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SANDY BANKS / Life as We Live It

Sugar, Spice and a Reality That's Less Than Perfect

September 01, 1998|SANDY BANKS

Her message was delivered with the kind of breathy urgency that might accompany a bulletin on the news.

"Posh is pregnant!" my 9-year-old daughter told me, her eyes filled with wonder and disbelief. "And so is Mel B.!"

She'd heard the news from a girl in her gymnastics class, who'd heard it from a friend at soccer practice, whose big sister had read it in the newspaper.

But she couldn't believe it . . . it doesn't square with the world she knows.

It can't be true, because Posh isn't married. And neither is Mel B. "And you can't have a baby if you're not married.

"Isn't that right, Mommy?"

*

Posh and Mel B. are, for the uninitiated, half of what's left of the Ginger-less Spice Girls, the British purveyors of Girl Power to millions of young girls around the globe.

Until now, Posh Spice--24-year-old Victoria Adams--was best known for her short, tight skirts and the glamour- girl image that's been her stock in trade.

Then Posh Spice became the first Spice Girl to court motherhood, with the admission that she's three months pregnant by British soccer star David Beckham, whom she plans to marry next year.

And before that news could settle among prepubescent Spice Girl fans, along came reports that Scary Spice--23-year-old Melanie Brown--is also expecting a baby, with fiance Jimmy Gulzar, a "Spice Boy" dancer in the group's touring entourage.

Critics complain that Posh and Scary are corrupting the morals of impressionable young girls who worship the troupe--the 9-year-olds who sport clunky shoes and mimic their Cockney accents will now get the message that pregnancy outside of marriage is OK . . . even cool.

Supporters counter that their pregnancies are the ultimate expression of the "Girl Power" credo--a thumbing of the nose at the powerful men who created them and manipulated their image to catapult them to commercial success.

Their friends say it's simpler; that they are, at heart, just working-class girls driven as much by dreams of romance and family as by the desire for fortune and fame.

In hindsight, perhaps we should have seen it coming. Take a look at their "Spice World" movie, built around their resolve to be with a friend giving birth--sans husband--even at the risk of skipping a concert gig. And there's "Mama, I Love You," the song they sang to end each concert on their recent tour.

Far be it for me to criticize their choice of motherhood, but I just wish they'd thought of the dilemma faced by mothers like me, who are trying to usher young daughters gently toward an adolescence more wholesome than our society provides.

*

I don't even remember how it started--in an offhand answer to an innocuous question, no doubt. Somehow, I've convinced my two youngest daughters, now 7 and 9, that pregnancy outside of marriage is not just a social faux pas but a biological impossibility, a violation of the laws of nature . . . an inconceivable act, if you will.

I knew it was just a matter of time before the charade would end. But I enjoyed their innocence and indulged their naivete, which I now see evaporating in arguments with more sophisticated friends, who insist that you can too have a baby without being married.

Forget Madonna and Murphy Brown. This morality play is taking place center stage in my daughters' world. And I find myself worrying less about whether the Spice Girls' pregnancies make them bad role models than whether they make Mommy a liar.

So far, I've taken the coward's way out. Maybe, I suggest, they are secretly married.

But I know my daughter's not buying that, and I'm left to hope that the girls will begin sporting wedding rings before their bellies expand beneath those tiny crop tops. How about it, Posh, Mel B.? Wedding bells, anyone?

More likely, I'd better prepare to confront with my daughters a reality less perfect than I've portrayed . . . a world where babies can be born to unmarried girls, and mommies don't always tell the truth.

* Sandy Banks' e-mail address is sandy.banks@latimes.com.

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