She was 11 years old and a licensed gear-wearing Hannah Montana fan, but not quite as hooked up as her close friend Dana, who was a member of the Hanna Montana VIP fan club.
As a Hannah VIP, Dana had special privileges including limited edition Hannah Montana swag and premier access at select concerts — with meet and greets!
When Dana and her dad offered to bring my daughter along for the big Vegas show, there was no saying no to my daughter Marly. “Marly Cyrus”, we teased her. Her little sister Annie was Anna Montana.
The rush of imagined celebrity was enacted at one memorable red carpet birthday party. Hannah Montana was every little girl’s personal idol.
Marly’s first concert experience was magical and memorable. She wore something pink and sparkly. She danced on stage with Hannah’s IRL little sister. She brought home a Hannah wig, which still sits clumped and tangled in the dress up closet, last time I looked.
Everything else has changed.
This past Halloween, my daughter and I got into a fight about foam fingers and teddy bear tanks when I refused to let her dress up as Miley at the VMAs for Halloween. She patiently tried to tell me it was ironic, that she was “making fun” of Miley. I patiently suggested she dress up like an ironic vampire, or zombie instead.
For myself and other parents of girls her age, who were such Hannah fans, the emulation feels awful. It would be all too easy to say it’s the loss of innocence that is so troubling, but honestly, that’s not quite it.
I was already seeing plenty of drug and sex references, twerking and tongue lolling, from random teens in my daughter’s Instagram stream, long before the VMAs. I’m not going to blame Miley for teens pushing boundaries.
Note: I do blame Miley for ruining foam fingers. Forever. She crossed the line.
I’m not mad at Miley. I’m disappointed. I just wanted more from her. I had no right to expect it. But I wanted it. Just like I want more for my own daughters. I want them to stand on their merit, their talent, their class. Not their ability to shock the world with a tongue wag and a shocking act on stage.
It seems desperate even — a last resort for the talentless. Respect takes talent. Attention is easy. Where does she go from there?
Saturday night, the opportunity arose for my daughter to attend her second Miley Cyrus concert in a decade. Nosebleed seats, no VIP experience. She paid for the tickets herself. She took the train. Friends criticized and questioned me for letting her go at all, after hearing about the nature of the performance. Was I thinking clearly letting her leave the house in Miley style — donut buns and a tank top with a cosmic kitten on it?
Whatever the fuss, she was going to see it. For herself. She set out for LA with a friend.
Is it really different from concerts I went to at her age? I took the train into the city. I went to punk shows and alternative shows. People fake bled on stage and real bled in mosh pits. I was young, I was alive, I wanted to see this stuff! I didn’t, however, want to actually get kicked in the head with a combat boot.
“You just don’t understand. She’s amazing. I really respect her, I mean, she’s BOLD,” my daughter defended her idol.
But would she choose that sort of attention for herself? I had to ask. If money was no object, would she choose to shock, or to dazzle?
“No way!” she scoffed. “I want people to respect me for my talent.”
I want to believe her. I hope she meant it.
Even as my daughter donned her “ironic” costume, I could sense the real irony. It was confirmed as she texted me from the concert.
Dozens of girls dressed up in thongs and teddy bear suits streamed into the Staples Center. Dozens more showed up wearing the shrunken pink concert tees of their youth. There’s something sad and bittersweet about that. It’s like all these girls are in mourning for Hannah.
Or are they mourning the loss of a part of their own childhood? How could I deny her this closure? It’s a part of history, and ultimately her history.
Years from now, she will remember her first concert, and she will remember that night at the Staples center. She will sit around with friends, talking about the impact Miley had on all of them, and she will have been there.
I won’t wag a foam finger at that.