When I found out that Glee was doing a Britney episode I was fairly stoked; considerably more intrigued than I’d been by the idea of a Madonna ep, but less so than by the news of a Gaga episode. Excited on a nostalgic level, but not overmuch. So it’s fair to say I was surprised when, halfway through the show, I regressed into a fifth-grader.
“…Baby One More Time” was what did it. The nearly shot-by-shot remake of its music video, to be specific, with the cropped schoolgirl uniforms and dual side ponytails and rogue dancing on the basketball court and whatnot.
I remember seeing the video that first time, on Carson Daly’s TRL (back when I initially tried to invest myself in TRL, because everyone else watched it), and thinking two things: that 1) I wanted her flat abs, so I could be beautiful too, and 2) I wanted to be able to do backflips like that, which [I thought] required flat abs like hers. Also, I wanted to be a singer, and to dance that well, and if my friend Amanda didn’t already wear her hair in the side ponytails like that, I would like to, except I probably wouldn’t look as good as Amanda anyway, she being more or less the same size and level of attractiveness as Britney Spears. While I was more or less the same weight as Britney, but significantly (presumably) shorter and bespectacled and lacking the proper musculature/courage for a backflip. Plus I had braces. No one in the fifth grade had braces yet.
SPOILER ALERT: I was hugely insecure as an eleven-year-old.
But! “…Baby One More Time” was a killer song and our class had a mandatory lip sync coming at the end of the year, not to mention a talent show taking place during our pre-graduation field trip to the Boys & Girls Club. So me and two of my friends decided to do it. We loosely choreographed some moves, hip shimmies and box steps, and on the day of the lip sync, threw in some (retrospectively) age-inappropriate ass-slapping during the title refrain. We hadn’t discussed smacking ourselves on the ass, we hadn’t even thought of it. Why would we have? We were eleven! Britney doesn’t even do that in the video! But, y’know… I got carried away. So my friends, in a dual effort at sexiness and coordination, followed suit. We earned ourselves a class request for an encore, which we gladly gave –– with vocals that time –– but the gesture I’d spontaneously come up with caused us to lose the talent show. (The judges awarded the win to a classmate who lip-synched to “New York, New York.” Total showboat, srsly.)
This is where, if I wrote for Jezebel, I could break down the story and point out all the ways in which heterosexism and the beauty industrial complex affected my daily existence and what are now my memories. I won’t do that, though, because… well, duh. It’s pretty obvious where heterosexism and the beauty industrial complex intersected with my fifth-grade experience. Or middle school experience. Or high school or preschool or even college. Because during much of those periods, there was some girl (or girls) I wished I could be because she was thinner/prettier/more popular than me, which meant she was inherently cooler, which meant she was a better person than I, a “fact” which I theorized was obvious from the very look of me. People habitually mistook me for a grown woman or a mother of small children. I looked matronly –– old! Boring! Undesirable. Unkissable, unfuckable. Not even the then-hip T-shirts with Angel or, more embarrassingly, Hottie –– even then, I sensed, a pathetic gesture –– emblazoned in glitter could hide that.
But I felt pretty fucking awesome when I pretended to be Britney Spears that time. I felt powerful. After that, it was okay that I wouldn’t grow up to be someone like her; people didn’t shriek at the sight of me dancing around or find it silly that I’d try. Ultimately, Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” showed me that I didn’t have to look like Britney Spears to feel like I was Britney Spears. Corny, yes. But, I dunno. Britney’s music was good to bolster myself when I felt terrible in the years after fifth grade, too, especially the one directly after. “Stronger,” anyone? “Overprotected”? “Don’t Go Knockin’ On My Door”?
I guess what I’m trying to say here is, I fucking love Britney Spears. Who’s with me? Let’s form a club and make T-shirts.