Dear Holly: You Said I Look Like Lionel Richie, and Surprisingly, Maybe You’re Sort of Right…

2 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Our family faithfully watched the latest season of American Idol. A few episodes into it, you started pointing out something to Mommy, your brother, and me.

Any time it showed Lionel Richie, you would point to the screen and say, “That’s Daddy.”

It’s something we just sort of laughed about at the time.

But looking back on it, and comparing side by side pictures of Lionel and me, I have to admit…

I think I see it. I think I see what you were seeing in each episode of American Idol.

And by the way, that picture of me was taken before I was even thinking about this again this week. I didn’t take the picture of myself to match one of Lionel. It was simply the most recent picture I had taken of myself and found on my computer.

But even the casual smile I had looks the same as Lionel. It’s as if Lionel and I have the same default smile.

So today, I published a video on one of my YouTube channels telling the story of how you saw the resemblance. Most people who saw the video admitted they they definitely saw the facial similarities.

What’s interesting is that I’ve never been compared to Lionel Richie in my entire life. The only specific thing I have in common with him is that he and I both share the same home state of Alabama.

But leave it to the perspective of a 2 year-old little girl, and suddenly, it’s a different view.

What if this is a sign that you are an artistic genius? What if you are gifted in facial recognition?

What if your career as an adult ends up proving that this story was more that just a trivial coincidence?

I say it is possible.

Even when I force myself to assume it was just something random you kept saying each week during American Idol, I still can’t deny there is a similarity.

Maybe you’re a genius little girl!



Why There Can Be No Male Equivalent to the Jordin Sparks Song “I Am Woman” or “Independent Women” By Destiny’s Child

I’m so vain, I probably think this song is about me…  

Thursday night on American Idol I watched Jordin Sparks perform her latest single, “I Am Woman.”  In the likeness of so many popular songs celebrating the empowerment of (single and independent) women, the lyrics of the chorus go like this:

I am (I am) woman (woman)
I am (I am) woman (woman)
I’m a woman
I’m a woman
Yes I am
Ain’t nobody else can do it like we can

But what if instead of Jordin Sparks singing the song, it was the dreamy Scotty McCreery, and he changed to lyrics to be masculine?  No one would hear, “I am man, yes I am, ain’t nobody else can do it like we can.”  Instead, the song lyrics would be perceived as “I am conceited, I am narcissistic.  I’m a jerk.  I’m a sleezebag.  Yes I am.  Ain’t nobody more of an a-hole than guys like me.”

Is this a double standard- that women can sing songs about being proud to be independent and successful, but if a guy did the same thing, he would either A) not be taken seriously or B) become despised by women?

No, it’s not a double standard.  Because only in recent decades has it truly become acceptable to desire for men and women to be socially equal.  Women have had to struggle to get where they are in society today, but men haven’t had to play the underdog gender throughout history.  So it’s ironic to the point of extreme arrogance for a man to boast about his successful independence.  I’ll illustrate this further my “masculinizing” the lyrics to “Independent Women” by Destiny’s Child.  I’ll emphasize the very worst parts in bold print:

What you think about a guy like me?
Buy my own car and spend my own money
Only ring your celly when I’m feeling lonely
When it’s all over please get up and leave

Please don’t call me baby
Cause I’ll call you
Don’t mean to hurt you feelings, got a lot to do
Cause I am my number one priority
No falling in love, no commitment from me

All my independent men
Throw them hands up at me
And all my sexy men
Throw them hands up at me

All my money making men
Throw them hands up at me
All my baller men
Throw them hands up at me

How you feel about a guy like this?
Try to control me, girl you’ll get dismissed
Do what I want, live how I wanna live
Buy my own golf clubs, and pay my own bills

Where my males?
Where all my men?
How did you feel about this groove I wrote?
Hope you got the message men take control
Don’t depend on no woman to give you what you want
Keep that in mind next time you hear this song

If you’re independent
I congratulate you
If you ain’t in love
I congratulate you
Do them girls like they used to do you
If you pimp her
I congratulate you

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule that guys can’t/won’t/shouldn’t brag about their gender in a song, like Brad Paisley’s “I’m Still a Guy.”  But hopefully most people would realize that song was meant to be an innocent, humorous caricature of men.  Maybe another exception would be so many of Kanye West’s songs- but even then, he’s bragging about himself being awesome, not about men in general.

‘Obviously, it’s important that women are socially and economically equal to men. But do women also want to be A) physically equal and B) emotionally equal? And C) does it help a woman in the business world to “act more like a man” by “being less emotional?” And D) do I sound like a jerk or at least naive for asking any of these questions?’

I asked the above questions word-for-word on Facebook for some input.  Based on the answers I received, here is how I would answer those questions:

A)  No, there is no desire to be physically as strong as a man.

B) No, there is no desire to hold in emotions the way men do, or at least they way they seem to do.

C) It can.  And this is a good example of an actual double standard between the sexes.

D)  No, because the motives are sincere in asking the questions.

The most sober and sobering thoughts I can learn through this social survey is that men and women are different for a reason.  They both have their own strengths in which they can compliment each other with.  Imagine how life would be in this world if men and women were truly equal in every way.  Scary, if you ask me. I would have to give birth, express my emotions, and never be able to truly “think about nothing.”  My mind would never stop and I would constantly be thinking about at least 10 different things at once, all the time.

That’s way too exhausting even for a strong, confident man such as myself.

The Micro-Phenomenon of Hayley Reinhart Getting the Song “Bennie and the Jets” Stuck in Our Heads Since March 31, 2011

She’s got electric boots, a mohair suit, you know I read it in a magazine, oh… B-B-B-Bennie and the Jetsssssssss…

For more than a week and a half now, the 1974 hit “Bennie and the Jets” by Elton John (whose real name is Reginald Kenneth Dwight) has been stuck in my head. I’ve been a huge Elton John for about a decade now, and “Bennie and the Jets” has always been one of my very favorite songs of his, but it wasn’t until Haley Reinhart sang it on American Idol that it became the default song playing in my subconscious.  But after randomly discovering that four other people I talked to last week had the same issue, I realized, there must be more of us!  (For the fact that you clicked on the title of this post to read it, I think it’s safe to say there’s a good chance you can relate.)

I haven’t talked to anyone who said that Haley Reinhart is their favorite on American Idol, but evidently, whether we realize it or not, she performed quite memorably in her rendition of “Bennie and the Jets”.  Because it’s stuck on “repeat”.  It has a lot to do with the fact that Haley Reinhart already is the fictional character that would sing “Bennie  and the Jets” even if it weren’t a satirical song mocking the glitzy pop world of the 1970’s.  Just like how Shia LeBeouf is born to play characters in movies that have to frantically explain some big panicked misunderstanding about 45 minutes in the movie, causing his eyes to sort of bug out as he shouts, “No, no!  You don’t understand!  Let me explain!” (Disturbia, Eagle Eye, Transformers), Haley Reinhart so perfectly captivated the song (as well as us as spectators) because she already is that smokey, sassy girl in a short dress singing on a piano who, despite only being 20 years old, perfectly brings with her the aura of the early 1970’s.

So if you too have been purposely listening to  catchy music from artists like Phil Collins, Justin Bieber, or if you’re really desperate, “Friday” by Rebecca Black, simply in an effort to dissolve”Bennie and the Jets”, know that you’re not alone. It’s a micro- phenomenon as far as I’m concerned.  And who knows, now with Pia gone, it’s really anybody’s game- especially if Haley can find more songs that comparably suit her like Elton John’s #1 hit did.  Maybe “What I Am” by Edie Brickell or “No Rain” by Blind Melon.  In fact, she’s done such a good job of getting “Bennie and the Jets” stuck in my head, that I’m almost willing to say “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”: Let her win this season of American Idol, just for being so effective with that one performance.  Even if she became a one-hit wonder, she would still have more hits than most of the actual winners of American Idol.

Why Pia Toscano was “Voted Off” American Idol

Bye, bye, Miss American Idol.

I figured the most shocking episode of the 2011 season of American Idol was going to be when half-Jewish contestant Casey Abrams was voted off, then saved by the judges.  But then to everyone’s amazement, on April 7th the Italian and immaculate Pia Toscano sang her last song, “I’ll Stand By You.”  Admittedly, Pia wasn’t my favorite, but not for lack of talent, grace, and poise.  It was simply that she reminded me of Celine Dion, who is one of the most successful singers in the history of the world yet doesn’t sing the kind of music I would choose to listen to.

It seemed everyone I’ve been talking over the past couple of weeks felt similarly about Pia.  There is no denying her talent, but maybe if nothing else, it’s easier to root for quirkiness than it is for flawless performances.  Pia isn’t quirky; she’s untouchable.

America didn’t vote for who they thought was the best, but instead who they thought was in the most danger of going home.  It was assumed that this whole time Pia was getting the most votes, or the 2nd or 3rd most votes.  But it’s very possible that she has been hovering about the lower middle.  So now with the bottom three gone, it suddenly exposed Pia to the exit door.  Now that I think about it, when I would see on my facebook status feed who people were voting for, I can’t think of one time I saw Pia’s name on there.

I never rooted for Pia like I have for Paul McDonald (the Scottish lord a leapin’) or Casey Abrams (the red-tinted Seth Rogen).  Nor have I ever shouted at the TV telling her to leave like I have for Scotty McCreery (George W. Bush mixed with the cartoon kid on the cover of Mad magazine) or Jacob Lusk (who at any moment is going to explode with pent up emotion). Instead, Pia has just remained in the “safe category” in my head this whole time.

Turns out, most other people were thinking that too.  And we were wrong.  Big time.

The good news: I’m sure Pia won’t make it too long before she is offered a record deal by a respectable record label.  In fact, I bet the folks at American Idol didn’t let Pia pack her bags before they offered her a deal to her themselves.  Because unlike her brief stint on American Idol, Pia Toscano’s upcoming musical career has no end in sight.  Her heart will go on.

The Replay Value of People

People will come and go, but which ones are worth bringing back out of the archives?

There are some movies I watch nearly once a month like I Love You, Man and they never get old, and they’re just as funny as the last time I watched them.  There are other movies like Deliverance, for which I got all I needed with just one viewing.  The same could be said about TV shows: Seinfeld and Friends reruns are much easier to watch for the 6th and 7th time; as for American Idol, for obvious reasons, not so much.  When it comes to “replay value”, people are the same way.

We live and work and play and hang out with some people for years, then, all of the sudden, they are no longer a part of our lives- we graduate high school or college, they decide to work somewhere else, etc.  And after they leave, when we randomly think of them, we are left with an aftertaste of what they meant to us, as a whole.  Generally positive or generally negative.  Either worth the time and effort to catch back up with, or not.

Out of the dozens of contacts in my cell phone, I only regularly talk to a handful or so.  Out of the nearly 800 facebook friends I’ve collected since March 2005, I only regularly talk to a few dozen.  Out of the people I used to work with, there is only one or two that I still keep in contact with.  By subconscious default, we ask ourselves, “Does this person have enough significance in my life to bother with talking to again, past just the ‘hi, how are you’ line?”

We make time for the people we care about, not excuses.  And I know that just as I have left certain people of my past, in the past, I am aware that there are those who view me as “non-replayable” as well.  Like when an old college friend announces that they’re coming to Nashville next weekend on their facebook status, then I send them a private message inviting them to lunch or dinner over the weekend, they ignore my message, spend the weekend in Nashville, then once they return to their hometown, announce as their facebook status, “Had a great weekend in Nashville!”

And then I say to myself, “I get it.  I’m not replayable in their life.  Noted.”  I don’t take it personally.  I may not be worth their time or effort, but I have confidence that I am worth other people’s.

Figuring out who is at all replayable in your life is kind of like going through your closet to decide which clothes you should keep and which ones you should give away.  If you won’t wear that shirt in the next year at least once, you probably won’t ever wear it.  Same thing with people in your life.  If you wouldn’t answer or return their call, or if you would never make an effort to contact them again in the future, if you don’t even find their facebook statuses to be amusing, it’s safe to say you’re just not that into them: They don’t have replay value in your life.