EXPLAINING TWERKING TO YOUR PARENTS

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By Teddy Wayne

Every child dreads this day: sooner
or later, your parents will come to
you, innocently wide-eyed, to ask
you about twerking. How you
handle this difficult conversation is
extremely important and could have
a significant impact on the way
your parents think about twerking
for years to come. You may prefer
to put off the big “twerk talk,” but
remember that it’s far better for
you to be the one to explain than
for them to learn on their own by
searching YouTube.
A critical first step is to
acknowledge that twerking is a
normal part of life and that there is
nothing shameful in their questions.
They’re parents, after all, and this
is the sort of thing they hear about
on NPR, and, well, they’re curious.
Explain that twerking is a dance
move typically associated with
lower-income African-American
women that involves the rapid
gyration of the hips in a fashion
that prominently exhibits the
elasticity of the gluteal
musculature.
They will reasonably wonder why
Miley Cyrus, who is white and
wealthy, does it at every
opportunity. Patiently respond that,
for Ms. Cyrus, twerking is a
brazenly cynical act of cultural
appropriation being passed off as a
rebellious reclamation of her
sexuality after a childhood in the
Disneyfied spotlight, but, in the
end, who are we really to judge? I
mean, it can’t be a picnic being
Billy Ray’s daughter, and remember
that Vanity Fair picture of them?
That was just …weird.
Though they won’t comprehend the
Billy Ray references, they will nod,
understanding that Ms. Cyrus’s
motivations to twerk are
complicated by a raft of personal,
socioeconomic and third-wave-
feminist issues.
Upon hearing what twerking is, it
is natural for your parents to want
to experiment with it. They may
even proudly announce, “Look at
us, we’re twerking!” not
recognizing the inappropriateness
of their actions and words. Try to
resist the urge to chastise them;
doing so will only increase their
desire to twerk in defiance, perhaps
in private.
It is also possible that your parents
may suggest twerking at their next
dinner party, after the radicchio
salad with caramelized pears.
Adopt a strict no-tolerance policy
for group twerking unless you are
there to supervise, other parents’
children are informed beforehand
and have given permission, and
everyone in attendance is invited to
participate, including the
Pearlsteins.
There’s a chance some of their
peers are already twerking — most
likely the younger parents. If they
feel pressure to twerk to feel
accepted, point out that anyone
who forces you to twerk when
you’re not ready for it isn’t a real
friend, and that you think it’s just
as “cool” not to twerk but instead
to do, say, the jitterbug.
They may ask if you twerk with
your significant other. Tell them
that when a young man and young
woman love each other very much
and are in a packed, sweaty
nightclub playing commercial hip-
hop, yes, they sometimes twerk to
express their affections. Assure
them that just because you twerk
with someone else and not with
them doesn’t mean you love them
any less — just that you show your
love for them in a different way;
for instance, by having strained
three-day visits over Christmas.
With a no-nonsense yet empathetic
approach, you can create a safe
space in which to discuss twerking
with your parents. If handled
sensitively, a positive twerking
dialogue will prepare them for
future conversations concerning a
host of other topics they’ve heard
about but don’t understand, such as
grinding, Ecstasy dance raves and
the Instagram.

Teddy Wayne is the author of the
novels “The Love Song of Jonny
Valentine” and “Kapitoil.”

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