I understand that we never outgrow certain things. I still like my cereal super soggy and my milk shaken. I will always respect a good, big swingset. Mary Poppins is and always will be my favorite movie. But today I was confronted with proof positive that I have really not progressed much from where I was at age 6.

I remember watching my dad help me dub my first tape. (Ah, the roots of copyright infringement. How it could bring a family together.) I had gotten a new stereo for Persian New Year, so I'm not joking when I say it was hovering around 15-20 years ago. I wasn't tall enough to see what was taking place on the bar countertop (some would say that hasn't changed?). But I knew with all my heart what was going on. The tape to be dubbed FOR ME AND ONLY ME onto the translucent orange blank tape (what a treat!) was... Madonna "Like a Virgin". I'm talking Angel, Dress You Up, or for ye 80s pop cultural neophytes (hi Jon!), "Material Girl".

The years passed and the tapes got more standard. A translucent clear - but with yellow label- for my dubbing of Madonna "Madonna" (I had to work backwards on that one. Caught on late.) A store-bought True Blue, which notably became my first creative foray into dance. I mean, when the woman says "Get up, stand tall, put your back/up/against the wall, cause my love is dangerous", well then, you throw your little body against the wall, arms in the air, in a display of prepubescent sexuality. And your father, who is the Patron of the Arts, shelling out a buck for each performance, tries to sneak out, but you remind him that there IS ANOTHER song left on this side of the tape before INTERMISSION!

It was around this time that I realized Madonna had progressed to other media (without me?) -- Desperately Seeking Susan made its breakthrough, and I marvelled at a woman so cool she'd dry her armpits on a bus stop hand-dryer. I watched the film "Who's That Girl" over and over again, wondering how long I had to wait to dye *my* hair platinum. Then I bought the soundtrack, impressed and feeling justified (and arguing) that my idol was also, apparently, bilingual "Quien es, esta nina?/Who's that girl?".

The hits kept coming... as You Can Dance, a remix album, was released, I'd insist on staying in the car and listening to it. Lying sweaty in the back of mom's Ford Taurus with the windows barely cracked (Chicago summers, no less), I'd sing along literally Over and Over while mom and dad browsed the racks of Burlington Coat Factory on any given Sunday. Everyone knew I loved her. If there was a Madonna question, you'd ask *me*. That's just the way it was.

You guys who only knew her for Like A Prayer missed out on the whole Dick Tracy movement. In another G family moment (who knew so many of them were due to The Unvirgin herself?) - my sister Susie and I choreographed and entire show to I'm Breathless in our basement. And made my dad sit through it. (Please visit www.boygirlparty.com to see how the choreographer of "I'm Going Bananas" has since matured, well, at least musically.)

While my mom had the idea to let me have a punk 9th birthday party, I was strictly forbidden from attending Madonna concerts. Ever. (Apparently, dressing like her once per year was acceptable, though?) I knew mom didn't like her, encouraging me to listen to Cyndi Lauper instead, or even Michael Jackson, the King of Crotch-Grabbing. I had to sneak over to Kathy Stachniw's house to watch the forbidden Justify My Love video. And we didn't have cable until I was almost through with high school, so videos and awards shows were all I had to go on to keep in touch.

I studied dance. I admittedly never read "Sex", but that's not for lack of me looking for it at the library. I covered "Material Girl" at my school fun fair's Star Studio. I read about her and I enjoyed her freedom while I was a sheltered Persian girl in the midwest. Eventually, I went to University of Michigan. Coincidence? Perhaps.

I stayed faithful through Erotica, Bedtime Stories, and Ray of Light. I bought Evita and took off to Argentina to see the Casa Rosada. I stopped watching Sean Penn movies and tucked away my signed Rodman photo. I nodded to the Maverick building along Santa Monica when I'd drive through L.A. I forgave her for making The Next Best Thing. I overlooked her bastardization of Japanese culture, then Indian. I read about Kabbalah (although I always misspell it "Kaballah," which may be a sign in and of itself?). When she did Swept Away, we got in a fight, and I stopped paying attention to her for a few months. But we made up and American Life joined my expansive cd collection.

Somewhere in there, I *might* have bought her earliest album (horrendous electronica dance stuff from some Scandinavian country, if anyone's looking for it). And I *might* have dropped $20 for the London Symphony Orchestra's tribute to her. But I'm not admitting anything.

What I AM admitting is that this morning, some 20 years after this madness began, I found myself rushing to try and get tickets to her next tour. I'm 26, and I remembered last week that "I'm the boss of me" (said in my most petulant voice). So I dedicated $100 to obtaining tickets to her 'Reinvention' show at the Forum.

No such luck.

So, why am I admitting all of this?

Because part of me is as disappointed as the, what, 11 year old who wasn't allowed to see Blonde Ambition (in retrospect, watching Madonna masturbate on-stage would have been a bonding moment I really didn't need to have with my mom).
It's something I can't seem to get a handle on -- I mean, I am 20 years older than I was when I first started listening to her. In the interim, the world has progressed from tape walkmen to pen-sized mp3 players. We've gone from Reagan to Bush (ok, bad example).

As for Miss Madonna, she has clearly (well, to me) progressed from promiscuous strumpet to zen mother of two. She's gone from wailing popstress to aspiring Streisand impersonator. Her nasal Michigan accent has been replaced by her renown affected British accent. And her literary endeavours have moved from porn-and-poetry buffets to children's bestsellers.

The question remains: If she has grown up, why haven't I?

She Bangs, Will, but you rock

Not since the 1960s have so many women gathered, screaming with perfumed abandon. Is it the Rolling Stones? Nope. The Beatles? Who are they? We're talking William Hung. And don't the ladies know it.

Tonight we decided to take reality television one step forward by participating in the phenomenon known as a William Hung free concert at North County Fair. I hate malls (gender abberation), but I had to go. And courtesy of my resident Tall Friend, Jon, I may even have photographic proof (if not the skillz to post them here).

So. Off we went. Jon dropped us off at the front door and headed off to battle parking. There could be no doubt that the cream-colored Avant limo was for the Hungster (not to be confused with the Hongster). But the legions of screaming women and children? Amazing.

There was quite a lot of build-up to the performance. As muted pop blared through the mall's speakers, we rushed around Robinsons May (not sure of name, just giving you an image) to find a good vantage point. There was none to be had. Even where you could find a space to stand, it was only to be eye-level with youngster-ass, suspended midair in a fatherly display of shoulder-perching. Having made the inappropriate (for the circumstances) choice to wear flat sneakers for the night, I was relegated to merely listening to Will perform, periodically gazing at the posters and pictures of him hanging behind me in an effort to create a more immediate environment for myself. The crowd took mercy on me and parted ways just enough for me to catch the sweep of his hair across his happy forehead. *Hi William* His background dancers swayed, and he sang. About the Circle of Life. Which got a girl thinking.

What in the hell is going on here?

I have had a really tough time telling if America is fascinated by him, or making fun of him. At first, I thought it was brutality of the underhanded junior high 'we let him hang out with us - DORK!' kind. You see, I didn't realize that he set up his OWN website. Now, the pieces fall together-- this guy is at Berkeley. He's no dummy. He's capitalizing on something that usually only makes it as far as a set of 6 life-affirming tapes on a late night infomercial, for 4 easy installments of $39.95 plus tax.

In a weird way (one involving grand stage entrances via two-floor christmas-lit mall elevator), William made his dream come true. I mean, come on, what's the difference between playing Staples center and the mall? (I wouldn't doubt that Kelly Clarkson had to play a few malls in her day, anyway.) He wanted attention. He wanted to sing. I doubt he even thought so far as the pleasant-looking women swaying supportively behind him tonight.

My theory is this: America is watching and drooling over the concept that Everyone is a Star. The fact that his career is preposterous makes it all the more loveable. I mean, it makes sense. We don't love Madonna because she can sing. We love her because she's entertained herself and us and made shitloads of $ by *not* being able to. She's not this untouchable talent; she's just another girl with persistence and a good sense of humor and a business mind. Like the kind of mind that sets up a website immediately following humiliation on a national scale.

If the crowds of tonight are anything to go by, Hung's fans are as much the lone adults strolling the periphery as the young girls who screamed the adorations previously reserved for Justin Timberlake and his prepubescent counterpart Aaron Carter.

The rest of us who get lazy with our dreams (statistical overlap with the populations who hang around malls?) enjoy and live vicariously.

William for President.

It can begin with a simple question. Someone asks you for your opinion about someone. You begin to casually outline the innocuous parts of your Real Thoughts. The conversation continues, and before long, what was once a pencilled tracing of your Real Thoughts becomes pen. No, wait, let's make that marker. Permanent. Bloody, thick lines of permanent black ink. And you're coloring it on, oh boy are you. It feels like a nice good binge standing in front of an open fridge (ok, here I may have lost the guys, but go with it). And you stand back, and have another moment that happens late night in front of the fridge- a moment of absolute and complete disgust with yourself.

Yesterday I found myself talking for an hour and a half about someone I don't know well enough to speak well of for an hour and half. I know this will show up on my report card from hell, but meanwhile, I'm struggling. I'm struggling with the notion of "venting" vs. "bitching" vs. "bouncing ideas". And I'm trying to understand the chemical reaction that takes place when you have particular thoughts or feelings and keep them inside, but the moment they hit the open air (whether in your booming drunken slur or in a delicate whisper), they are different. They are something out of your control. And there is no way to take them back.

I feel like there are some distinctions to be made in the maze of Gossipland. There is of course the elemental truth/falsity line. Then there's the personal-experience/secondhand. To talk about something that happened directly to you involving another person is often considered "reflection", "venting", "sharing your feelings". But if for some reason someone just rubs you the wrong way and you say it, there's NO explanation. Particularly in a world where we're supposed to be making logical decisions, not ones based on INTUITION, for God's sake. That's the title to an offensively pop Jewel song, and ipso facto, not a motto by which to live your life.

No one wants to believe that they're the engine or that they in any way contribute to the chain of evil that somewhat resembles gossip. If we're make a litmus test, I suppose it would be that you should feel good when you're done talking if it's not gossip (pink strip!); you should feel like you got something off your chest. Otherwise, you need to check yourself. And hope it's not too late.