Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ashley Alexandra Dupre

I rarely blog to music, but this morning, I'm listening to a pop tune, Can You Handle Me?, by Ashley Alexandra Dupre -- the 577,716th person to do so already today .

Such sad fame.
I am all about my music, and my music is all about me… It flows from what I’ve been through, what I’ve seen and how I feel.
So says her MySpace page, which has become wildly popular since Ashley was identified as Kristen, the girl behind the Eliot Spitzer scandal, the girl that grew up Ashley ... Youmans. A precursor of what was to come?

Since she recorded the track -- which is conventional pop stuff: I know what you want, you got what I want. I know what you need. Can you handle me? -- how much more she's been through; how much more she's felt.

It is easy to by sympathetic to her ...
When I was 17, I left home. It was my decision and I’ve never looked back. Left my hometown. Left a broken family. Left abuse. Left an older brother who had already split. Left and learned what it was like to have everything, and lose it, again and again. Learned what it was like to wake up one day and have the people you care about most gone. I have been alone.
... but she made willful choices of glamor and comfort over morality and decency, and now at what should be the tender age of 22, she's paying the consequences.

While most 22 year olds from broken homes in Jersey living in New York would have a dumpy apartment shared with multiple roommates, she opted for a luxury rental skyscraper in Manhattan, The Chelsea Landmark, where imported Italian marble, floor-to-ceiling windows and a gym with a whirlpool and yoga and Pilates studios are offered. Rents start at $3500 a month for a studio of less than 1,000 square feet.

(We live in a 4,000 square foot home in one of the most desirable communities in one of the highest priced counties in the nation, and we pay about double that ... for our mortgage, not our rent.)

Aspiring singers having a hard time finding gigs do not live in such places, but Ashley found a way to secure such high-level material comforts.

There was, of course, another way: honest struggle and hard work, with the knowledge that if you do well, material comforts will come, and that whether you do well or not, spiritual and human comforts -- richer by far -- can be yours. But our pop society does little to reinforce that course. I'm sure there are many young kids who don't even know it's an option.

Instead, they see fame and wealth heaped on many who have done very little to earn it, and they have no measure of success save for the material measure.

As a father of three incredible daughters, who were all here at home last night for a few greatly appreciated and warm hours, I found this paragraph the saddest on Ashley's MySpace page:
Influences: My Brother, Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Frank Sinatra, Patsy Cline, Carly Simon, Diana Krall, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Aerosmith, Lauryn Hill, Keisha Cole, U2, Jack Johnson, Vivian Green
Not a father in sight, not a mother (although her mother told the NYT they are close and Ashley did legally changed her last name to her stepfather's), not a youth pastor, not a teacher, not a saint or a Savior.

Perhaps I'm being unrealistic. Perhaps I am asking too much of a 22-year-old girl who aspires to be a musician. Perhaps, close as we are, my daughters wouldn't list me as particularly influential in their lives, even though I know I am.

But there were years, many years back, when divorce would have been an easier option than staying together, but unlike Ashley's parents (whose exact circumstance I know nothing about, so I'm not judging), we put the girls first. To put self and selfishness ahead of them, or ahead of God's clear directive to not divorce except, maybe, in cases of adultery, we stuck it out, got over what turned out to be a short spell of trouble, and gave our girls a safe, nurturing, reaffirming home.

None of them left at 17.

I can't take credit for recognizing the importance of staying, though. I was helped by the fact that love never left me or my wife, and by our church, which taught a lot about the importance and sanctity of marriage, and exposed me to plenty of men who had toughed it out through worse situations than ours. How lucky I was to have had that influence!

Her influential brother told AP:
"She's just trying to get through this. We are all trying to be supportive of her."
Will that be enough?

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