I’m Not One For Idols

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There was a time every year when those dreaded words had to be uttered… I knew it, yet they always snuck up on me. Some teachers have a twisted, malefic sense of humour, I thought to myself, contemplating again the necessity of writing yet another composition about the person I admired most / the person I wanted to be like when I grew up. Not only was having such an idol (sure, call it role model and that will make it so much better) mandatory in my school, but apparently it was highly necessary to write said person’s praises on regular basis.

What was wrong with figuring out who and what I became step by step, rather than set a pattern for myself and try to mould my personality accordingly, I wondered… What was so terrible about simply becoming myself, rather than endeavour to be somebody else? I was able to notice and focus on, maybe even obsess about people’s flaws from a very early age; wanting to be like somebody else meant voluntarily taking on those flaws which were often unacceptable, not only reproducing their admirable qualities. If you add the fact it was generally expected of girls to write about their mothers (grandmothers, aunts, older sisters were also acceptable options in a pinch) and for boys to choose their fathers as role models, the banal homework assignment became a veritable ordeal.

Hmmm… I certainly didn’t wish to grow up to become my mother (talk about one’s worse nightmare…), other female relatives were even less desirable options so I was left with imaginary characters and a vast variety of people I had never met, yet I was supposed to get a clear enough idea about who they were and want to emulate all their qualities and flaws. So a fictional character it would be – at least you knew what you were working with in that case.

I remember Scarlett O’Hara was one of my early choices. I had yet to read the book, but I had watched Gone With The Wind and I liked what I saw. I honestly think I could notice my teacher’s jaw drop as I was reading. I wasn’t even 10 and acting out that way was absolutely unacceptable, she informed me in an angry tone. I normally wrote so well, what had happened to me? I rather liked my composition and I had trouble understanding why slightly incoherent girls got better grades. “I love my mom a lot” was the only reason they had for wanting to be like their mothers; the truly profound ones also mentioned mommy being a very accomplished cook or having pretty hair.

The importance of saying what a person wants to hear, not what you really believe was one of the main things I learnt in school; therefore I instinctively learnt how to rebel against this tendency. I generally got very good grades, so I could afford to splurge once in a while and speak my mind in glorious, hilarious, at times even offensive ways. As for the “idol” composition, I remember a masterpiece detailing what I admired about a stray dog that bit me; there also was that piece about my mother, a “how not to” account…

As we go older, it became acceptable for movie stars, singers and public figures of all sorts to be what we aspired to become, but it didn’t make it any easier as far as I was concerned, so that particular assignment remained an opportunity for mockery and entertainment. Of course I preferred certain singers, I had favourite authors, I liked certain well-known people better than others, but the truth was I didn’t like to dig into their personal life, nor did I enjoy learning everything there was to know about them, the way it was presented and fed to the public. I generally separated the person from the artist – I may have enjoyed the art, but that didn’t mean I would also appreciate the artist that created it. So school presented me with another ordeal, the task of looking into authors’ (or any other relevant persons’ we studied about) background.

The dry list of years and events connected to various individuals bored me to death… until I understood there were more comprehensive and fun ways to learn about them. If you perceived them as characters, you could simply read their story and if you were lucky enough, you managed to find all sorts of juicy details that were not included in the boring synopsis provided by teachers. There was also a positive side to this not so amusing endeavour. Those titans became a lot less intimidating, they were in fact people just like us, with flaws and shortcomings, and their brilliant minds didn’t necessarily guarantee their happiness; even success and recognition were often out of reach during their lifetime. So there was hope for all of us… Unfortunately, once you got to learn more about the person, it became more difficult to respect the work.

I did admire people for various reasons, even if I didn’t necessarily like them entirely and I learnt to take bits and pieces from them, to value those features that made them great, to appreciate what they offered directly and indirectly. It was sometimes as simple as enjoying somebody’s music (of course, it didn’t hurt if the way they looked made your teenage hormones wild and your knees weak with emotion). Alas, I was not allowed to put up posters, damaging the paint was a big no-no, one set in stone by my grandmother. So one day she came home to find the furniture in my room and the door covered in posters of singers and bands I liked, adored or even barely tolerated.

She had only mentioned the walls, after all… and it had become a battle of wills. It had all started from the one poster I wanted to have and since she didn’t allow it, it became crucial for me to display all the posters I could get my hands on. I found the loophole in her rule and there was nothing to do but look mortified. She appealed to a higher court, but since my grandfather couldn’t care less about what I did with my room as long as nothing got broken, I won. A few weeks after having made my point, I took most of them down, careful not to damage the furniture, and only left the one I initially wanted. Jon Bon Jovi showed off his toned body to all my visitors. Unfortunately one afternoon I quietly entered my room to find my grandmother ogling the image with a certain indiscrete, hungry look you really don’t want to see in your grandmother’s eyes…

Years later I saw him live in a concert and the experience brought up so many mixed memories and feelings… It was amazing, that much I can say, a child’s dream that the adult made possible. I may have been fascinated by the man on the stage and by his voice, yet call me a narcissist, but I was also my own “idol” for a moment there as well…

In response to WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Admiration.

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35 thoughts on “I’m Not One For Idols

  1. I can’t tell you how much I relate to this. I had the same issue in school – the first time I had to write about a role model / idol, I remember being so, so confused. In the end, I wrote about my aunty (again, like you said – female family members are usually the “go to” for young girls). Truthfully, I didn’t know my aunty all that well but she was one of the only female relatives I had that had gone to University and moved away so… her it was. I remember writing her an email filled with questions, so that I actually could know more about the person who was supposedly my idol.

    And like you as I got older, the idols for me became authors or fictional characters (Hermione Granger being one of them…) but these exercises of writing about idols always just felt like a work of fiction to me: gloss over the flaws and tell your teacher just why this person is perfect…

    I wish that schools could spend more time telling students how to form their own identity, that it’s okay to make mistakes, try a lot of different things, pick up traits from the people you admire sure but be your own person 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you can relate to my experience, yet I’m sorry you can relate to my experience… Such assignments can be a lot of pressure on a child, especially if they feel they need to be somebody else in order to be accepted. I remember my teacher asked me directly why I hadn’t chosen my mother and underlined the fact that I should have done so.
      I believe that at some point almost any person will display a type of behaviour worthy of admiration and like you said, I also would have preferred to have had that aspect emphasized in school. Of course, we did have some amazing teachers as well, who tried to support and help us discover our true identity, but in a way that was even more confusing for some of us. What can I say, the system was far from perfect. In a way, it made many of us stronger; yet I can’t help thinking that the weaker ones weren’t offered much help. Let’s hope things improve and when we get the chance to change something, let’s not perpetuate the same flawed mentality 🙂 .

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t agree more about separating the artist from the art. Just because I like to read someones’s books doesn’t necessary mean I’ll like the actual person, should we ever meet. And of course that goes for actors, too. I have never understood the appeal of “People” magazine.
    I like your idea of taking bits and pieces of different people to admire. And I have to admit, I’m impressed that you figured all this out at such an early age. It took me much,much longer!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was something I felt rather than thought and I couldn’t explain it entirely at the time. I remember feeling weird for not considering this or that actor/singer to be perfect, the way other children my age did. What was all the fuss about anyway, I wondered. We’d never actually meet those people, they had no idea we existed, yet so much time was wasted worshiping them.
      I completely agree, appreciating a book shouldn’t imply liking the author as well, just as disliking a person shouldn’t prevent us from keeping an open mind regarding their work. There’s this local author I simply cannot stand (the sound of his voice simply makes me change the channel when there’s an interview with him on TV, he’s too much of a hypocrite for my taste), yet that doesn’t change the fact that his work is brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A wonderful comment, “Unfortunately one afternoon I quietly entered my room to find my grandmother ogling the image with a certain indiscrete, hungry look you really don’t want to see in your grandmother’s eyes…” There’s an insight to her humanity, right there. I wonder if you thought of her differently after that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Let’s just say that it took a while to stop thinking of just that particular scene whenever she would mention a man was handsome 🙂 . It can be challenging for a child to accept that a grandmother is a woman like any other one, with the same needs and desires.

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  4. love your writing and enjoyed imaging the posters on the door and furniture -ha!

    also –
    The importance of saying what a person wants to hear, not what you really believe was one of the main things I learnt in school-
    this is why I like your stuff – you have this societal wisdom (if I can call it that) and well, just a great take on the theme. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • My room was an eyesore with all those posters 🙂 . But I had made my point, that was all that mattered.
      Unfortunately too many of our teachers tried to get us to follow a pattern and to conform to outdated ideas, rather than be creative and find our own path within certain boundaries and guideline. The truly gifted teachers (because we had several of them as well) had a tough job earning our trust and getting us to open up. The sad part is I still see this sort of situation in schools nowadays.

      Liked by 1 person

      • yes, I still see it too – and I also see too much punishment – and usually the type of punishment used is not effective because the stduents get hurt and do not always see that the punishment was related to their infraction – or it is like hitting a fly with a hammer – oh I dunno…

        anyhow, thought of you earlier today because Jon Bon Jovi is in a commercial this week – and I took a pic to share with you – will be back later – he looks good for hsi age (and also heard “I’ll be there for you…” on a drive this weekend – not sure if that is the title – but that is my fav bon jovi song…)

        Liked by 1 person

        • I remember getting away with so many things in school, yet ironically when we did get punished, it was generally for trivial stuff. Like you said, the punishment hardly ever fit the crime. It was all too often a reflection of the parents’ involvement and of their relation to the school master as well…
          On a different note, that Bon Jovi song, “Always” is one of my favourite ones as well, I used to listen to it on a loop in the ’90s… Ah, the good old days 😉

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          • oh so that is the name – ha! and I was not too much of a fan back then, but have come to like their stuff. Did you know my boys went to a private bon jovi concert in Texas a few years ago. Well with like 3 thousand people – there is a rich guy there who has a badn come each year – and at that time – my father-n-law’s wife was invited and everyone went….
            it was pretty fun….

            Liked by 1 person

            • 3000 people is private enough 🙂 . That must have been a nice treat for everybody. He managed to easily establish a great connection with his audience at that concert I was mentioning and you got the feeling he respected those who spent time and money to be there and see him. The show started right on time and although it was supposed to last for about 2 hours, he was on stage for nearly 3, just because everybody enjoyed his performance.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Oh ana = that show sounds amazing – and the extra hour speaks volumes about the passion and heart he has an artist – and I think of you overtime the commercial comes on – which is a lot this week because my boys are watching the NBA playoffs and that John Bon Jovi Direct TV commercial keeps getting air time…..

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              • I think so too, it says a lot about an artist’s dedication and professionalism. You made me curious about that commercial, I looked it up on the internet 🙂 . You’re right, he still looks good, though his hair has seen better days I think.

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              • I am still going to come and share the photo I have of it for you! I forgot to grab the “file url” the last two times I was here!
                And at least he is not all plastic surgeried looking like a few other musicians his age – there is something “healthy” about his aged look- hmmmm

                Liked by 1 person

              • Well I agree – and the singer from the goo goo dolls has one of the worse plastic surgery jobs – whew – oh and I remember hearing that John Bon jovi pretended to drink from a bottle of vodka on stage – but it was filled with water (something like that) – at least I think it was him the story was about – so long ago – ?

                Liked by 1 person

              • There’s quite a few cautionary tales out there when it comes to plastic surgery 😉 . There is a point where ‘more’ becomes ‘too much’, just like in any other situation.
                I don’t know the vodka story, or whether it was Bon Jovi or somebody else. But it does sound like something that could happen, they need to promote a certain image for some of the fans, I guess. However, he was congratulating one of his band members who had just gotten out of rehab not long before that concert I was telling you about.

                Liked by 1 person

              • oh cool about the rehab – and long time ago I featured a post about Ozzy Osbourne and his wisdom on staying off alcohol – he talked about the conditioning people have = from musicians to anyone – how after a concert or special occasion – the tendency is to go and celebrate with alcohol. He talked about the feel of a rocks glass – the swishing of the ice and the overall experience he just misses when sober – and it was so good ana…. it was the kind of stuff more folks need to think about as they break any alcohol addiction – because the way he talked about the realistic side of conditioning and just the lifestyle stuff that becomes intimate parts of our fabric – well that can help reduce triggers.
                anyhow, we are watching the NBA playoffs this week and that John Bon Jovi commercial has come on a few times – and think of you every time….

                PS- here is the link – let me know if it works.

                Liked by 1 person

              • The link works perfectly, thank you, Yvette 🙂 .
                Wise words from Ozzie… I can only imagine that the music industry makes it a lot harder for a person to break an alcohol or drug addiction, given the lifestyle. It must take great will power to manage it. I remember I heard the part about the ice clinking and swishes in the glass too; I guess one really becomes aware of all the little things that trigger certain needs and habits only when one tries to quit. Let’s be honest, it’s not even easy to stop drinking coffee (yes, I admit, I have a problem 🙂 ). But joking aside, I still think it all comes down to will power and determination… and probably finding the right thing to motivate you. I’m still trying to get my mother to quit smoking – she half-heartedly tried several times, until she finally admitted the truth. She just doesn’t want to do it and nothing and nobody is important enough to her in order to change her mind. On the other hand, I also met a couple of people who quit smoking simply to prove themselves they could, that it wasn’t stronger than they were… What can I say, in the end we are all entitled to our mistakes and choices, as long as we manage not to drag others down with us.

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              • well said – well said – and it took me four years to quit smoking- from 87 to 1990… (I was teased for “quitting again” – and will have to share more later – but I tell teens about it all the time – well – actually one wake up call was by chance one day I was coming home from college and stopped in a store to buy a pack of smokes and a guy – a rich radiologist) offered to buy my cigarettes for me and it creeped me out – I said NO and then he said he has made so much money form the damage of smoking (as he saw the lungs) and wanted to give back… argh!!

                but it was one of many catalysts to help me – I also was feeling ill when I smoked – cos at that time they were just starting to add chemicals in this unregulated industry – but I also now know I needed to cleanse – either way – my body did not like it and so thank God I was able to listen to that – and so I would wait and go back (usually when I was drinking – cos that went so well – ha) anyhow, it also took fasting for me to break it for good. It was at a job in 1990 and I was praying about a lot of things – direction for my life and whatnot – and I would do these juice fasts – like take a gallon water jug and fill it with some oj, pineapple juice, and water – maybe a splash of bit C – and for a while day I would sip it and not eat – it was my fasting – and it was silly the way I did it because I would tell everyone and walk in to declare it – lol – but it was where I was at – and I see that somehow God used that to allow me to break some of the physical part of it …. and so similar to your mum – when I tell teens about my experience with it – I feel them how I loved smiling and how it was a very intimate part of my life – and almost a companion – on road trips – getting ready to go out- then being out… etc.
                anyhow…. that is a huge part of my story and I am glad I was made ill from smoking – because it really helped – and then for years I could not be around second hand smoke – which is another story – but my throat would close up – and now _ after a couple years of cleansing – I can actually be around it and i am fine… I still try not to be because it is not good for us – but I can at least go to someone’s house and not have to go….
                and regarding…..

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              • The radiologist’s cynicism is one original wakeup call! I like the guy’s style 🙂 . Yours is a story worth telling, I’m glad you’re able to share it. Congratulations on breaking your addiction, Yvette ❤ ! I can only hope that in case it becomes a serious health issue my mother will be motivated enough to quit it, although I have my doubts about it. Like you said, it becomes such an intimate part of everyday life, so intricately connected to every little detail, that it's really not easy to even want to quit, much less actually do it. I can't pretend I know how it feels, I've only smoked when I was a teenager, but I was fortunate enough to decide to stop before it became a habit hard to break.
                As for second hand smoking… let's just say being a non-smoker in a society where it feels like everybody is smoking can be challenging. I did feel ill because of it a couple of times – coincidentally, both times when my mom was visiting, she's the only one that won't accept it bothers me and I prefer people not smoke in my apartment. She still gets mad about it…
                But coffee is a whole different story 🙂 I don't see myself giving it up either, unless it becomes a health hazard. I enjoy drinking tea as well, but it's just not the same thing… 😉

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              • I agree – coffee and tea have different roles – and both mmmm and mmmm
                And for me – quitting smoking was actually in my late teens early 20 when it took that long! And it feels like a lifetime ago -(and was almost three decades – wow)) feels like a person I barely remember in some ways – but I started smoking so young – only casually – and get this – i was also athletic – ha! Like I ran a 5k with a few friends in 1989 – and had a cigarette on the drive home (duh!)-

                And with your momma – well I know we care so much – and I think certain brands are worse than other brands -but I sometimes think “sugar” – esp HFC-
                and fungal/parasite issues like candidiasis or tapeworm disease ((and maybe bacteria infected root canals)) are far more damaging to the body terrain more than smoking- and then it always comes down to genetics too

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              • I can’t help laughing, though I probably shouldn’t 🙂 There are so many things out there that can kill us and we have no control over them, so perhaps we should worry less – after all, we don’t want the stress of worrying to do that before all those other nasties get a chance 🙂 .

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              • I hear ya – and I also once heard someone say that smokers do not get a certain lung parasite – because the smoke keeps it away – ha! oh I think I could really chat it up with you about sho many things ana – from smoking and drinking to good music and reviews of books…. ahhhhhhhh

                Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! There are definitely plenty of reasons one would look up to Martin Scorsese and when it comes to influences, nobody is immune. We may not always be aware of these influences, but at least the ones we consciously allow to seep in say a lot about who we are.

      Liked by 1 person

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