Hey, Be Nice to k.d. lang: A Plea For Boundaries

dog and owner

Even one with the briefest overview of Buddhism understands the key concept of compassion. In our modern lives in the West, we tend to speak more about empathy, I think, especially because of the seemingly senseless acts of teen violence at Columbine and similar settings. Empathy is missing,  experts surmise, in the individuals who commit these deplorable deeds. Either way, these terms are well known. Perhaps ‘compassion’ is more general pointing to an overall feeling of pity for another’s suffering, whereas ’empathy’ refers more to a personal or intellectual identification with another. But both are central to Buddhist paradigms, running a close second to the realization that suffering exists. Clearly, without the latter, the two former ideas are left without meaning.

In this post, I want to talk about boundaries, and to  promote the idea that celebrities are entitled to them as much as the “nobodies” in life. As an onlooker and as one who has been deeply inspired by k.d. lang, not so much by her voice but her soul, I have chosen to focus on k.d. lang. But truly, what I want to say applies to everyone, everywhere. My main point is that compassion and empathy are entitlements to the rich and famous too.

I would encourage each of us, for one moment, to imagine what it must be like to be able to do something millions of people value. Seriously, close your eyes and think  of something most people admire, and see yourself not only being able to do it, but being able to do it better than most in such an elite group. Now imagine that those powerful enough to distribute your talent to the masses also notice you and offer possibilities and experiences few ever confront. Most likely you can see both good and bad in this scenario. But I can guarantee that in this small thought experiment, not once did you ever concede you were exempt from being treated with basic niceties and integrity. Sure, you had an incredible talent, but nowhere along the line did you “stop being you”, or relinquish your humanity.

For k.d. fans it is well known that she performs barefoot when she can. (I did not see her on Broadway earlier this year, so I am not sure if her contract was able to negotiate being barefoot there!). With rare exception, most nearly every performance, some heckler shouts out, “Hey, where are your shoes?” And with rare exception, almost every performance, k.d. says something like “Well, I don’t like plastic shoes and I sing better when I am barefoot”.

1. If you are a die hard k.d  fan, you already know the answer. So heckling her, forcing her to deal with your ego, is no doubt interrupting the flow of her zone. She is on stage performing. Do you really think that it is all on automatic for her? She has to integrate herself with the environment, her band, her mood, and whatever else she is dealing with in her life. Truly, just let her do her thing.  She’s working. Do you like to be heckled when you’re at work?

2. If you are not a die hard k.d. fan, blurting out this question at this time is not only inappropriate, it is rude to everyone around you. Not to mention k.d. and her band. Not everything is public knowledge and if k.d. sings barefoot, so be it. I am certain that if another woman were performing with some part of her body naked, no one would shout out “Hey, where are your clothes?” So why do people feel  such license to nag k.d. about this issue nearly every performance?

I am speaking of two things here. One is impulse control and the other is compassion and empathy. If you cannot control yourself, then do not go see k.d. live.  k.d.’s reasons for singing barefoot are her own. Leave it be. Get over it. Figure it out. Bask in the mystery. Light a candle. But don’t give her all kinds of grief.

To provide another example of the public’s total disregard for boundaries and common respect for celebrities as individuals with their own hopes, dreams, and problems, I want to highlight an incident that happened on Twitter about a month ago.

It is very commonplace for average Joe’s to Tweet to k.d. about how great her voice is. I would say that she gets about 3-5 unsolicited Tweets per day on this issue. Usually, they are simple statements like “You have the most incredible voice”, or “I love your voice, it changed my life”.

 But one day, k.d. opened her Twitter account only to see a Tweet which read “@kdlang’s voice is the glorious inside of the most velvet pussy.” To be charitable, perhaps these two are close friends in which case my point is moot. But I doubt this is the case. Why would a close friend ever say something like this on Twitter? It seems unlikely.

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Writing something like this to k.d., or any famous person on Twitter puts them in an awkward place. Do they respond? Not respond? One could make arguments in favor of either approach. But I want to emphasize that this Tweet shows the absence of compassion, empathy and boundaries. Even if k.d. is OK with this kind of thing, I argue that it is just taking advantage of a celebrity who is very tolerant of and giving to her fans. I do not know who @MaryJaneGrewUp is, but I would like to suggest that he/she is not quite finished in this endeavor.

And so, k.d., I have to point out yet again how grounded you are. For over 25 years you have dealt with being handled, abused, used, heckled, pressured and on and on. Yet, as far as I know, you have managed to avoid drug and alcohol abuse as well as the Juris Prudence section of the papers. And this all in the absence of many fans treating you  with with the minimal compassion, empathy or societal grace. You are amazing.

2 Comments

  1. I was at her performance here in Halifax NS tonight September 2017. Sold out performance for a great Canadian singer. Everyone was there to enjoy her performance and incredible talent. Wishing her good heaith, lots of happiness and continue to be one of us GREAT CANADIANS!🇨🇦🇨🇦🇨🇦

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  2. I am continually astounded by the gross absence of plain old manners on Twitter and, it seems, all over the place. I am still stuck a long way back when manners counted and I think I’ll stay there.
    Being famous does not give one free reign to say anything to that person that pops into your empty head. I think I may have lived too long. Feel free to toss this as an old broad’s bitch.
    And besides that, what the hell ever happened to the concept of *respect*?
    I have long wished so much to see k.d. in concert, but learning here and elsewhere how her fans act, I’ve given up on that. Thanks a lot, jerks!

    And that’s my grumblegrumblepissandmoan for today. Sorry, Kath.

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