What Sheryl Sandberg and Britney Spears Have In Common

...Baby One More Time (song)

We’re edging up on Halloween, I’m reminded of how much I hate to dress up in costumes. I do. It’s not like the old days when I was a kid, and I could just rummage last minute through the dress-up box, throw on a gypsy skirt, and voila! I was good to go. If you dress up as an adult, your costume either has to be hysterically clever, disgustingly scary or (for some) sexy. All that just makes me feel like it’s a competition. That I want to quit.

If you do go for it, pull together some sort of fab costume, once you’re all dressed up in it, then you probably gotta go to a party to show it off with other (hopefully, oh God, please let them be) similarly dressed up adults and be all like — “Yeeeeaaaahhh!!! Woooooo!!!! Bleeeehhhhhhh!!! (that’s me sticking my tongue out, Miley-style, in pictures) Isn’t it AWESOME??? I’m Sexy Fantine from Les Miz. See my knocked out teeth and do-it-myself pixie cut????? Yeeeeeaaaahhhhh!!!” And spend all night, just….like….looking at each other’s costumes. Which makes me feel weird and spooky and pathetic.

I feel guilty for not liking Halloween, but I comfort myself that I also don’t like playing charades or Scrabble or baby shower games of any kind whatsoever. So I score high in the consistency category.

I did dress up once. It was 199something. I had two toddlers. Our playgroup Halloween party. I have no idea what possessed me at the time, but, suffice it to say, some strange spirit took hold of me, forced me to go to Target and buy those little pom-pom ponytail holders three-year-old girls wear.

Or pop stars starring in their first music videos.

Oh yes, oh yes, indeedy. You know it. I also found a little pleated, plaid miniskirt in my closet, white knee socks and knotted a white button down as low as I could possibly manage over my (not awesome anymore) stomach. Yes, folks, I dressed up as Britney Spears in her school girl “Hit Me, Baby, One More Time” outfit, braids and pom-poms and knee socks and all and IT WAS AMAZING. My husband was confused. My children oblivious. I was ecstatic.

Because I love Britney.

I love her.

There are some pop stars (alluded to earlier) who, in the course of plotting their careers seem scarily calculating and savvy to levels I can’t even imagine. Britney, on the other hand, seems like she was walking down a sunny street in LA one day and accidentally tripped and fell into a recording studio, where she — whoops! — recorded a catchy song, then — whoops! — took a wrong turn onto a soundstage, and spontaneously started dancing her ass off in a video somebody happened to be filming. I know this isn’t anywhere close to the truth, I know there was a huge machine behind her success, but she just seems so oblivious and sweet and innocent — I KNOW, I KNOW! The partying, the drugs, Colin Farrell, for the love of all that is good and pure — but that’s what I project onto her. It’s my fantasy. Let me have it.

When she was on America’s Next X-Talent-Or-Whatever, I loved watching her because anytime there was somebody terrible, she just looked like her little Britney-baby-bear heart was about to break for them. She was always sweet, even when they were horrendous and had no talent. Except when that one guy seemed to have stalked her from, like, ten years ago, and then she snapped back in her seat, lost the smile and they cut to commercial.

I don’t care how crazy Britney gets, who she marries, or what bathroom she goes into barefoot, I still believe she goes home at night says her prayers, snuggles up under a Hello Kitty coverlet and dreams about cotton candy and roller coaster rides.

Let’s take her new song, for example, “Work.” It seriously just kills me. I love it, I’m sorry, but I do. I turn it up so loud when I’m in my car. And picture how it all came about. I imagine, after the past five or so years of sitting around the pool with her freeloading friends who must have been forever and always saying things like, “Hey, Brit, instead of 49 cent Diet Cokes and powdered donuts from Quik Trip for dinner, let’s have free-range lobster!” or “Hey, Brit, got any clothes I can borrow? Any Gucci, Prada, Yves St. Laurent? Something other than the halter tops and cutoffs?”

I expect at some point she got fed up and, in order to teach her friends a valuable lesson, she wrote “Work.”

And then — whoops! — she accidentally made a video in which one might think she’s encouraging her friends to find jobs such as: hooker, stripper, dominatrix, mannequin-carrier and Woman Who Stands on Platform While Sharks Swim Around Her (which I gather is a sort of Sea World type job). But I really don’t think so. I think she’s proclaiming a feminist message.

Only Britney would make a video like this and then later let it slip that the people in charge pretty much pressured her into all the racy outfits and sexualized scenarios. I’m supposing at the pre-production meeting she suggested they show accountants and insurance adjusters, zoo keepers and astronauts, one and all dancing and doing their work-related tasks dressed in their various suits and uniforms and whatnot. Obviously everyone ignored her. The director probably told her the 2nd unit was filming that part, and they’d add the footage on later.

Really, if you think about it, Britney is touting the same message we’ve been hearing from Sheryl Sandberg, the phenomenally confident and frighteningly perky COO of Facebook, which is…lean in. Yes, darlings, if you can look past the latex, whips and poles, you will see that Britney is indeed telling women everywhere–bitches as she so endearingly calls us–that if we want the good stuff, we gotta work for it. Or, per Sandberg, we gotta lean in.

I’m going to see you in Vegas, Britney, I am. Until then, keep your chin up. I believe in you.

2 thoughts on “What Sheryl Sandberg and Britney Spears Have In Common”

  1. JorgeJorge

    For Annie’s 12th birthday, we set up a kareoke machine and the girls “made” me sing “Hit Me Baby”. I’ve never seen little girls laugh so hard. To this day, these now 22-year-olds still call me Mister Britney Spears. And I feel so proud. Wonderfully funny post, Emily. Wonderfully funny.

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