

True, there always have been teen pop acts. But they ranged from cartoonishly innocent (Ricky Nelson and the Patridge Family) to actual cartoons. (Remember the Archies?) In the list of adjectives about these acts, the word “seductive” never came up.

It is the code word now. Sex sells, and it’s selling younger — even to kids who don’t know what the word means. What’s ironic is that Spears and Aguilera were both, a few years ago, part of the New Mickey Mouse Club. And the old Mickey Mouse Club gave us Annette Funicello, perhaps the first video object of young boys’ fantasies.

The difference is, the sexiest thing Annette ever wore was a sweater. And if we ever saw her belly button, we would have done the proper thing.


Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

New book, The Little Liar, arrives November 14. Get the details »

Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

Subscribe for bonus content and giveaways!