Friday, February 1, 2008

The Horror of Britney Spears

Let me begin by saying that I'm not a Britney Spears fan, but I bear her no ill will. And like most of the world, I've watched with horrified fascination as she's spiraled out of control.

The last year of Britney news has been like driving past a car wreck every other day. At first it's a thrilling change of pace and you can't wait to get a good look. But after a while you start to notice a pattern. "Another car wreck?" you say, even though you're still craning your neck to see what happened. Then you begin to get concerned. "There's a car wreck here all the time," you think. "What the hell's going on?" Next, you become alarmed. "Something's really wrong here," you think. "Someone should do something about it." Finally, after so much carnage, you grow bored and annoyed with the whole thing. You stop driving down that street entirely because it's obviously bad news and you warn your friends about it as well because no one needs to get caught up in that mess.

That's kind of where I am with Britney right now. The thrill is gone. Someone should have stepped in a long time ago. This needs to be fixed. Now, I just don't want anyone else to get hurt and am avoiding it as much as possible.

So why this post?

Simple. I feel bad for Britney because I've behaved erratically myself from time to time. In the moment, it never seems like that big of a deal. There are always extenuating circumstances and no one really knows how I feel and they certainly don't have my best interests at heart and besides it's my life. It becomes easy to do the wrong thing.

But after the dust settles and I've had some time to think things through, I realize I made a bad decision. I've embarrassed myself, damaged my reputation, hurt others. Worse, everybody knew this was happening at the time and they've been talking about it ever since. Now I have to come back, apologize and watch my shit like a hawk, because I know everyone's watching and placing bets on when the next shoe is going to drop.

The last time this happened, I backed out of an out-of-town client meeting the day before our flight. For you, it might have been getting drunk at a party and donning a literal or metaphoric lampshade, getting involved in an ill-considered bout of adultery (is there any other kind?), getting addicted, arrested, caught, committed, criticized, hurt, implicated, imprisoned, shamed, you name it. There are a million and one ways to screw up and everyone's done it.

If you're a normal, average person, the blast radius of whatever bomb you just dropped is probably limited to family, friends and coworkers. If you're fortunate, many of them will be supportive once they've surveyed the damage and brushed themselves off.

But if you're Britney Spears, and the hits just keep coming, and every time one does it's splashed on every screen in the world, and some people are obviously taking pleasure and/or financial gain from your trouble, and you're probably suffering from a treatable and not-uncommon mental illness as well, it makes a graceful recovery damn-near impossible. And that's got to hurt like hell.

Imagine your worst embarrassment. Multiply it by a thousand. Add in constant media coverage with some people predicting things will get worse and others hoping they really do. Combine with not knowing which of your friends and family you can trust. I bet you still can't imagine what Britney Spears is feeling now or will be soon.

Congratulations, world. Britney Spears had a massive and near-total meltdown, and we all got to watch. We're still watching and commenting from the sidelines and licking our chops in anticipation of what's going to happen next. We just can't get enough of her misery. I think we secretly hope it never, ever ends.

I don't know if Britney Spears can recover from something like this. I don't know if anyone can. But if she does, by some measure of strength or grace, I'll become her biggest champion because what's happened to Britney Spears, what's been done to her and is still being done, is nothing short of horrifying. It's probably one of the worst things that could ever happen to a person.

I hope Britney gets the time and space and peace and help and understanding she needs to deal with this and put it behind her.

And I hope none of us will ever need it ourselves.

Good luck, Britney. Be well.

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