Of Pop Stars and Protagonists

The portal to my favorite childhood fantasy.

The portal to my favorite childhood fantasy.

As far back as I can remember, I’ve told myself stories. And also as far back as I can remember, every one of these stories has featured two elements:

1. Me as the protagonist.

2. One of my current obsessions.

Lest you think me completely narcissistic, I’ll add here that one of the first things every writer learns is to write what you know. Hence the protagonists that spring forth from our own experiences–shaped by what shaped us, be it positive or negative.

As a child, though, I wasn’t so concerned about shaping an emotional trajectory for myself within my story. I was concerned with living out the dreams that were too grandiose, or unrealistic, for real life. Which is why, at age 11, a recurring storyline from my imagination featured me beating out my childhood nemesis for a coveted spot in Wilson Phillips, a singing group of early 90s fame.

The early 90s were a pre-YouTube era, so what I knew of the group I’d gleaned from the flimsy, folded booklet that accompanied my Wilson Phillips cassette tape. It was, however, fodder enough for my imagination. To 11-year-old me, Wendy, Carnie, and Chynna (we were on a first name basis) seemed impossibly sophisticated and utterly cool. Add to that my burning desire to triumph over my nemesis in the context of something major (I was tired of her winning our elementary school’s yearly speech competition), and a story was born.

There was a lot of singing in front of the mirror with my hairbrush/microphone during this period, especially the lyrics of this song, which the Wendy, Carnie, and Chynna in my head told me my voice was “perfect for.” There may have also been a few lines of dialogue in which I humbly informed my musical idols that even though I’d been inducted into the group, “You don’t have to change your name to Wilson Phillips Sawyer.”

Though I can’t say I’m still obsessed with Wilson Phillips, these memories resurfaced this week when I read this article, about a little girl who wanted to create a pop star who could be a positive role model for the tween and early teen set. Instead of singing about sex and love and breakups, the slightly-nerdy Catherine Bennett sings about polar bears, friendship, and social issues. And what does she do for a living (besides write pop songs)? She works in a museum, of course.

I dreamed of being a pop star at a time when that meant singing well, not running around in a sequined bikini teaching little girls that the road to fame is littered with all the clothing you were forced to remove. Catherine Bennett rekindles in me the hope that girls everywhere can write themselves into their own pop star fantasies without losing all the wonderfully gawky, awkward innocence of childhood in the process.

5 Things I’m Obsessing about This Week (besides Catherine Bennett and 90s Pop Stars), June 19, 2013:

1. Speaking of childhood, these time-lapse photos of fireflies will blow your mind (and bring back memories of an empty mason jar and hot July evenings).

2. When I was a kid, we liked to make pigs in blankets. But how about pigs in pigs? Freaking adorable.

3. THIS.

4. Holy street views, Google.

5. No one will ever steal your lunch again!

Happy Wednesday!

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