Sunday, July 8, 2012

thanks freddie, for wearing a skirt

A gaggle of 11-12 year old girls took shelter from the heat at my house yesterday.  I thought it was cool that one of the girls’ older brothers, a 15 year old, joined them for a game of Rummy Royal.  The unlikely group listened to music, dealt cards, laughed, and argued the afternoon away. 

Since they managed to occupy themselves for several hours, I didn’t intervene when I heard them move to the computer.   As I washed the dishes, however, I did turn one bionic ear their way, expecting that the 15 year old’s internet interests might not jive with my ideas about tween entertainment. 

It didn’t take long before I heard a high-pitched chorus of “oooh!”  “eeeew,” and “OMG!” coming from around the corner. 

Me: “Olivia! What are you looking at?” 

Olivia:  “Huh?”

Me, drying my hands: “What’s on the computer? Is it appropriate?” 

Olivia cuts me off as I round the corner:  “It’s appropriate.  I promise.  You know that guy?  He sings that song. You know.” 

I’m overwhelmed with information.

Olivia:  “You know, that guy.  He sings that song where everyone shakes their head in the car.  Is it Queen? He’s dressed like a girl!

Me:  “Oh, Freddie Mercury?”

Friend following behind Olivia:  “Yes, we promise.  It’s appropriate.  Just uhh, highly weird.”   She rolls her eyes back in her head in an exaggerated way.  Everyone nods knowingly.

I peer over their shoulders, and there he is:

He’s singing, I Want to Break Free.    

Me:  “He’s not weird.  He’s one of the most amazing vocalists in the history of rock!” 

They disperse, mumbling and giggling among themselves.  I guess there’s nothing like a nosy mom to suck the fun out of Youtube.   

I return to my dishes thinking about, “appropriate” and “highly weird.”  I guess I should be glad for Freddie that he made it to “appropriate,” especially considering that MTV (shockingly) banned the video back in 1984. 

Still, I can’t help but feel a pang of sadness for the “highly weird” part.  The video is funny and entertaining, but it has a point too. “I Want to Break Free,” expresses a pained desire to escape the limits and oppressions of normal, especially those that surround gender roles and sexuality.  With arm pit and facial hair hanging out, Freddie doesn't hide his masculinity under women's clothing, rather, he asks us to accept it in a different form.  It bums me out that anyone would still call him “weird” after nearly 30 years.  Will we ever get used to seeing a man in a skirt?

After the kids go home, I feel obligated to speak up for Freddie.  I ask Olivia what she thinks about the video.  She thinks it was funny.  I agree, but I add that his costumes also challenge us to open our minds about how women and men should act, dress, and love.  She asks if he liked wearing women’s clothing.  I tell her “probably,” but that he didn’t seem to think we should care either way. 

She answers: “I get it.  He’s a leader.  He’s doing his own thing.”  Then she adds, “I like that about people.” 

Man, do you think she just tells me stuff like that because she knows I want to hear it?  I hope not because such statements makes me sooo happy! 

I tell her, “Yeah, me too.” 

So thanks Freddie, for putting on a skirt and helping me teach my daughter about the pressures of conformity.  You really do have to stay on top of these lessons, I’ve discovered.  Otherwise, the status quo will dress up in the innocent guise of a friendly teenager, march through your backdoor without even knocking, and draw arbitrary boundaries around normal while you’re busy washing the dishes.


  1. perhaps i'll have eduardo dress like freddie and see what chad says. lol.

  2. I read this post a while ago. I usually have to let things sit on the back burner before I reply. The thing about this post that comes back to me is, "He sings that song where everyone shakes their head in the car." What is the exact name of this song? I always get the Queen songs confused, and I think I need this song for my MP3 player. I absolutely "play the drums" during that part of that song. One of those times is a spot of time for me. We were almost home from a VERY long drive to a basketball game (that we lost and my child played without enthusiasm). I was so happy the whole thing was almost over and then this song came on, and the crazy-play-along-or-you-might-as-well-be-dead part came on. It was fantastic. And I dig peeps who "do their own thing," too!

    1. Bohemian Rhapsody. it is definately hard to stay grouchy while listening to it. freddie mercury's performances were such an interesting combination of inspiring, funny and pained. (long drive to a sporting event is definately a risky venture - you never know what the ride home will hold!)