Posted by Mihal Levy
What do Ricky Martin, slaves and a four year old have in common? All three were a big part of my week. Let me explain…
Ricky Martin came out on the day of the Passover Seder. Was it a coincidence that this occured on a “freeing” holiday that represents freedom from “slavery,” both literally and figuratively? My son, however, thought it was just “really weird” - the holiday, not Ricky Martin.
I have always known Ricky Martin was gay, I must admit. Why? Because Ricky and I go waaaaay back to the days of Menudo on ABC before his bon bon shaking days (only he does not know it). Menudo was the Latino Jonas Brothers back in the day, as us old folk like to call them. (OK, so I just made that up.) It was obvious to me that Ricky Martin was gay because I was seriously infatuated (only I think I called it “in love” back then; now I know better what love really is). And every guy that I was seriously infatuated with in my early high school days was (as I later came to find out), well…gay. I had a knack for falling for the “musical theatre type” man. (Disclaimer - I know not ALL musical theatre men are gay, but the ones I ‘loved’ were, and there was nothing wrong with that except for when I actually wanted them to love me back. Nope, they weren’t interested in me.) Thankfully my gay friend soon after high school knocked some sense in to me. He said, “You can fall in love with the musical, but don’t need to fall in love with the cast.” I got the message loud and clear, and soon after both my friend and I were very happy when I got to attend many musicals for free and he ended up with many boyfriends. (I’d like to say - thanks to me.) So, thankfully, my obsession ended after high school. My love for Ricky Martin faded as well, but I guess that was just what growing up does (you realize that being in love with someone doesn’t guarantee they feel the same way about you - a concept foreign to teens, or to me, at least).
So, fast forward to today (not by much; high school was not THAT long ago for me…ok, it was…) when I heard that Ricky Martin came out - I was not shocked, but was happy for him. It must have been tough to try to keep up an image that wasn’t real for him (because all artists stay true to themselves, right?), but perhaps the music industry figured that since fourteen year old girls bought most CDs and those fourteen year old girls are 30+ years old today, it is ok to come out today. (And on a Jewish holiday that represents freedom.)
Ricky Martin got me thinking about the meaning of actually being free. Are we, really? Or do we tend to conform to ideas that others uphold for us? This year marked a metaphorical “coming out” for me as well on Passover, where I spent it with the people I love the most. And felt “free at last” from the chains that bound myself and my family to others’ expectations and ideals for what is right and wrong for us. Thank you Ricky (and Passover) for making me truly appreciate the meaning of ‘freedom,’ which is definitely a state of mind. I guess we are all slaves at some point in our lives to our jobs, our families, or ideas that don’t necessarily fit with us. Letting go and becoming our true selves is what frees us from the ball and chain of the slavery that binds us. I look up to people like Mr. Martin, who must have struggled for years with announcing who he is. Whatever someone’s struggle is, it is true freedom to face up to who we are and be free of others’ expectations or the limitations set upon us.
It has taken me years to fully comprehend all of this and the way the Passover story relates to me. Perhaps it is because I have my own family today and my own ideals. My ideals may not mesh with others, but I have realized that it is truly my family (my husband and my son) and their opinions of me that matter the most to me. Thank you, Ricky, for stressing this for me this year without even knowing it (just as you didn’t know we were in love - you and I). Thank you also to my husband who is the most loving and genuine person I know, who has taught me the meaning of freedom as we celebrated it these past days of Passover together.
I tried to spread the message to my son this year about being free and told him the story of Passover, quickly going over the ten plagues, when he said, “That story is really weird.” And who blames him for thinking that way? - Frogs? Blood? Parsley dipped in salt water? He may get it one day…or his rendition of it…and that is okay with me, because he is free to be who he is always as well.
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