Pookie may not ever win any penmanship awards, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of her writing. Within the past year or so, she’s taken to leaving her mother and me notes, usually in the kitchen to prohibit us from various sweets she’s classified as hers and hers only. Whenever I run across one of her communiques, I know I’m in for a treat, even if the note’s purpose is to actually deny me one.
Accordingly, I was tickled pink when I found one of her sloppily written doctrines the other night. But my delight quickly disappeared as I read the downward-tilting and crooked verse of her scribblings. It was the lyrics to Katie Perry’s California Gurls — more specifically, Snoop Dogg’s part.
Color me old school, but no little girl should ever write all that ass, hangin’ out. Ever. Speaking of hangin’, y’all hang tight. I gotta puke real quick.
K. I’m back. *wipes mouth with Kleenex.* Where was I?
I’ll tell you where I was — smack dab in the middle of a crisis. One which I can no longer ignore. Pookie’s been asking me for months to download various (and morally questionable) songs on her iPod, California Gurls among them. And maybe I’m just a big prude, but I’ve found it difficult to give my pony-tail-sporting daughter unfettered access to tunes such as Jerimiah’s Birthday Sex. So I’ve been putting her off.
But truth be told, I’m split right down the middle on this one. On the one hand, many of today’s popular songs contain lyrics dripping with age-inappropriate themes. And while I realize that Pook probably isn’t catching the double entendre when Katie belts out Sun-kissed skin so hot, we’ll melt your popsicle, I’d still rather she not be exposed to veiled fellatio references (or is it coitus?), thank you very much. Hell, I’m having a hard enough time with her John Stamos obsession. (Damn you, Nikelodeon.)
But on the other hand, songs containing sexually explicit themes, misogynistic lyrics, and drug references are hardly anything new. Recently, Elise LeQuire White shared with me a comical essay she once wrote about super-cheesy songs. One of those referenced was a tune I’d not thought of in years — Sammy John’s Chevy Van. Reading Elise’s cleverly penned column reminded me just how much I loved that song when I was in kindergarten. Its premise? Sammy is driving around one day in his Chevy van when he stops to pick up some random-ass, hitch-hiking chick who naps innocently for a bit in his front seat. Before waking up, that is, at which point she grabs the singer “by the hand.” Next thing you know it, ol’ Sammy’s relentlessly banging this nomadic nymphomaniac in the back of his (presumably disgusting and pimped out) vehicle. Hardly an appropriate song for a five-year-old to know by heart, yet I turned out okay, right?
My point? Just as I was during the seventies, Pookie’s getting plenty of exposure to today’s pop culture regardless of what I do. Her bio dad’s girlfriend has much older children. Each and every time she returns from his house, she’s learned something new, most likely from one of these older kids whom she idolizes. Not that I’m blaming her dad (or his girlfriend) at all. I was the youngest of five, so I get it. You think I discovered Chevy Van all by myself? So if Pookie is going to stumble upon the very things I’m trying to shield her from in the first place, why even bother?
* * *
The other day, I read a wonderful post by one of my fellow speakers at next month’s M3 Summit in Atlanta, Jason Falls. His topic was a controversial one — the proposed thirteen-story Manhattan Islamic community center just two blocks from ground zero. Jason’s take was as succinct as it was clear. “Religious zealots,” he writes, “are to blame for the events of Sept. 11, 2001. They were extremists of their religion. Religious zealots were to blame for the events of Nov. 18, 1978. (the Jonestown Massacre) They were extremists of their religion. Blaming 9/11 on Muslims is like blaming Jonestown on Methodists. You’re generalizing and stereotyping and dividing our country. And you’re helping the cause not of Muslims, but of the extremists.”
I couldn’t agree with Jason any more. The day our country decides where various places of worship belong and where they do not will be a sad one, indeed. For it will mean that our government will have imposed the power of censorship on its citizens, thus rendering the first amendment — the right to gather and convene, as well as freedom of speech — impotent. And I don’t mean to get all John Milton on you, but his appeal to Parliament in 1644 to rescind government-sanctioned censorship, Areopagitica, is widely regarded as the best argument ever made against censorship of any kind. I was required to read excerpts from it for one of my high school English classes. It struck a chord with me then, and it still strikes a chord with me now.
Why? Because I’m all about freedom of speech. So given that, I can’t help but wonder why I’m all undone about a few age-inappropriate lyrics my nine-year-old probably doesn’t even understand just yet.
The answer is a simple one. I don’t want my little girl to grow up mistaking misogynistic sentiments as healthy ones. I don’t want her goal in life to be a sought-after piece of scantily-clad ass. I don’t want her to aspire to be the momentary apple of someone like Snoop Dogg’s eye when, in California Gurls, he raps kiss her, touch her, squeeze her buns. (By the way Snoop, buns? Really?)
* * *
So what should I do? Pull a Tipper Gore and censor everything my daughter listens to? Even though I know she’ll easily gain access to it regardless of my efforts? Because that’s essentially what I’ve been doing by putting her off, censoring, that is, and it obviously isn’t working. Thanks to the internet, she’s mere keystrokes away from pulling up any number of vulgar things, no matter how many safety features we employ on our computer. (By the way, does anyone else find it ironic that the queen of censorship was married to the guy who invented the anything-but-censored internet?)
So censorship? No. If I object to it in Manhattan, why should I employ it in my home? Instead, I think I’ll take off my Hypocrite Panties and allow my daughter access to the media she’s hell-bent on accessing anyway. Will I keep my eye on her? You bet. Will I impose limits on her? Of course. But will I censor her? No. Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I’m a man of faith. So I’ll lean heavily on it and trust that the strength of our family and the direction it provides will be sufficient enough to preclude Pookie from the miswired legions of her generation who will eventually get swept away in a sea of pop culture superficiality. I’ll stay as plugged in as I can to the things she likes, enough, at least, to be able to chime in with my two cents each and every time the opportunity presents itself.
By doing so, I’ll be a bigger part of her life than I would be if I were to simply deny her access to any and everything that doesn’t completely jive with the values I’m hoping she’ll one day embrace. By doing so, I’ll be better plugged in to her and the issues she’ll face as she creeps ever closer toward adolescence. By doing so, I’ll likely be able to keep an even closer eye on her as she won’t be forced to go behind my back to sneak a forbidden cookie from the alluring jar.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some songs to download. And while I’m not necessarily thrilled about it, at least there’s a silver lining.
None of them are sung by Justin Bieber. That kid gives me the creeps.