On my 20th birthday, I was a junior in college. It was 1990 and I was in Ohio, freezing my ass off, wearing the obligatory Laura Ashley long skirt/cable knit sweater/low lace-up boots/headband combo (see Mare Winningham in St. Elmo’s Fire), and drinking enough grain alcohol punch with my friends to insure a night of vigorous barfing. I had fun. In fact, I had a lot of fun. I was with my favorite people, in my favorite place, being a retarded no-longer-teenager, and not giving a flying fuck about much of anything (although I cared enormously about my hangover the next day).
It is now clear to me that I completely blew it. I could have been even more extreme, I should have reveled in my youthful beauty (of which I was completely unaware), I would have worn an outfit a little less reminiscent of The Handmaid’s Tale if I had known it was an option. I didn’t do any of that. If only I could have looked more than 20 years into the future and learned a thing or two from Kylie Jenner.
I have to admit, I occasionally stay up nights worrying about the Kardashians/Jenners. No one else is worrying or supervising, them so the job has fallen to me. I’m concerned about the impact of Bruce/Caitlin’s life choices on them. I don’t mean the gender-reassignment surgery, I mean the publicity and competing (with Keeping Up With The Kardashians) TV show she’s gotten out of it. I worry that Kris has lost sight of the joys of mothering her shockingly enormous brood in favor of entertainment management and industry party gift bags. I worry that Kim and Kourtney stop looking after their kids the second the cameras stop rolling and all the children are handed over to Scott Disick to look after. I worry about Kanye West. Nothing specific about that concern, it’s more of a generalized anxiety. I worry that Khloe will never feel good enough for, well, just about anything. And I worry that little Kylie and wee Kendall have been swept up into their mother’s dragnet of “If its name starts with a “K”, market the shit out of it.”
While Kim Kardashian is certainly a plastic blow-up doll of a human (admittedly, I don’t know her, but she doesn’t make a very good first impression), she consciously chose to become what she is. Remember Paris Hilton? For all you Millenials who might have missed the boat on that class act, she’s the one who, in 1994, released a sex tape so she could become a celebrity. Admittedly, it was genius. Why be a celebrity embarrassed by a rogue sex tape when you can do it in reverse and create something resembling a career out what is normally considered a PR nightmare? Not to be outdone, her bestie Kim released her sex tape in 2007. And thus began the ubiquity of all things Kardashian, including Kim’s much younger half-sisters, Kylie and Kendall.
Back to birthdays and how to celebrate them properly. It recently came to my attention that on the occasion of turning 20 years old, Kylie did a photo shoot that is, in polite company, referred to as a “boudoir photo session.” In less polite society, it’s bordering on soft core porn. The (surprise!) publicity that went along with it declared that Kylie did this “for herself”. In this moment, imagine the sound of brakes screeching. “For herself?” When nice women in the Midwest do boudoir shots “for themselves”, it’s usually about reclaiming the vibrancy that children and marriage have sucked out of them. Those photos do not get released to Women’s Wear Daily. Nor do they go viral. Do not misunderstand me! I’m all about the sex, the sexy, and the potentially depraved, but only if it’s engaged in after reaching at least the drinking age. I’m also all about the sexy when it’s a personal choice and not part of a money machine your mom and siblings are cranking on the daily. If a 21-year-old decides to get into the ol’ LA meat grinder, well, that’s her choice. The Kylie Situation does not fall into that category.
And how sad is it that she seems to have thrown herself a surprise 20th birthday party? Did she make the arrangements while in a fugue state? Does her lack of formal education prevent her from understanding the meaning of the word “surprise?” Was it a surprise party for the press? Was it a surprise that she made it to 20 at all? In addition to my usual Kardashian-related worries, these new questions have participated in keeping me up all night.
As I re-read my own words, it strikes me that perhaps this is a case of sour grapes. When I was 20, I was throwing up in Ohio, not licensing my name to a soon-to-be billion dollar cosmetics brand. I was hoping that whoever was working at the Fotomat the day I dropped my birthday film off didn’t find anything untoward (like, I don’t know, me smoking a joint, not doing a soft-core photo shoot.) And while my friends meant well, if I had had the opportunity to throw my own surprise party, there would have at least been pigs in blankets, maybe even those little La Choy egg rolls. Frankly, Kylie has it pretty good, even if she became a commodity before she finished high school (did she finish high school?) Unlike her older sisters, she didn’t have to show her actual vagina to get famous, just photograph the idea of it. And she didn’t have to launch a brand from the ground up, she was already part of a (deranged) family dynasty.
Nonetheless, her life is as far from normal as you can get, even if she does party like a rock-star for the cameras. One more year and Kylie is 21 and can do absolutely anything she damn well pleases. I’m not going to stop worrying about her, but there’s very little that can be done for poor Kylie at this point. Don’t even get me started with Kendall and that ridiculous Adidas ad.
But there’s still hope. Kris’ grandbabies haven’t been put to work yet. They stand a chance of having a semi-normal life if they can just live off everyone else’s royalties.
Please, join me in petitioning Kris, Caitlyn, Kim, and Kourtney to stop the madness. We have to do something.
Think of the children.