I feel betrayed by Madonna. Once the Rebel Queen of the Wild Girl Tribe, she has tapped the last nail in the coffin of my love. This week’s news—that she cancelled on fans two hours before a show on account of wear-and-tear type injuries with no offer of singing sans the dance—killed it. As I lay my adoration to rest, in lieu of a eulogy, I give this timeline.
1983, Third Grade
Somewhere between glimpses of MTV at other people’s houses and a summer being babysat by a girl named Jacqui who listens to Rock Over London while she watches me, I become aware of Madonna. Lucky Star, Borderline—I ask my mother for a perm and stop brushing the tangles from my hair.
Like A Virgin happens. She becomes so famous that the room mothers don’t have to bother remembering my name—they call me The Madonna Girl.
Desperately Seeking Susan comes out, and yes. All the yes. I’m into this groove.
True Blue. Hmm.
But the platinum hair is really, really cool.
Who’s That Girl is a very bad movie, but I watch it several times because it’s Madonna. My father takes me to Soldier Field to see her perform. I wear a metallic pink dress with a giant rhinestone brooch in the middle where 12-year-old me hopes to have cleavage someday, proving how much my father loves me.
1989, High School
Metal and punk have me. My friends and I play guitar; my father wishes I would stick with his synthesizers and says so. Like a Prayer comes out, and the sexy blasphemy appeals to my dark little heart.
A League of Their Own. Shit’s getting weird, Madge. I don’t know about this.
Every week, I spend one hour in the girls’ dean’s office with five or six other girls who get a lot of disciplinary referrals. Dean Whiteley asks us each to write a report about a woman we admire. This is Erotica, this is Justify My Love, Sex era Madonna. I spit out two pages about the glory of her sex-positive, brazen love for diversity (but I’m 15, so the words are different—I have to use more of them to say it). In the high school hallways, one of the other Girls Who Won’t Behave calls me a “nigger lover” every chance she gets for the rest of the year.
I audition for my high school’s very first Rock and Roll Revue, a two-hour history of popular music. It’s my senior year, there’s no academic hope of graduation for me, but the Class of ’93 collectively had found a state of chill and getting along in that last year of high school, and I was participating in things. I get the show-stopper, the end role: I’m Madonna. This is everything. My dean cheers me on. At the last minute, the assistant principal pulls me out of the show and replaces me with an assistant pom coach.
He says that—although I’d cleared my one-week vacation ahead of time during auditions—because I’d missed a week of rehearsal, he had no choice but to re-cast the part while I was gone.
He says, “I did try to reach your family before you left on vacation to let you know you had to choose. I must have missed you. I left a message on the answering machine.”
I tell him only my older brother and I had flown to Florida to see my grandparents, that my mother, my step-father, my two baby brothers were all home for the duration, in our house with no answering machine. Four people home. No answering machine.
This is at the first post-break rehearsal. There are dozens of students and other faculty members present. All listening.
I swore expertly at authority that night for the first time I can remember. Then I got expelled.
I only know Bedtime Stories was released this year because I Googled for a Madonna timeline.
Courtney Love throws her compact at Madonna and crashes her post-VMA interview with Kurt Loder. She’s entered her “elder stateswoman” (Kurt Loder, October 13, 2013 interview with Bonnie Datt) phase. She condescends. She snipes. She is the pom coach and the assistant principal all in one. We all know whose side I’m on.
The next decades don’t contain her at all. I know Madonna is still a person in the world, but every whisper I hear sucks.
Fake British accent Madonna is the worst. The WORST.
She acts like an asshole when a fan buys her flowers.
Madonna cancels a show two hours before it’s supposed to start on account of physical pain due to chronic damage from a lifetime of high-impact performance. Two hours before. She calls herself “a warrior” in the cancellation note.
Build yourself a chariot, Madonna. Take a page from Dave Grohl. I know your body is beat. Hire some androgynous ballet dancers to cart you around your stage in a Madonna-glam rickshaw, and sing for the people who inexplicably still worship you.