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I have been haunted all day by something. It is a bit embarrassing to admit it publicly, especially in the wake of Obama entering the office and other things that actually matter. But my entire day has been overshadowed by the new Madonna images that have crept onto the internet. I can not lie. I’m upset.

It was yesterday my friend Okie told me the news.  It was our mutual adoration of Madonna that was the genesis of our friendship. So when there are Madge updates we are quick to share.  Okie was gasping over the HARD CANDY photo shoot outtake images that had leaked onto the net.   But I was sure Okie must be exaggerating.  All this dramatic talk of wrinkles and sagging skin just couldn’t be true.

I was not prepared to view these photos. Sure, Madonna has been looking a bit older these days. And that is wonderful. Aging is natural and gorgeous. But no, I was not prepared for these photos.

Let’s backtrack and admit that even the officially released HARD CANDY photos that were a bit awkward. Madonna with her legs spread wearing a wrestling belt.  The rest of the photos in the booklet were minor elaborations on the same theme. But those outtakes…

I grew up with Madonna. I’ve admired her work since I was eight years old.  And in twenty five years of being a fan I never felt like Madonna looked like a fool. At least not until these pictures. And here was a forty nine year old Madonna wrapped in ace bandages. Here was Madonna awkwardly posed in an ill advised boxing motif. Here was Madonna looking exhausted, bored, and uncomfortable in cheap looking (not in the good way) lingerie. It was not sagging skin, wrinkles, or bare flesh that upset.  More disturbing was the hollowness of Madonna’s eyes and the stoniness of her face.  These Madonna photos emanated an awkward chilliness unlike any Madonna photos I’d ever seen…untouched or not.  Can we lose the morgue chic and get Madge back please?

I hope Madonna doesn’t reduce her entire career into a caricature this late in the game. It seems in these photos perhaps Madonna was aiming to appear sexy, young, fresh, and tough. Unfortunately, at worst, some of these photos emitted a low brow truck-stop calendar vibe.  I look forward to seeing wrinkles on Madonna’s face. I hope she doesn’t stop being relevant in the futile attempt to chase a youth that has passed. Hopefully these photos are not unsettling foreshadowing. 

I loved the “Sex” book.  I even loved “Body Of Evidence”.  And I don’t think there’s ANYTHING wrong with a fifty-year-old showing skin. It’s presentation that counts.  Here’s to hoping that the grim look on Madonna’s face wasn’t reflecting her discomfort over doing a photo shoot that a record company executive pressured her into doing.   Although Photo Shop can easily wipe away wrinkles, it can never mask the facial expression of somebody clearly not enjoying themselves.

But on the bright side obviously these photos were not supposed to be released to the public. Still I cannot lie – it was a bummer to see someone I respect in such an unflattering light. Perhaps this was just a bad day for Madonna. Regardless I want to see Madonna classy, aged, smart, and sophisticated. And full of wrinkles.  Madonna built her career on being daring.  Now I dare her to age with grace.