Growing Up with Britney Spears: Why We’re Haunted by Aughts Celebrities
I can’t remember a world without Britney Spears. She colored my earliest memories as a little girl on her way to kindergarten on a big yellow bus. Britney’s voice was the soundtrack to these young memories, but her presence penetrated beyond the airwaves.
Britney was also on plastic backpacks and lunch bags. She was the face of Valentine’s Day cards, folders and notebooks, brightly colored and often glittery. When I was a little older, the girls around me would begin carting around blue bottles of Britney’s perfume cut like a jewel from which they proudly misted themselves — Britney fever was in the air.
I grew up in a small, rural town. It was a practical world where the outfit of choice consisted of Carhartt gear, good for farming and physical chores. Britney wasn’t like that though. She was a neon, sparkling pink presence in our little world of the local Walmart and a sea of corn fields and soybeans that seemed to stretch forever.
Though Britney was just a teenager at the time, she seemed like a real adult, but unlike our mundane midwestern parents, she was radiantly glamorous. Someone to be completely admired. We girls tested out the things we knew were cool about Britney, tried to sing song lyrics in her moaning vocal fry voice and dance like she did in the bathroom mirror.
But Britney wasn’t the only “it” girl. There was Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Hillary Duff, Jessica Simpson, and the Olsen twins, all worshipped and emulated by the girls in my class.
Around the second grade, the boys also began testing out their prerequisite phrases to sound more adult, “Paris Hilton is hot,” a second-grade boy said as we colored a picture of a wizard. I was stuck as the lone girl at a table of boys and rolled my eyes as the other boys joined in on agreeing.
“They just want to sound adult. They don’t even know what hot is,” I complained to my mother, who agreed with me. The truth was, I didn’t know what being hot was either, but the older I got, the more I could put the pieces together. When I understood what sex was, it subconsciously clicked that those older girls I had seen when I was younger, had noted in my mind, had succeeded at being hot. And if I wanted to be adored by my peers…