12 February, 2012

It's Not Right , But It's Okay - For the Love of Whitney

‘Still Enough Time to Figure Out, How to Chase My Blues Away’

Whitney Houston sung about Love like no other legend I have heard, with passion and meaning and feminine strength. None of this current day focus on sex and Love Machine's that we find from other certain female singers – instead Whitney sung about classy, deep and heartbreaking Love.

During my years as a girl learning about L O V E many of Whitney’s songs pinpointed significant times in my journey. For the first, I was 15 years old on a school trip to Spain which fell across Valentines Day – ‘I Will Always Love You’ came on the TV in a bar, while we all sat around looking nervous, trying to pretend we understood the depths this woman was singing about. Instead we sang along awkwardly, laughing, trying to make light of a concept we didn’t yet get, but knew we were close to arriving at. A few of the year’s ‘high profile’ couples fell into role and started snogging each others faces off to the music – because that’s what you do when you’re in Love, right?

Skip forward ten whole years to my most recent Whitney memory I was 25 (yes, current age) being driven along in my friend’s car. ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ came on the radio (or knowing my friend, it may well have been a self-made compilation CD) and we rocked out like never before. So utterly, joyfully, shouting at the top of our lungs, waving our arms around (not her so much, she was driving) and just generally letting the song release all these feelings about wanting to be loved – in that moment, because of that song, I remembered it’s how young girls are supposed to feel when they’re out dancing, pretending their world’s are complete. I remember feeling properly happy afterwards and thinking ‘Whitney nailed it’. 

There are a few other times I could highlight, when I found comfort in a Whitney song. God knows being a young girl on the path to or from love is no easy thing – we get lost, we hurt like we’d never admit to anyone, our fairytale doesn’t play out and we forget what we’re made of, we forget our own value as women in the endless search for someone to validate us. And Whitney Houston knew how to guide us back to that feeling of self-worth that we could reach all by ourselves, and reminded us to have fun along the way.

So why then, did this wise, infinitely talented, strong, assertive and beautiful woman just die from a suspected drug overdose? Why was she in an abusive relationship for X number of years which may well have been the beginning of her end? Why wasn’t she protected from her tragic fall? It makes very little sense to me that a woman like her can see an end like that. If she knew everyone elses value, why didn’t she know her own?

Where Do Broken Hearts Go?
To me, Whitney’s tragedy highlights a severe gap in our society. From a young age we are taught we will grow up and get married. We are read Fairy-tales of Princes and we are taken to see films of Happy Endings. I am not a cynical person, but there is something very unhealthy in it all, in that it is so far removed from our true world.

Lifestyles have changed infinitely and these Fairy-tales and traditions no longer apply in the absolute way they once may have done, so they only leave people feeling worthless if the fairytale doesn’t play out like it does in the movies. These aren’t necessarily conscious feelings of self-doubt that people experience, but there must be a serious undercurrent of it, a sense that because we haven’t done things in a certain way, we must be in some way not worthy.

I am confident that much of the destructive behaviour in our world – such as that which may have led to Whitney Houston’s death – stems from a feeling of not being good enough to match up to social expectations and consequently seeking out things we know are bad for us. The sad thing is, it is a vicious cycle, because all these things do is reinforce those negative, worthless feelings and push us further over to the dark side.
I’m Every Woman

Luckily for me, I have a Mum who taught me I was valuable by myself and that I didn’t need anybody else to validate me in order for this to be true. The first time I lost Love, I spent years re-teaching this same thing to myself and trying to break various cycles of destructive behaviour, because self-worth really isn’t an easy thing to nail.
In my mind, days like Valentines Day do not help anything. Yes it is a day to ‘do Love’, to show your loved one you care, to focus on how valuable they are to you, but really do we need one particular day to do that? Can we not choose our own moments for these things? Or do we all have to do it at the same time? It’s not like flipping pancakes – it’s enforcing feelings upon people that quite frankly they just might not want to feel that day. What if on Tuesday I have PMS and lose my keys and fall over and miss the train and just feel like shouting? I will choose my own special moment’s thank you very much.

Valentines Day does very little other than highlight what some people may feel they are missing. The big V day can be a day to dread for people who are lonely or lost and in times when this has been me, I have wanted to hide under my covers until it’s all over because I did not need to see the Happy McLoving’s shower each other with gifts and romance while I have nothing more than a box of chocolates (which I bought for myself) for comfort.

Society needs to get a grip and take some responsibility for the way it makes people feel in these situations. In the same way our society seems to support the wealthy, the healthy and the intelligent, it also seems to support those in couples – Valentines Day is just the tip of that iceberg. How about the fact that a single person has to pay the same rent for a double room? How about the fact a sexually active single person is considered a ‘slut’? How about the fact a single person has to do everything for themselves, by themselves all day long and society says tough shit? I have for years campaigned that single people should be able to eat approximately twice the number of calories without getting fat. I will continue to advocate calorie free ice cream for singleton’s until death do me and Ben and Jerry’s part.

It’s Not Right, But It’s Okay?

To me it feels poignant that the spotlight should fall to Whitney – one of the greatest love writers of all time – in the days leading up to one of the most emotive days of the year, albeit it for tragic reasons. 

I am by no means suggesting that all of the world's destruction comes from heartache, more that by promoting days like Valentine’s in the obtuse manner it does, society does nothing but drive the lost and the lonely into further pits of despair – instead of spending ridiculous money on big red hearts and over priced champagne dinners for two, how about we put the money into helping people who need it? People who have turned to drugs or self-harm or whatever else they may be hiding?

Whitney Houston had one of the finest voices to have graced our generation and her songs tell me she had a heart as big as her smile. It is nothing short of tragic that she died in the way she did, but I just hope instead of putting blame on her for making ‘destructive’ choices, maybe the institutions that hold up society, including the media, can take a look at their own part to play in these tragic scenes of destruction that seem to be increasingly common in our world. And while we’re here – many blame the world of fame and fortune for tragedies like Amy Winehouse, Heath Ledger and now Whitney Houston, but these things happen in the common man’s society too, just we’re not up on a stage for everyone to see when our heartache kills us.