Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024
alert-–-what-you-haven’t-read-about-britney’s-shocking-memoir:-maureen-callahan-strips-bare-the-abuse,-addiction-and-mental-illness…-reveals-who’s-really-to-blame-–-and-why-the-‘happy’-ending-is-so-tragically-fakeAlert – What you HAVEN’T read about Britney’s shocking memoir: MAUREEN CALLAHAN strips bare the abuse, addiction and mental illness… reveals who’s really to blame – and why the ‘happy’ ending is so tragically fake

Most remarkable about Britney Spears’s new memoir is what’s not in it.

‘The Woman in Me’ has been marketed, in today’s regrettable parlance, as a once-silenced woman finding her voice, using it, and reclaiming her narrative. And there is truth to that.

Britney, as the world well knows, was placed under a strict conservatorship for 13 years and finally freed in November 2021.

She writes of the moment she testified in a public hearing in June that year and the enormous stress of proving to the court — and the public at large — that she wasn’t insane, wasn’t infirm, and deserved her freedom.

‘My voice had been used for me, and against me, so many times that I was afraid nobody would recognize it now if I spoke freely,’ she writes. ‘What if they called me crazy? What if they said I was lying? What if I said the wrong thing and it all went sideways?’

Sadly, this memoir is the outgrowth of her hoped-for victory.

Britney Spears ’s new memoir ‘The Woman in Me’ has been marketed, in today’s regrettable parlance, as a once-silenced woman finding her voice, using it, and reclaiming her narrative. Sadly, this memoir is the outgrowth of her hoped-for victory.

It’s a Southern Gothic for the Instagram age, its recurring motifs abuse, alcoholism, mental illness, suicide, transgressive thoughts and desires, all delivered simply and superficially.

Only Britney’s rage — understandable, justifiable, but still a mystery to her at age 41 — vibrates off the page.

By now you’ve read the headlines: Britney aborted Justin’s baby; the rivalry with Christina Aguilera; the ‘decision’ to shave her head, attack a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella; how Diane Sawyer grilled her and made her cry; the double standards she was held to as a female pop star. And, of course, the pain of the conservatorship.

But there’s a more interesting story here, and the beginning of the book seems to portend all that happens, and may still happen, to Britney.

Only Britney’s rage — understandable, justifiable, but still a mystery to her at age 41 — vibrates off the page.

It’s a curious nature vs. nurture question she posits here, one impacted by global fame, Machiavellian family members and a memoirist who seems to stop developing emotionally, intellectually and psychologically at age 15.

Britney seems to take no accountability in these pages. She shrugs off responsibility for her admitted drug use, her failed marriages, the affairs, or losing custody of her boys, to whom she dedicates this book.

She opens with her family history, specifically that of her paternal grandmother Emma Jean Spears, Britney’s middle-namesake.

After Emma Jean’s baby dies at three days old, her husband — Britney’s grandfather June — sends his grieving wife to an asylum, ‘where she was put on lithium,’ Britney writes.

‘[Then] in 1966, when she was 31, my grandmother Jean shot herself with a shotgun on her infant son’s grave, just over eight years after his death.’

June sent his second wife to an asylum as well. He is said to have sexually abused at least one of his daughters. June and Emma Jean’s son, Britney’s father Jamie, grew up to become a hardcore alcoholic.

When Britney was 13, her mother Lynne would take her on two-hour drives to bars across state lines, where they would drink daiquiris and White Russians. Britney began smoking at this age too — Virginia Slims, her mother’s favored brand — and driving, once almost killing her little sister Jamie Lynn, seated in the back of the car without a car seat.

She runs barefoot along hot asphalt, black tar sticking to her feet. She sleeps in the same bed as her brother, five years older, until she is in the sixth grade and her mother puts a stop to it.

By now you’ve read the headlines: Britney aborted Justin’s baby; the rivalry with Christina Aguilera; the ‘decision’ to shave her head, attack a paparazzo’s car with an umbrella; how Diane Sawyer grilled her and made her cry; the double standards she was held to as a female pop star. (Pictured: Britney and Justin Timberlake in 2001).

But there’s a more interesting story here, and the beginning of the book seems to portend all that happens, and may still happen, to Britney. (Pictured: As as child star with Ryan Gosling).

Britney’s father Jamie (left), grew up to become a hardcore alcoholic. When Britney was 13, her mother Lynne (right) would take her to bars across state lines, where they would drink daiquiris and White Russians. Driving, Britney once almost killed her little sister Jamie Lynn (center), seated in the back of the car without a car seat. She also slept in the same bed as her brother (center, left), five years older, until she was in the sixth grade.

She loses her virginity at 14 and, when her mother finds out, she forces Britney to pick up trash all over the neighborhood, a none-too-subtle punishment.

She gets her first record deal at age 15 and her life begins and ends. Within less than a year, she is a global superstar, a teenage girl dressed as jailbait, hyper-sexualized in her first video (‘…Baby One More Time’) and on a Rolling Stone cover, pictured in her own bedroom, lying on her bed in bra and panties and holding a Teletubby.

‘My mother seemed concerned,’ she writes — but not concerned enough, it seems, to intervene.

Britney quickly becomes her family’s golden calf, paying off her father’s debts and buying them a new house, but she also becomes their scapegoat, punished for her outsized success and fame.

When she’s in rehab in 2007, after shaving her head, her father visits. ‘You are a disgrace,’ he tells her.

‘It was the definition of beating a dead horse,’ she writes. ‘He was treating me like a dog, an ugly dog. I had nobody. I was so alone.’

Britney seems to have never had any real friends. She suspects she is a very bad person and deserves all the terrible things that happen to her. She doesn’t see how she is responsible for many of them but believes she may be enacting a self-fulfilling prophecy.

‘As a child,’ she writes, ‘I’d always had a guilty conscience, a lot of shame, a sense that my family thought I was just plain bad… like I deserved unhappiness and bad luck.’

She writes of her death wish, date unknown but well into her fame.

‘We were driving fast,’ — she was driving, her passenger a photographer she was dating — ‘near the edge of a cliff, and I don’t know why, but I decided to pull a 360, right there on the edge.’

They almost went over. ‘“We could have just died,” I said. I felt so alive.’

This is the kind of self-destructiveness common to children of abusive, chaotic households. But Britney Spears, for all her wealth and resources, doesn’t seem — in this memoir, anyway — to have ever sought real counseling or psychotherapy. She doesn’t go deep here.

Can’t she – or won’t she? It seems both.

Her crises, of which there are many, are waved away. 

Britney seems to have never had any real friends. She suspects she is a very bad person and deserves all the terrible things that happen to her. She doesn’t see how she is responsible for many of them but believes she may be enacting a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Pictured in 2007).

But, for all her wealth and resources, Britney doesn’t seem — in this memoir, anyway — to have ever sought real counseling or psychotherapy. She doesn’t go deep here. Can’t she – or won’t she? It seems both. Her crises, of which there are many, are waved away. (Pictured in 2007).

The time she drove with her infant son on her lap, or nearly dropped him while clutching a drink, or the breakdowns that saw her routinely using gas station bathrooms while barefoot, or how a judge had to order her to childproof her swimming pool – all dismissed out of hand or ignored.

Remember the 2008 incident at her Los Angeles mansion, a SWAT team called after a distraught Britney locked herself and her baby son Jayden in a bathroom?

‘Britney Spears was strapped to a gurney late Thursday night,’ the New York Times reported at the time, ‘after a three-hour standoff involving her two toddler sons, [her ex-husband] Kevin Federline, a court-appointed child monitor, police officers, paramedics and a locked bathroom door.’

She was then placed on an involuntary 72-hour psychiatric hold and lost visitation with her sons. The Los Angeles Times reported that Spears had been ‘incoherent and arguing with officers in a way that made no sense.’

Here is her version of events in the book: ‘Before I knew what was happening, a SWAT team in black suits burst through the bathroom door as if I’d hurt someone. The only thing I was guilty of was feeling desperate to keep my own children for a few more hours.’

Ladies and gentlemen, this is what we call an unreliable narrator.

Was her conservatorship necessary? She performed on television, did a years-long Vegas residency, and earned hundreds of millions while under it – all proof, she says, that she had and has a level of competency.

In November 2021, a court ruled in her favor. And certainly, the level of detail in Britney’s recollection — of a particularly chilling scene in which her father, as head of her conservatorship, tells her, ‘I am Britney Spears now’ — would seem true enough to withstand claims of libel or slander.

Yet in February, more than a year after Britney won her freedom, sources close to Spears told Page Six things were far more dire than her fans or the general public were led to believe.

‘Nobody outside the very small conservatorship circle knows what Britney’s medical status really is,’ one source said. ‘If people knew Britney’s actual medical status, I think it would reveal that her mental problems are far more severe than people realize.’

The Britney in these pages is not the Britney we see on Instagram, playing with knives, pole dancing and stripping off.

Little surprise this memoir — her ‘truth’ — ends evasively: Her beloved sons live not with her but with their father in Hawaii, a fact unmentioned. Her third husband Sam Asghari, written about only lovingly, is no longer her husband. And as she concludes that she has arrived at her ‘womanhood’, it is clear she is still a child.

She has written herself a happy ending, false though it may be. Britney Spears, our wannabe Southern Gothic heroine, will live out her days in her own glass menagerie.

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