Somewhere amid all the news stories and cultural punditry about Miley Cyrus’ raunchy gyrations at the MTV Video Music Awards, there was a brief item about researchers in Sweden who confirmed the existence of a previously unknown chemical element.
Reportedly, physicists at Lund University are well on their way to adding No. 115 to the periodic table. You may remember the periodic table from high school chemistry class.
Or more likely, from recent promotional materials for “Breaking Bad.”
I think there’s also a shower curtain, which was featured in an episode of “The Big Bang Theory.”
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See there? You can try to rise above the unseemly or frivolous sides of American pop culture – sometimes I wonder, are there any other sides? – by steering discussion toward landmark scientific discoveries, but good luck.
When something like Miley Cyrus happens, it’s tough to avoid.
And when you have kids, whether they’re preschoolers or teenagers, you’re bound to come across well-meaning blog posts or advice columns with headlines like “How to talk to your children about twerking.”
FYI, this isn’t one of those columns, because 1) I have no idea how or why you’d talk to your children about twerking; and 2) What’s to say?
Just guessing here, but maybe it would go something like this:
“Hi there, sweetie. How was school? Come over here and sit down for a minute. We need to talk about something very important.”
(Teenaged daughter sits on couch, wary and a little worried.)
“You may be hearing things at school about something called twerking. Have your friends been talking about it? Have any of them told you they twerk? Has anyone dared you to go twerking?”
(Daughter looks horrified.)
“Maybe they’re saying it’s cool, or that they won’t be your friend unless you stick your tongue out and shake your butt and get all up in somebody’s business. Has anyone told you that? It’s OK to talk about it …”
(Daughter covers ears, buries head in couch pillow.)
“Well, I just want you to know that I don’t think that’s a good idea at all. Your father and I have discussed this, and we agree that we don’t approve of twerking. It seems dangerous, and it’s certainly not very ladylike.”
(Daughter closes eyes, shakes head, begins to crawl under couch.)
“I’m not going to lecture you or anything. Your father and I trust you, and we know that the next time you’re on a dance floor at the prom or wherever, you’ll make the right decision. We hope you’ll come talk to us if you’re ever tempted to twerk, or if you find yourself in a situation where you’re surrounded by twerkers and don’t know what to do. We will drive right over there and pick you up, no questions asked.”
(Child runs screaming from house. End scene.)
Talk to your children about twerking? Probably not.
Talk to them about manners? Self-respect? Dignity? Pride? Absolutely. All the time.
But gradually, subtly, even humorously. Not seated on the couch, super-serious as an ABC Afterschool Special. (Remember “Stoned,” starring Scott Baio? Or “Me and Dad’s New Wife,” with Kristy McNichol? How about “A Very Delicate Matter,” the one about gonorrhea? Yeah, I watched them all. They were cheesy back then and seem even more dreadful now.)
When Miley Cyrus gyrates or Michael Phelps smokes pot or Manti Te’o has an imaginary girlfriend, kids find out. They might even mention it at home or in the car, or waiting in the dentist’s office, and you can offer your insight and chat about whatever current madness has gone viral.
Or they might just want to talk about chemistry.