KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS?
As the holiday season barrels forward, it’s only natural that my thoughts turn toward the Kardashians. That’s right. The Santa’s, the wreaths, the Bing Crosby songs, the season of goodness and giving causes me to think… what are those pesky Kardashians doing this holiday? They are everywhere. I simply can’t avoid them.
The Kardashian clan is like a polyp-filled colon, popping up on magazine covers, on the morning shows and entertainment programs, look-alike contests, photo opps, tweeting and hawking products, waking up with a full face of make up. There’s Khloe’s new perfume ad where she purrs next to a giant, oiled-up ripped dude, who flexes isolated lower back muscles (who can do that?). And now, look, here’s Kim’s bovine ex-husband of 10 minutes on Good Morning America, stumbling through his lines about his new foundation for childhood obesity..Huh? Sincerity rolled off him like rain on a tarp.
I don’t want to keep up with these people. I don’t even want my kids to look at them. I want them to go away. I want them to go the way of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and all the others who have ratcheted up the “gimme-sphere” in America or whose scripted reality shows numb our kids out like crack cocaine.
What do I really know about the “Kardash-Klan?” Not much. For a long time they thankfully stayed well below my radar. I’d heard snatches of things about them from my nieces and kids, had eyeballed a supermarket magazine cover or two. I didn’t have much regard for a mother who pimps out her kids’ lives and encourages them to pose for Playboy or nods smugly when her little girls sex tape becomes viral. Yes, Virginia, we’re a long way from Mrs. Cleaver’s suburban Colonial with Beaver’s girlie mags stuffed under the bed.
Last fall I saw my first episode of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” by accident in a hotel room. I decided to keep watching, like a slo-mo motorcycle accident, so that I could understand what the hoopla was all about. In the segment one of the sisters had farted (EEK, EEWWW, OMG, LOL, P-U!) and then there was some serious sister-on sister speculation about whether or not Kim had gotten a butt implant. My manure meter went on high alert.
I’m one of three sisters. And let me tell you that if one of us suddenly went from a size 6 to a size 16 in the seat of her pants; in short, if I could suddenly park a Coors Light on the junk in her trunk, my radar might go up. I also wondered, how, if Kim had gotten two double D’s sewn in her ass cheeks, the family might not notice she was hospitalized and on pain killers, not to mention sitting on a inflatable doughnut for weeks. Maybe they were all too busy staring in the mirror. Or counting the loot they’ve made off we willing voyeurs.
It’s way too easy to pick on the Kardashians. America loves a family like this, beautiful, vulnerable, aspirational when it comes to their “stuff” and access. Bruce Jenner’s horrifying Skeletor-faced plastic surgery job alone is worth a gander. This is what made America great, right? Anyone can be Bill Gates or Steve Jobs or … Snookie. We love to watch greed and we love to watch people overreach and then blow up. Tabloids are filled with these stories and we inhale the self-immolation.
But that isn’t the point of this rant. The point is about gratitude. It’s about navigating kids though places like the world of Kardashian. The parenting challenge of instilling a sense of giving back is an evergreen one. But in the era of Kardashian, keeping up with seems to mean acquiring more and giving less. Our children’s faces are pressed against the flat screen of the Kardashian household watching Kendall “earn” her modeling job and the cougar mother’s cleavage spill out of her top like a fruit and cheese platter. We drool over the lavish gifts, the bounty for just being Kardashian—for simply being famous. That’s the kind of “show don’t tell” learning that is getting harder to counter balance.
A few Sunday’s ago there was a sobering “60 Minutes” piece on the families and children who are living in cars and trucks in the present economy. I wonder if the Kardashians ever sit around and ponder people like that. I made my kids watch and then we talked about what they’d seen afterward. I was struck by the optimism and resilience of the homeless children who had been interviewed. One girl hoped to go to law school and help others in her situation. My two girls had a lot to say, and in an effort at full disclosure, one daughter piped up that there was a shoe company that donated a pair to a homeless person for each pair you purchased. Ok, I winced, that was a semi-Kardashian answer. But we were halfway there. She was at least getting the point.
I applaud that cagey calculating mother Kris for grabbing the brass ring when it was presented to her. I know what it feels like to wonder, after a tragedy or loss, how you will take care of them all—how you will make sure their little lives don’t suffer because of your choices or actions or simple fate and bad luck. And good for her that she’s stockpiling enough cash to buy gold plated Depends in the nursing home. The greatest thing about America is the chance for the janitor to rise to the CEO, despite what they say at Occupy Wall Street rallies; this is still a land where talent, grit and timing can get you to the top. And I think those Kardashians should make as much money as they can stuff in their bras. But my advice to Kris and the girls is this — while you are filling your pockets, don’t forget to feed your souls.
Giving, truly giving back to the world, whether you are a millionaire or you can only throw a dollar in the Salvation Army bucket, comes from a place that goes beyond the photo opp. Giving isn’t your publicist telling you to show up at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital dressed in a spandex elf suit to pass out gifts some PR person hands you. We model by example, as we do so many other things in life.
I can’t tell you I’ve done a particularly good job of it as a mother. It’s hard work, and it requires constant nagging, vigilance and reminders. None of us relishes being the taskmaster Mom in the era of “be your child’s friend” parenting. My kid’s Christmas lists this year are full of “me-me-me” with the website links included. None of my children have offered to go to a soup kitchen or to wrap gifts that go under the tree at church. But learning to give back can be a process, like getting in shape or training a puppy. I’m working on it in my house.
Looking at the landscape of stardom there are many I admire who have used their celebrity platforms and even their sex appeal to do good – Angelina Jolie, Sean Penn, Gary SInese, Jerry Lewis, Michael J Fox, Christopher Reeve to name just a few. Make your own judgments about their politics, causes and commitment, but the list is healthy. The point is these public figures use their voices to try to advance the human condition. And they don’t always do it with a camera rolling or a hash tag in front. You don’t have to start a 501C3 or visit the Sudan to give back. Giving takes place in big and small ways—but it all feels the same kind of wonderful when the sentiment is genuine.
As parents this is a great time of year to take a moment and course correct with our kids. We can remind them that keeping up with the Kardashaians isn’t real life. Perhaps I’m being too cruel to poor Kim and her family. Maybe they are quietly peeling off thousands of bucks to charities or mentoring foster kids or supporting our troops in tangible ways. I’ll be the first to admit that there may be honest give-back going on behind the scenes of their reality show. It’s impossible to know what’s real and what is scripted. Do-gooding isn’t as sexy or as jaw dropping on camera as farting or booty shots.
I want to tell the K-sisters to Google Donna Rice and Monica Lewinsky, OK, OK, they were famous for mistress sex scandals, but we were obsessed with them at the time… and now? Pushing their grocery carts with pimple cream on like the rest of us schlemiels. Check out other famous people who were famous for, well, being famous. What will Kim do when her Kate Gosseling moment is over and she’s stuck staring at the framed People Magazine covers making eight PB&Js everyday or scheduling the parent teacher meetings? What happens when America discovers the next family willing to unzip their sequined jumpsuits and show us their landing strips and tats.
If a life is based on sucking oxygen in the spotlight, than that’s a tough detox when the klieg shifts. But if we can give our kids a sense of something more behind the curtain, the foundation of learning how good it feels to give, not just to take, that’s probably the biggest gift not just of this season—but for a life well-lived.