A few days ago, a coworker of mine told me a funny story. She's an avid runner, but she doesn't take it that seriously. As she crossed paths with a man decked out in spandex running gear, he huffed "Be strong!" mid-stride. I guess the spandex-wearing macho man and the all-too-serious jogger attitude are the punchline of the story, but it got me thinking.
My co-worker got a chuckle out of the experience, but I think that man had a point. Sometimes we all need someone to tell us to keep going.
Enter Gaga. Lady Gaga, that is. The body suit-wearing weirdness incarnate. She sings, she dances, she shocks the heck out of everyone, and when she's offstage, she is a polite and articulate woman (though still in a wacky outfit) with a message.
I'm a big fan of Gaga, but unlike my made-up relationships with John Mayer and Usher, I think of Lady Gaga as the alter-ego I always wanted. I enjoy listening to her music, and I think she's a talented artist. Her performances are almost too much for me, but I respect her creativity as an artist. But the thing I like most about Lady Gaga is that she is a loud voice for the same causes I believe in--social justice and HIV prevention. I saw Gaga on Good Morning America today wearing a latex condom-inspired pantsuit. During the interview, her message was that HIV is still a problem, but it can be stopped if people protect themselves. She spoke about the stigma and shame attached to condoms and getting tested, and how these negative feelings reduce a person's ability to protect themselves. Um, that was my undergraduate research project... Right on, Gaga.
While watching the interview I admired Gaga's presentation of herself--a little crazy, but thoughtful and honest. I've been feeling lost lately and my self-esteem has suffered. The post-college life and identity is so much harder than I thought. I've been questioning the things that make me Jena, too: the love of other languages and cultures, the quirky awkwardness, the introspective and creative person.
Gaga's latest single, Born this Way debuted this week and is already atop the charts. It's an anthem for anyone who has ever been doubted or doubted him or herself. She even incorporates some foreign language lyrics (as she often does), so you know I'm happy. In a way, I think Gaga is my figurative guy in a spandex running suit, encouraging me to be strong, be myself and "don't be a drag, just be a queen". One day I'll tell my grandkids about the lady in the condom suit who inspired me to do great things.