The Spice of Life

Scary, Sporty, Posh and Baby may not mean jack to you--but the little girls understand.

As I was trying to keep my head above the torrent of hormones that was flooding Fiddler's Green during the August 5 Spice Girls concert, I found myself wondering what had brought me to this extraordinarily strange place. And then the answer came to me: sperm. Had I simply rolled over and gone to sleep that night nearly six years ago, my five-year-old twin daughters, Lora and Ellie, would not have been beside me on the amphitheater lawn, hollering like brainwashed extras from Invasion of the Booty Shakers. Instead, I would have been at the Beastie Boys show across town shaking a little booty of my own and perhaps snickering at the thought of those thousands of parents whose spawn had forced them to pay a visit to Spice World. Life's full of repercussions, isn't it?

Don't get me wrong: I love my daughters, and their older brother, Nick, with every cell of my being, and I can't imagine life without them--nor do I want to. But that doesn't mean that either my wife, Deb, or I am enchanted by our daughters' sudden interest in all things Spicy. After all, we have invested much of our child-rearing time since the day they emerged from the womb trying our best not to engage in gender-typing. They have dolls to play with, sure, but they also have airplanes and dump trucks. Moreover, no trip to the toy department is complete without my recitation of a simple but important lesson: "Barbie is evil." And yet, over the course of the past year or two, we've watched our girls being slowly seduced by the pink side of the Force. After each session of daycare, at a facility that's safe, clean and well-stocked with pint-sized fluff queens, they'd come home with a new appreciation for frilly dresses, color-coordinated headbands (Lora won't leave the house without one now) and stick-on earrings. Extracurricular activities have been just as fraught with peril. At one birthday party they attended, their lovely parting gifts weren't the traditional goody bags filled with candy and trinkets but (gulp) brunette Barbies that did everything but purr, "Hey, sailor."

I was cheered when Lora and Ellie didn't play with their Barbies much. But this victory turned out to be illusory, in large part because one of their best friends had just developed a taste for Spice. Soon, my little princesses were spending hours at a time role-playing Spice Girls. "I'm Baby!" one of them would announce. "I'm Sporty!" the other would counter before prancing around our house with her pelvis swiveling like a sprinkler head. Neither of them was terribly clear on the particulars of the group: They seemed to think that Victoria and Posh were two different women, when in fact they are the same person, and they chattered on about "ABC Spice," which is either a nickname for one of the original five that I've never heard or a creation of their own. Likewise, they knew nothing whatsoever about the combo's music. The first time I played the Spice World CD for them, they displayed absolutely zero interest in it until I told them who was singing. Then they told me that it was great.

After that, the Girls' hits began to imprint themselves on my daughters' minds. This in itself didn't bother me much: As a guy who has a jukebox in which Petula Clark's "Downtown" and "Brandy (You're a Fine Girl)" by Looking Glass coexist alongside Eric B. & Rakim's "Follow the Leader" and Public Enemy's "Don't Believe the Hype," I'm someone with an appreciation for catchy but disposable pop of the sort that the Spice Girls peddle. Neither was I bothered by the flirty/sexual nature of their material--at least not until my progeny started to mouth it. I'm hardly a prudish person, but I must confess that the first time Ellie came into the living room, put her hand on her cocked hip, pointed her finger at my face and sang, "If you wannabe my lover," I had to be restrained from dialing information to ask for the number to the nearest convent.

When the Spice Girls' Denver concert date was announced, however, I decided to face my fears, not run away from them. So rather than accepting the one review ticket I was offered by the show's promoter, Universal Concerts, I bargained for two on the lawn, then purchased two more for Lora and Ellie. Only afterward did I realize that the Beastie Boys were set to drop by McNichols Arena on the very same night. Missing the Boys, whose appearance was among the big summer extravaganzas to which I was most looking forward, turned my Spice Girls expedition into a genuine sacrifice--and the dozen or so co-workers who came up to me in the days before August 5 and innocently asked, "Are you going to see the Beastie Boys?" only made matters worse. By contrast, my daughters, who had never before gone to a big concert, were disturbingly excited by the prospect of seeing the Spice Girls in person, even though Ginger Spice, who split on the cusp of the collective's U.S. tour, would not be present. ("She and Scary got into a fight!" Ellie explained to me.) These feelings were exacerbated on the Wednesday in question when Deb took them to buy new shoes for school. The reason? The store was jammed with pre-teens purchasing footwear that would match the outfits they planned to wear to the Spice Girls concert.

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