What’s it like to be Britney Spears? Do you really want to know? When you are Britney Spears, more often than not you can’t answer the question, not in the way you want to. When you are Britney Spears, they’ve taken all your words and mutated them to suit their needs, to tell the story they want to tell. It’s not your story.
When you are Britney Spears, you don’t do anything without it being newsworthy. When you’re Britney Spears, you’re still the queen of the 24-hour blog news cycle; after all, you created it. When you are Britney Spears, just taking your sons to soccer practice becomes an event, and that’s the only life they’ve ever known. You’re sad about that. When you are Britney Spears, every time you close your eyes you see the same flashing lights, constantly snapping right in your face. When you are Britney Spears, you bite your nails to bleeding stubs because you don’t want this life.
When you are Britney Spears, you wake up and rummage through a closet full of girls you used to be, costumes you used to wear. You are Britney Spears. Your mouth touched Madonna’s, you held hands with Michael Jackson, you are the girl onstage at the Superbowl forever. You are the schoolgirl socks and the red catsuit and the spectre shimmering in a music video. You are the “Fabulous Life of” with those Cosabella thongs in every color, those Lana Marks crocodile bags custom-made for you to throw them on the floor and let your dogs shit on them. All of these girls feel like ghosts to you now.
When you are Britney Spears, you can’t read anything of substance about yourself without seeing the words “breakdown,” the words “Adnan Ghalib,” the words “trainwreck.” Words like “disastrous VMA performance” and “robotic.” These things are painful for you to see, and so your team keeps you bundled away. You don’t give interviews like you used to anymore. Now you say you’re happiest with your boys, you work out a lot and you like the smell of vanilla. You have nothing more to say to those publications, especially not the ones who covered your bad days so breathlessly.
“Everytime” is such a sad song, they say. When you are Britney Spears, you live it every day. You’ll always live it; you wrote it, didn’t you? You remember how you shaved your head and tried to tear your empire down brick by brick, photo by photo, car chase by car chase. Maybe you try to forget about locking yourself in the bathroom in your panties clutching your youngest son, or how lonely you felt when they got your life “under control” again. Those days feel like a blur. It was almost ten years ago, you say. That isn’t you anymore. Now you long for quiet where you once longed for chaos.
When you are Britney Spears, your daily reality consists of neon stageshows and candy perfume and a two-hour show you don’t know if you care about anymore, though the deal is long inked. But Beyoncé’s in the audience, they say. Who cares about Beyoncé, you want to ask. You’re Britney Spears. They call it a comeback but it’s not a comeback. You never went away. You just wanted to stop being famous for awhile, to test your boundaries like any twentysomething girl would do. It’s not that you can’t handle it; you could and you did, for a long, long time You let MTV’s cameras pry and “Rolling Stone”’s journalists make assumptions because it was part of the job. You had to feed your family and make the people happy. You were happy to do it then, your smile was genuine.
But when you’re Britney Spears, you get tired of being famous. You’re not built for the machine like Kim Kardashian and the rest of her savvy camera-ready family, flinty like Christina. You’re soft. You’re like Marilyn Monroe, a pretty face who made a lot of men rich. They spit you out when you lost your marketable flavor. When you’re Britney Spears, just a Southern girl who once had a mansion she named “Serenity” just because the woods of Louisiana was the only place you could find any peace. Your whole life is soundtracked to paparazzi whispers and camera clicks and screaming crowds even nearly 20 years after you were a teen queen in a bra and panties. It’s a beat you do not want to dance to, not today. Your smile is forced and plastered.
When you are Britney Spears, all you want is to get in your car and drive away and go wander through the Target aisles for hours without a bodyguard trailing you with his eyes on alert, to paint every beat-up nail a different color, to sit at a restaurant and have a cup of coffee alone. All you want is to go away somewhere quiet and for someone on the street to ask if you’re Britney Spears just so you can say, “No, but I wish I was.”