Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Complex Nature of Being a Cool Aunt

For the second time this year, I bought a Rolling Stone magazine on a whim at the airport, based on the cover picture alone. The first time, Yann lured me in via sympathy plea - Beastie Boy Adam Yauch had just died and I had just moved to Manhattan, seemingly right on queue. This time, the lead stars of AMC’s Breaking Bad; a show I avoided for far too long, and have been flying through on Netflix for most of the summer, snatched me quick. Even though I am reading a Bowie biography, Loving the Alien, and even though I just got the chapter about his starring role in Labyrinth, which I have been looking forward to greatly, I decided to dive into RS. Jareth can wait a little while longer.

Rolling Stone is still the same familiar, intelligent magazine, and I am happy to pass the time catching up on all the hot topics in the mass media market. While reading a bit on Bob Dylan’s newest feat - his 35th if you can believe it - aptly named Tempest, (which Dylan denies is a subtle nod to Shakespeare, though I like that link too much to ignore it here); I decided to listen to Bringing It All Back Home. Fitting, as I am leaving Asheville, a place where my heart has a home, and heading back to New York, where my heart is trying to find a place to put some roots down. As I leave North Carolina, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with nostalgia, but am happy to be so bestowed with those memories, and some new ones too. My sunburn is fresh from tubing down the dirty French Broad River, but I am nevertheless doing well considering my current flurry of activities and satiated state of mind.

I get through most of RS without fuss or muss, enjoying the heavy-hitting stream of still talented writers and journalists. I miss some of the cocky reassurance of reading my man Hunter S. Thompson, but find the stories spun by the likes of Matt Taibbi and Brian Hiatt to be above par. Coverage of the outstanding Bryan Cranston (Malcolm in the Middle), and new-comer and current Hollywood bad-boy crush Aaron Paul is something Jann Wenner should be proud of. It teases the reader with just enough detail - without any spoilers - to keep the show, and its creators, just as fresh and exciting as watching the show itself. I am a glutton for my crushes, so I didn’t predict disappointment in my read. 

For the most part, I continued this symbiotic relationship with RS up until I met up with journalist Jonah Weiner’s piece on newbie band Best Coast's frontwoman Bethany Cosentino. I don’t know what I expected exactly, but this article’s flippant, no-consequences attitude rubbed me wrong. 25-year old Bethany seems a likable band member and interviewee, up until you realize all she seems to care about is Jameson, getting high and her hot boyfriend. All things I liked at that age, and still do to some extent, hell I’m only 30. But reading this, all I could think of (in a sarcastic tone) was, "ugh, fame is just so hard sometimes..." And this is coming from someone who loves a heavily padded and hazy artist biography like a heroin addict likes sugar (see Slash and Life).

So what was it exactly that made me so unsympathetic? 

Maybe I spent too much time this weekend with the children of my friends - little girls who can grow up to be anything they want, who will constantly look for role models in the women in their lives, including rock stars - to care to read about how pilled-out, coked-up and drunk off bourbon this chick has to be to overcome her anxiety to perform in a top-notch and quiet famous band. Call me old-fashioned, but what I care about more is how you became the awesome woman you are. I prefer the likes of Carrie Brownstein, Kim Deal, Stevie Nicks, and Pattie Smith to lean on for queues on how to pursue your dreams and become a badass in a world predominately ruled by men, drug abuse, inferiority complexes and dreams dashed by all of the above. If a writer like Jonah isn’t interested in those sides of the story, then I don’t think I’ll look for her name when I want to know about a breakout female artist. 

Not to mention Bethany herself. In a few years, I feel like she will look back on this interview in embarrassment at the Holly-Golikely, blasé attitude she presented herself in. I don’t want the daughters of my friends to look up to someone like that for guidance on how to be an artist and an adult. More importantly, I don't want these ladies to think that the only kind of writing that is appropriate for young women/role models is to show off their complete disregard for anyone but themselves. As a young writer, I like to read about all kinds of things, but when it comes to role models, I like to see complex stories about hope in the face of struggle and the enduring nature of the human spirit, even when overcome with anxiety.

This weekend allowed the littlest ladies in my life help me accept my own position as a role model in their lives. The nerd in me is growing up, and as an aunt, I find myself holding Rolling Stone to a new standard as another great learning tool to help us all figure out the kind of woman you want to be, and the kind of writing you should expect to read about those women. Here's hoping I can still be cool.