Today was a typical Sunday. Chores were over, time for Bruce and me to park our rear ends in front of the TV for some serious Sunday night channel surfing. We were flipping through our DVR list playing “Keep or Erase” and found the Lady Gaga HBO concert at Madison Square Garden. I was ready to vote “Erase” until he flipped it on. It took me all of 30 seconds to become hooked.
Some of the people I like best in this world are gaga for Gaga. They happen to be young and gay, but she crosses all gender and orientation lines. With a boyfriend who hails from Nebraska, Gaga sightings have been plentiful in Omaha. One of our better known oncologists tweeted the most recent one, when she filmed a video on a country road in sweltering 115 degree heat.
I confess to being curmudgeonly where Lady Gaga is concerned. The last time a friend tried explaining her appeal, I dismissed it with a classic walked-to-school-both-ways-uphill-in-the-snow remark. “Madonna was here first and did it better,” I said with the power of my completely uninformed conviction.
I started softening a bit when I saw how funny she was in a couple of “Saturday Night Live” sketches and noticed she can actually sing. But what got me hooked was seeing her talk to her “little monsters,” as she calls her fans, during that concert. Gay or straight, they’re monsters in the sense they feel like outcasts and misfits, the same way she did, the same way many of us who’ve been on the breast cancer journey do.
We’ve traded the confusing and sometimes cruel high school experience for the equally confusing and sometimes cruel healthcare experience. We feel like cogs in a machine, less ourselves somehow after being poked and prodded and cut, less lovable for having scars and pain. We feel too needy or not needy enough, too strident or not activist enough, or like we’re doing cancer “wrong.”
This is where Lady Gaga’s message comes in. Be yourself, she told her monsters. Someone believes in you. Her message to her fans, herself–in a touching scene she talks about how she still feels like a high-school loser–and to us, is simple. You’re perfect the way you are, and you matter. The special ends with her singing a stunning a cappella version of “Born This Way,” the song that’s become an anthem to misfits everywhere. She sings, “There’s nothing wrong with loving who you are . . . I’m on the right track, baby, I was born to be brave.” You were, Stefani, and we salute you. Paws up!