Mama has promised to let Jamie Lynn cut a record when she’s fourteen.
Because Jamie Lynn has been asking, and begging for singing lessons, and then ditching those for dance class. She’s been singing since she knew how to form words, dancing since her little legs would work, and now she’s in double digits and her wide eyes are hungry for fame. Jamie Lynn has never been one to wait for things. She makes them happen.
And this is why she has been singing whenever you bring home company, singing for Johnny and Justin and Lance, especially Lance, because she knows what she’s doing. She talks to them excitedly when you and Mama are out of the room, and she’ll hush up quick as you enter with tea or dinner, then spend the rest of the night sending them messages with her eyes, blinking innocently when she turns to you.
She’s had three separate offers for contracts, none of them from your friends.
You said no, no, no to all three of them.
When she heard that, Jamie Lynn threw a fit and said that it wasn’t fair that you got to make this decision for her. You told her, “Its not my decision, its Mama’s,” but both of you knew it was a lie. You get to dictate where, how, and with who Jamie Lynn ends up recording. And then Mama made her a deal. Fourteen and she can cut an album, just like Leslie and Mikhaila and those other forgettable little girls. Two years before you, so it was almost like she was getting a head start, if one with your name all over it.
And you want to say no, no, no, but you know there’s no way that you can. You may have a choice in the matter but Mama’s word is final. And she’s already in lessons, already competing in dance and vocal competitions, already performing, so she may as well get recognition for it. But the thing is, Mama doesn’t know.
Mama doesn’t know hours alone with a photographer, his eyes on your body, his bored voice telling you to pout, to fuck him with your eyes. Mama doesn’t know stylists bearing see-through dresses, bras and belly shirts and a needle to pierce you with.
Mama doesn’t know your choreographers telling you, almost off-hand, to just use a track, because “as long as your tits are shaking around, no one will know the difference.”
But you know it, all of it, and you see more than Mama does. See Jamie Lynn, giving up ice cream because she’s on a diet. See her primping and pouting in front of a mirror, giving up her sweatpants and t-shirts for baby tees and low-slung jeans. See her lip-glossed mouth shaping the words, “Mama made me decide between vocal lessons and dance, and I chose dance because its more important where you are.”
You know it, and you see it, and you hate it. You hate that part of it is your fault, you hate resenting Mama for making her choose, for telling Jamie Lynn that its okay to be like you. You hate that David LaChapelle told you over the phone, “This is so much more mature than your other stuff. I can’t imagine a ten year old dancing to ‘Slave,’” as you watched your ten-year-old sister mimic your routines in front of her mirror, her nonexistant hips twitching to the beat.
You thought that you would have more time to teach her. Twelve, fourteen, sixteen, eighteen, til she was old enough to make her own decisions, til she was old enough to know what she wanted. Really know, not just brat around and take her clothes off the spite everyone. To prove that she could do it, like you did. You’ve learned now, but Jamie Lynn hasn’t, and she won’t. Not unless you’re given enough time to teach her.
But you don’t have the time. So instead you buy her new sweatsuits. You tell her to drop the dance classes in favor of vocal lessons, and you play referee in her basketball games. You give her books that you’ve never read, that you know you were supposed to read, and hope she learns more from them than she can from you, because you don’t have the words to shape it with your inarticulate tongue. Because you learned the hard way, and you don’t her to have to.
Slowly but surely, you are molding her into the person that you should have been. When people tell your baby sister that she will be the next Britney, you hold her close with both your arms and you say no, no, no.