Whitney Houston

Didn't We Almost Have It All

Image via Wikipedia

She turned up dead on my Facebook feed Saturday night, and I can’t say I was surprised or even sad in a nostalgic kind of way. In one of those prescient ways that irony sometimes presents to us, I had just been thinking about her earlier in the day.

XM Radio is hosting another of its freebie weeks in hopes of luring back costumers who feel them once they realize how limited their playlists are, and as I was taking Dee and her little friend to soccer practice, one of Houston’s earlier hits warbled at me. It was a song I was fond of back in its day but it has aged poorly. The lyrics were thin to begin with and I always felt that the song ended a bit off-balance in poetic terms. It occurred to me – again –  that despite her obvious talent, Houston had no ear for lyrics – what made them memorable and enduring. In fact, aside from her cover of the Dolly Parton tune, I Will Always Love You, which she performed for the film, The BodyGuard, I’d be hard put to name any song of hers that really doesn’t date itself.

Most of her hits came in the 80’s, a piss poor decade for music overall. Stack up enduring melodies from that decade against any of the others, and I’d bet the list is short by comparison. It launched, after all, the “me” generation and the consuming something-for-nothing, life’s-a -party attitudes that have landed us where we are now really.

Not that Houston is to blame for any of that. She was as much a victim of coming of age in the early 80’s as any of the rest of us. The pastels, Reganomics, Gordon Gekko, MTV superficiality tainted us all to one degree or another. Her shallow contributions doesn’t damn her anymore than it does the rest of us.

If anything about her death has touched me at all, it is the fact that we are the same age, born in the same year. Forty-eight is awfully young to drop dead though by all accounts she drowned in her tub after falling asleep. Xanax, liquor and a nice hot tub are probably not the best  combination. That she takes Xanax at all makes her one of my peers. You can’t swing a cat without hitting the Xanax dependent among women in the United States anymore. It’s more of a go-to than anti-depressants it seems. That it’s an oversold, horribly addictive drug goes without saying. Most of the mood altering concoctions peddled by the family physcians in the States are dispensed without proper physcological assessments but that’s the way Big Pharma likes it.

Big Pharma, another thing the 80’s gave us that it wisely doesn’t brag about.

A Facebook writer friend noted on her status update that she’d spent the evening listening to Houston’s songs and crying and didn’t know why. She wasn’t that big of a fan. But I pointed out that Houston is a cultural marker. Her music, more than she herself, is part of the soundtrack of a time when many of us were growing up or trying to pretend that now we were grown up. Her death is a stark reminder that those days are long gone and though we fool ourselves most of the time into believing that we are not older but better, the truth is that we are truly grown and more than a bit adult now. Not in danger of somewhat carelessly drowning ourselves in our tubs, but certainly not impervious to time.

Time ravaged Whitney. Mostly with her assistance. But time is no friend to women in America. Look no farther than poor and to be pitied Demi Moore, who recently checked her anorexic, drug addled (wanna bet she’s got a bit of a Xanax problem herself?) self into rehab after she recently collapsed from being overly artifically stimulated. Or Heather Locklear? Remember her from Dynasty or her short skirt/long jacket days on Melrose Place? She tired to commit suidcide not long ago.

What do these women have in common? Growing old while female in the United States, a country that doesn’t like women much anyway and certainly has no use for those pretty ones who can’t retain some of their youth.

Look at Madonna. She’s 54. Can you imagine the pressure? Only if you are a women. Fifty-four and having to be twenty-five forever. If I didn’t know she was a devout yogi, I’d suspect Xanax use here too.

It’s hard to be surprised about Whitney Houston, however. A cocaine addict turned prescription drug abusing alcoholic isn’t the American dream but it’s probably not far off a lot of people of a certain age’s truths anymore. And that’s sad.

7 responses to “Whitney Houston

  1. I agree with how difficult it must be to try to maintain the look of 25 forever, otherwise the female stars are cast aside like yesterday’s newspaper. But there is another type woman that everybody seems to adore: the grandma type. Nobody expects the granny type to resemble Madonna, in fact they would be aghast if she did! The problem is, what about those of us who are at a point between youth and the elderly? Do they want us to hide away in shame, or what? (I am grudgingly accepting the “granny” that is beginning to creep into my appearance!)

    • Well, if you go with Rick Santorum’s theory, we should be procreating shoeless in our kitchens until such time. But, you make a good point. There is youthful and wizened and in between we are expected to be proverbial child silent but also invisible. The female aging process is so horrifying it should be done only in shade drawn rooms.

      We have only ourselves to blame for this. We demanded equality and then meekly went along with all the near to impossible amendments our mostly male overlords tacked on in an effort to make our liberty as odious as possible.

  2. Yet another celebrity death that just leaves me cold. I’m not surprised, shocked, or sad. I wasn’t a fan, but I didn’t dislike her either. (However, when The Bodyguard came out, her songs were so overplayed that I reflexively changed the station at the first bar of music.)

    She was “only 48.” So what? That’s older than either your husband or mine got to be. It’s a tragedy? For her daughter and other family members, it certainly is. For anyone else? I don’t see it.

    I really think I must be wired differently from most people, because I simply do not react to these stories the way 99% of the people around me do. (Ha! I’m finally part of the 1% !)

    • I am only 48. I lean towards that being young and it’s somewhat tragic b/c barring accidents and bad genes, we should live to be older if not outright old. Is it a tragedy though if you live your life in such a way that no one is really surprised when you die young? That’s a good question. Her death is a sorry waste in the same way that much of her life was too. Caught up in a cycle of addiction and what is that really but self-abuse?

      Her death doesn’t move me personally. As I said, she’s a mile-marker.

    • I think sometimes time passes so quickly when we are in the thick of life that we don’t notice until something like this gives us cause to pause. I don’t necessarily grieve for the girl I was unless it is for the sadness she endured because of her foolishness, but I note that she is gone. A lot of us seem genuinely upset and mournful about our spent youths and this gives them cover to mourn, I suppose.

      • Mother Theresa said, If we do not have peace it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

        We could all stand to be more generous to each other. And we could begin by being more generous to ourselves – our departed selves. That kid did the best she knew how. She was making do with less. Now in the fullness of life we can thank her for blazing the trail. Say a prayer for Whitney. Give thanks for our breath.

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