Dear Beautiful Miley - Girl of Cardigan

Dear Beautiful Girl-

Let me start by admitting I am for sure too old or too sane or too something to get it.  The tongue thing, the awkward hip hop “I touch myself” bit, the teddy bears – not my cup of tea, lovely – a little too broke down Alice in Wonderland on acid at a football game with a Ken doll in a joker costume for me.  That was a weird scene, man.

I wonder how much of that was you?  I wonder how much your team, your set designers, your costume folks, your advisors, your agents, your friends, your producers…I wonder how much has been handed to you in this, if you are the puppet or the puppeteer.  I’m not sure anyone but you can really know.

Beautiful girl, you are twenty.  It’s a darn good thing that your parents aren’t spanking or publicly scolding or grounding you – in a society that is constantly lamenting the extended adolescence of your generation, I’d like to high five your parents for letting you make your own choices.  And making them you are.  I remember twenty.  I remember the weird things I did to my hair and the lines I pushed and the boundaries I crossed as I was trying to decide who I was and who I wanted to become.  I see your bold confidence, and it’s gorgeous – they way you fearlessly attack a challenge, look criticism in the eye and stare it down – I lacked that in my early twenties.  I was so afraid to fail that I never tried.  I see you putting yourself out there (albeit a touch literally at times) and I admire that in you.

I wonder how much responsibility we thought we could give you?  I wonder, when we put you on a pedestal and said “Thou shalt be an example for our daughters, an inspiration, a role model” if we stopped to think about the fact that you were just a child, just a girl, just a Disney character – wonder if we were willing to acknowledge that none of us had a clue who you would grow up to be.  We still don’t.  But now, we sit in our easy chairs and lob defining words like “slut” and “whore” and “tragedy” at your cute little teddy-clad rear during what has long, long, long been the raunchiest awards show on television and get to pretend like we’re so different from you, like we’d make different choices in your circumstances, like we have no regrettable scenes in our early twenties that we are incredibly lucky were not broadcast around the world.

Beautiful girl, you are not defined by a role you played in childhood.  You are not defined by a haircut, or your rockin fashion choices, or one weird night with too many teddy bears and some guy called Robin who is marching away from this mess suspiciously un-shamed.  Today is today, tomorrow is tomorrow, and you get to keep growing up and changing and learning and reinventing yourself.  I believe you, like every beautiful girl, have something incredibly valuable and uniquely yours to contribute to the world.  I believe the God I know crafted you for a purpose, and that he will complete the good work he began in you.  You have so much yet to become, and I already know you are a force.  If you were my daughter, I would have so much to be proud of in you.  Although I might ask you to put on some pants when you’re on television, for crying out loud.  😉

I wonder why any of us thought it was your job to raise our daughters?  I wonder how many of us are sufficient role models in our own eyes, how many of us can say “I hope my baby girl grows up to be just like me.”  You are not a God, or a saint, or anything other than just like the rest of us, acting like someone whose career depends on keeping the cameras and dollars focused squarely on her.  What networks choose to air is not your fault – it’s ours.  We vote with every clicked link, with every hour in front of the television, with every view on your YouTube feed, to keep you clad in fake fur with your tongue on some slimy neck – we pretend we know you, we blame you, and then we chant “dance, monkey, dance!”

I think you have greatness in you, Beautiful Girl.  I’m excited to watch it realized.  I’m excited to tell my kid, if she knows who you are by then in this fickle world, about the beautiful and not so beautiful choices you’ll make.  Because each of us struggles and each succeeds, because we are all capable of horrors and acts of extraordinary grace.  I’m glad you’re not perfect.  I’d have to adjust my whole dang paradigm if you were.

But really, foam fingers will never be the same for me now.  So, ya know, thanks a lot for that.

Godspeed, beautiful girl.


photo by the incomparable Shannon Hannon Photography.

  • Kyle August 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm

    It’s always beautifully disarming to have reason thrust into the midst of a media and societal frenzy of judgment and disdain.

  • Kari Gale August 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Ah Karen. I love your perspective. Your words always bring true light to a situation.
    love you.

  • shannon August 27, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    i love the lens through which you view the world. people are better for it. does anyone have miley’s personal email? i would like her to see this 🙂

  • Liesl August 27, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    O, Miley. Foam fingers. Good stuff, KT. 🙂

  • Bekah W. August 27, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Lovely. Best perspective I’ve read on the subject…

  • Pam August 28, 2013 at 6:47 am

    Thank you for this.

  • Brian B August 28, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Yeah… except…

    (1) What will Miley have to life with all her life as a result? Pandering to our sex-stupid culture creates a very permanent imprint that sets her up for a lifetime of objectification. I’m sure she doesn’t have her mind wrapped around that today, and by the time she does, it will be too late.
    (2) Adults are SUPPOSED to protect her from actions/ choices that will leave scarring consequences, those consequences neither deserved nor of her own choosing, but resulting directly from this event.

    • karyn August 28, 2013 at 7:22 pm

      Brian, thanks so much for weighing in. I really appreciate your comment.
      Frankly, though I agree the performance was in poor taste, and I’d certainly rather she had made a different choice, I don’t believe her actions of late are necessarily indicative of the woman she will become, and I am absolutely certain it is never, ever too late for change and redemption. Maybe we’ll never see her the same, or maybe we’ll allow her to change when she’s ready, but how we see her is sort of irrelevant in the grand scheme. Of course there will be consequences, which is sad, but I don’t think she’s ruined her life. I’ve tried to ruin my own life a whole bunch of times at this point, and I keep crawling back to God in my big mess, and He keeps blessing and restoring me. Not an excuse to sin, but certainly a reason to have hope for His beloved Miley.
      And I agree adults would be supposed to protect her, were she not already an adult. At twenty, I think her parents can certainly offer opinions, gentle rebuke, and alternatives, but to “punish” or publicly shame her would be, in my opinion, inappropriate. I suspect this is one of the hardest phases of parenting, watching your child become responsible for her own decisions and make ones you know may haunt her. I remember feeling so loved through this period of my life, even when I knew my parents were less than thrilled. I hope she gets to feel that. It was truly life-changing for me.