Madonna is sixty. The whole world is watching and listening to see how she will celebrate this milestone. I’m sure the likes of Piers Morgan, Sarah Vine and endless other worldwide detractors are probably lurking in the shadows foaming at the mouth, waiting to pounce on whatever she wears or whatever shenanigans she gets up to, to celebrate. The tabloids have already taken a pop over the last couple of weeks at her most recent Italian Vogue cover story from her current home in Portugal; which sees her with her family, in various guises and settings. No less provocative some, as when she was thirty, forty, fifty. When exactly did they expect to see Madonna, sitting in a rocker on her veranda, with her cropped nana hair sporting a cardigan and knitting? Never going to happen.
Over on Instagram she’s been counting herself down to the big day, like a boss.
I was thirteen when I saw her in the pink wig performing Like a Virgin on Top of the Pops, fourteen when Desperately Seeking Susan was released, nineteen when I took Vogueing to the local nightclub (that’s another story for another blog post), twenty-one when I bought her Sex book and twenty-two when I saw her at Wembley Stadium in the Girlie Show Tour. She never shied away from using bad language, challenging norms and being sexual – hell, she was human, wasn’t she? And if it was good enough for the boys, it was good enough for Madonna; times ten. Throughout her life she’s rebelled against what’s commonly expected of women – be quiet, sit down, don’t speak, stay in your box, take orders, don’t lead, be demure, asexual, feel shame, don’t upset the status quo, and now: the ‘appropriate’ way to age.
In an earlier post I wrote in 2015 about Madonna, after her appearance on The Jonathon Ross Show, I explained her influence on my life, as ordinary as it is. Basically, it’s this: Get on with it. Make mistakes (sweet baby Jesus, I’ve made more than a few of those), take the criticism, fight when you have to, get knocked down, emotionally and/or professionally, get back up (lose love, lose job, retrain, move to Barcelona), don’t be ashamed to be a woman; to be strong, to be independent, mouthy and sexual. Check, check, check, check and check! My old neighbourhood (and friends) could tell you more than a few stories about that. We can all take a lead from Madge: don’t conform. Just look at the simplest of examples, in the way women present ourselves now. We are visible bosses and tech leaders and writers and producers and working mums and politicians and activists. My style at forty-seven is a world away from my mother at forty-seven, for example. How I live my life at forty-seven is most definitely a world away from my mother at forty-seven. We are getting better at not conforming to societal norms. Granted, I’m not going to flash my arse any time soon (I have in the past though, of course), but take the way I dress. It is not a million miles away from twenty years ago, I’m nowhere near ready for orthopaedic shoes and velour sweats! Although heels and the slidy death-tiles of Barcelona are not a good mix. I embraced my grey and am growing my hair, much to the chagrin of women and men in equal measures. It’s suppose to get darker and shorter the older you get, and if you’re really embracing the expected – why not get a nice tight perm. So much easier to manage now that we’re too tired to lift our arms for more than fifteen minutes of drying and styling. Fuck that shit.
Maybe the strongest message to take from watching her life through a lens, is that we mustn’t knock each other down. We need to look out for each other, build each other up: no other fucker will. Take a look at my example at the beginning of this post, Sarah Vine. She could not be more polar opposite to Madonna, than if she and Madonna were actually in the Arctic and Antarctic. You do you, Sarah – you know, be married to Michael Gove and write for the Daily Mail and stuff – and let Madonna writhe around half naked dressed as a dominatrix/flower-child/vixen/dinner-lady/whatever the hell she wants. My girlfriends are my world and I couldn’t have been strong without them, all these years. And each one of them in turn is strong, independent, feisty and unapologetic. We are each other’s trumpet blowers and heralders and support network. And I’m now beginning to see it in my nieces – all very much, mighty girls.
Madge has had our backs simply by being herself and kicking in door after door after door, with her stiletto boots. Putting it out there, provoking conversations and paving the way for women to feel comfortable living a little more freely, in any manner they want. I hope we can all do that for each other too, at the very least. So go forth Madonna, celebrate sixty with a bang, keep living your best life and doing what you do – being a provocateur. I for one, can’t wait to see what’s next.