Why I Was Ashamed of Listening to Britney Spears
I listen to Britney Spears. I love her. I want to marry her. I want to have her kids. Yes, as a man, I understand that it’s physically impossible to give birth. However, for Britney, I will defy the male anatomy’s limitations in order to give birth to the little girl she’s always wanted.
Creepiness aside, I feel embarrassed anytime someone notices that I’m listening to Britney’s music. Obviously, I have no problem publicly expressing my love for her. No, that isn’t the issue at all. My issue involves my image; particularly, the perception of my image in the eyes of strangers. I feel like I lose tough guy points when my guilty pleasure is revealed.
I wouldn’t necessarily say I dress too much like a hoodlum these days, but my teenage years were a different story altogether. Based on appearance, I was the epitome of what George Zimmerman saw, in his mind, that night when he killed Trayvon Martin, sans the Skittles. (I was always more of Raisinets guy.)
I was a straight-out-your-nightmare urban delinquent. So imagine that person. Go ahead; let each stereotype you’ve ever believed about inner city youths resurface. Done? Okay. Based on that image, you’d automatically assume I’d be listening to some hardcore rap music (a sub-genre of rap music that was popularized in the 90s and died when someone let Drake get too close to a microphone.) Not me. I loved listening to Britney!
Now some of you may not remember, or even know what a portable CD player was but, yes, they existed. And my CD player had many albums in rotation including, Britney’s debut album …Baby One More Time.
In the early 2000s, known to most of you as the dark ages, you never knew what someone sitting next to you on the train was listening to. Which made it easy to hide the fact that I was listening to Oops!… I Did it Again. Nowadays, thanks to smartphones, album artwork is now plastered across your screen. If you happen to check the time, anyone can easily see what you’re listening to.
That bothered me.
In my early 20s, I still bore the appearance of a super thug and I still loved Britney. I was caught in a terrible dichotomy. And the longer it lingered the more intense each moment of embarrassment became. One minute an old lady was clutching her purse, and the next she’d be laughing at me because she knew I was listening to “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” The intimidation factor, which I had intricately cultivated with my apparel, was dimishing.
I was no longer a ruffian in the eyes of those who’d I want to scare away. It wasn’t even in my head either. I had a friend confirm it. She said that when she first met me she thought I was an ignorant thug, who would stand on the corner all day. But as she spent time around me she was surprised to discover the contrary. She told me I was like a teddy bear. Yes, you read between the lines correctly. She indirectly told me that I was soft. Sure, I’m glad that she viewed me in a positive light but I felt emasculated.
I never considered myself to be a gangster, but I found security in it when others did. It kept people away and it kept me safe. Honestly, aside from the clothing, I had (and still have) the perfect look for it. I had the menacing facial hair, the threatening scowl, and the cold eyes. And, growing up at a time when New York was a bit more dangerous, it was important to camouflage yourself in a neighborhood with high criminal activity. You didn’t want to stand out because you’d be an easy target. (It wasn’t enough to dress the part, but it helped.)
Besides, I’m a New York kid who grew up in the 90s. Ain’t nothing better than a pair of Timbs and some baggy, sagging jeans two sizes too big. What the fuck are Nike ACG’s and True Religion jeans, anyway? Fuckouttaherewiththatbullshit! As Havoc of Mobb Deep once said, “Fuck looking cute, I’m strictly Timb boots and army-certified suits.”
However, as much as I wanted to hold on to that image, I had to grow out of it. I’m still a jeans and t-shirt guy. My clothes just happen to fit my body now. The intimidation factor is still present but it has subsided significantly.
I’d like to still think that I look tough, but whenever that picture of a Britney Spears album cover pops up I lose all street credibility…again.
That’s okay, though. I know I’m not a criminal and if old ladies notice that as well, perhaps, now, they’ll allow me to assist them with their groceries up a flight of stairs. Today, I’m okay with that.
Okay, be honest. Does it look like I’m holding Britney hostage in that picture?