As a child of the ’80s, it shouldn’t come as a big surprise that I was (and okay, still am) a huge Madonna fan. As a preteen I paired well-worn jean jackets (carefully covered in pins) with puffy skirts, tights and a pair of sneakers, while I danced around, makeshift microphone in hand, singing lyrics to songs I was too young to be listening to.
But that’s the thing about Madonna: her songs are timeless in many ways, and people of all ages can find something to latch onto within them. No matter how many times Madonna has reinvented herself throughout the years, she’s somehow still maintained that special something that sets her apart, and at times above, the rest. While I listen to and enjoy a ton of music, I’m certainly no expert, but clearly there’s something particular about this woman who has had hit after hit and is beloved all over the world.
Like many women, Madonna’s life and music truly impacted me, especially as a young girl and teenager. And I know I’m not alone. Laura Barcella felt similarly when she created the anthology, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop. The book compiles over forty essays from various writers, reflecting on Madge and her influence on women of my generation. The essays span various themes, looking at identity (both sexual and religious), money, sex, fashion, and many more. I found myself nodding my head in agreement throughout many of them.
One of the essays, Kelly Keenan Trumpbour‘s In The Name of a Mother, explores Madonna’s connections to motherhood – especially within her own name – while also looking at the author’s own struggles of becoming a mother. Names, as Kelly explores in her piece, can be powerful, particularly for young girls curious about their own name’s meaning. How do our names help shape us? Kelly takes us on an exploration of Madonna’s name, one she shared with both her own mother and the notable religious figure.
Kelly (whose name means “warrior maiden” by the by) weaves her own tale of infertility into her examination of Madonna’s name and how it has potentially impacted the singer. Her own struggles with Motherhood laid bare, Kelly, looks at how the death of Madonna’s mother (when the singer was 5 years old), may have set the gears in motion for Madonna’s later certainty and desire to be a mother. There was both meaning and memory associated with Madonna’s name (both of her mother and perhaps a larger religious one, coming from a Catholic family) – something that Kelly suggests might have driven Madonna to recreate a mother-daughter relationship, after having grieved for so long. We get more pieces of Kelly’s own story here, as she marvels at this pop culture icon, who so fervently expressed her desire for a family in a series of interviews. Kelly, who had been struggling with infertility, found herself envying not only those who got pregnant easily, but those who came to the conclusion of wanting to enter motherhood with ease.
Agree or not with Kelly’s analysis of Madonna’s own views of motherhood, there is certainly something to be said about the universal question of whether or not one is ready for motherhood (or capital “M” Motherhood that’s been the focus of many articles as of late). While Kelly’s own journey might not mimic my own, or yours, I can certainly relate to the uncertainty about the whole “motherhood thing” (and for me, that even happened while – gasp – pregnant). I’ve been thinking long and hard lately about the built up concept of the Good Mother, and I have to say, she probably never had a moment of “is this the right choice?”
Kelly talks about names…specifically hers and Madonna, but really – just that one word “mom” (and really, is it not used as a name? “Mom!” “Mom!” Mommmmmmmmmm!”)also has a host of meaning attached to it , and if the last few weeks (months, years) has taught me anything, it’s that everyone seems to attach something different to the word.
Kelly deftly connects her own story to Madonna’s without overshadowing her. We still get our desired dose of the pop star while also being challenged to think outside the story we think we all know…whether it’s Madonna, her name, or motherhood.
And you? What’s in a name? Whether it’s your own, or your take on motherhood as a name, identity, etc…