Some people are defined by the sports team they love. Their team gives them an identity to wrap themselves around, something to root for through thick and thin, a nostalgic link to their past and a constant shot at excitement in the future. It's a way to build camaraderie with strangers, and an excuse to drink with old friends on the weekends. I'm from Los Angeles, but if I'm honest, my team isn't really the Lakers or the Dodgers. My team is one person, and her name is Britney Jean Spears.
I found out about Britney Spears Day a week before it was slated to go down. According to the "news" section on her site, Britney was going to be honored in Sin City and was offering VIP access to her Britney Day ceremony, a ride on the LINQ High Roller (a giant, overpriced Ferris wheel), and free tickets to her show to the first hundred girls named Britney who showed up. The question of whether or not I should drop everything in my life for an urgent solo girl's trip to Vegas was never really a question at all. Nor was my decision to get a fake ID for the event. I've been obsessed with this bitch longer than I've been a legal adult—far too long to be a second-class citizen on her marginally important day.
My love for Britney extends to paraphernalia as well. I own two Britney perfumes, a Britney eye shadow, three Britney shirts, one Britney hat, and one recently acquired Britney nightie. My entire being lights up when I talk about Britney. I relish when people speak disparagingly of her because it gives me an opportunity to defend her, and I've saved countless people from the scourge of having good taste by converting them into Britney fans.
In high school, I never actually bought a fake. I had fake IDs, but they were always the real licenses of older girls with flexible morals. I had no idea how to solicit the services of a fake IDist, so I wore an even more juvenile outfit than I normally do, in the hope that I would look young enough to need to look older. One of the few kernels of knowledge that I've retained from high school is that Alvarado Street is the go-to place in Los Angeles to score a fake ID, so the day before Britney Day, fueled on Red Bull and mania and minimal sleep, I headed to the neighbourhood just outside of MacArthur Park and hoped that the last 14 years had been kind to the illicit ID market.
I parked my car a few blocks away and strolled down the street, locking eyes with every vendor with a blanket full of wares, under the delusion that one of them would open up their trench coat to reveal a miniature fake ID lab. No such trench coat lab presented itself, and I came to terms with the fact that I would have to ask if I wanted to receive. I scanned the hot dog stands and prepaid phone card booths looking for the most trustworthy but unsavoury character I could find, and before I could land on one person in particular, a voice to my right whispered, "ID?"
I flipped around.
"ID? Yes! ID!"
A short, wiry kid, no older than 19, stood with his arms crossed.
"Are you a cop?"
He nodded and indicated that I should follow him.
"Some people say they're not cops, but then they are."
"I swear. I'm not a cop."
Either this reaffirmation or my blood-shot eyes convinced him that I was, indeed, not an officer of the law, and he led me down the block, into a vestibule, up a rattling elevator, and onto the third floor of an abandoned shopping mall.
He lifted up the metal grate to a hollowed-out storefront, where a middle-aged woman sat behind a folding card table and gestured for me to stand in front of a blue backdrop. She asked if I wanted to look in the mirror before I took the picture. I declined, on the basis that the more busted I looked, the more of a Britney I would seem. She snapped the photo, and the boy who found me asked me to fill out a slip of paper with details of what I wanted my new identity to be. In homage to a great fallen Britney (well, technically Brittany), I selected Murphy as my last name. I made myself eight years younger. I chose 4/20 as my birthday.
"It will be about an hour, hour and a half," the boy told me before putting my cell number into his burner.
With 90 minutes to kill while I finished committing ID fraud, I found my nearest polling place, and voted.
I returned to our designated meeting place on Alvarado Street and waited in my car. It had been 90 minutes. And then two hours. Three years of having a medical marijuana prescription has led me to forget the fact that illicit transactions always take infinitely longer than you're quoted, and I texted the boy's burner impatiently. Finally, he called me and told me it was ready.
It was dark now as I scanned the streets, searching everywhere for him. He was nowhere to be found. I, on the other hand, at 5'11 with a neon-white "young-person" high ponytail bobbing in the wind, was a veritable human landmark. I was hungry and delirious and sure he'd made off with my deposit. The customer service on this street corner was horrendous. I texted him twice more and began fantasizing about barging into that storefront in a cop costume when I heard "Britney! Britney!"
Oh. That felt good. All was forgiven. I handed him the rest of his money, and he handed me my ticket to paradise:
Britney check-in started at 8 AM, and I couldn't risk missing out on being one of the first hundred Britneys—not after I'd come this far. I got a three-hour nap in, and when my alarm went off at 5 AM, pulling my eyelids open felt like lifting a freshly-formed scab. I went home, threw my "Work Bitch" hat and sequined Uggs in the backseat, and went flying into the night toward Sin City.
I rolled into town in the grey of early sunrise with my windows down, blasting "Till the World Ends." When I arrived at the LINQ Hotel a throng of people were already milling about. My heart sank. I should have just done the responsible thing and slept on the sidewalk. As I got closer, though, I realised that the crowd was not there for Britney Day but for a monster-truck convention in the adjacent lot.
In fact, there was only one other Britney in line for Britney Spears Day, and she was in the process of receiving her swag. I jumped up and down. I couldn't even. Two men with walkie-talkies eyed me cautiously. When the Britney ahead of me was done, my stomach fluttered with the delicious rush that comes in the moments before attempting to use a fake ID. Being a 32-year-old woman, I had written off ever experiencing this simple pleasure again. I handed over my proof of Britney and the woman looked it over.
"Oh! Britney Murphy! Another famous Britney!" she exclaimed, making no comment about the fact that the signature on the card said "Barker."
She put a pink wristband on me, marked my hand with a "B," and handed me two tickets and a T-shirt that read "Hello: My Name Is Britney." Oh. My. God. I had fucking pulled it off.
I was a Britney on Britney Day. My entire life had been building to this moment.
I, like most people my age, will never forget the first time I saw "Hit Me Baby One More Time." In the middle of the TRL countdown, this girl, who was my age, appeared in a Lolita-inspired Catholic school girl outfit that was straight out of every high school kid's definition of what sexy was. She had pigtails with pink fluffy hair ties, fake vibrato, and exposed, perfect abs. Her name was exactly what you would think it would be: Britney. Everything about her was so cliché, she was original. She wasn't unique enough to be gorgeous, but she was hot. Really hot. Hot in a way that was unchallenging and accessible. Hot in a way that could be my friends and I in some universe not so far away. At least, that's what we all thought when we listened to her CD over and over again as we got stoned in our cars in gas-station parking lots and blew our entire paychecks at Wet Seal. We weren't old enough to have real personalities, and neither was she. Britney was one of us, and she came with us everywhere.
Fourteen years later, however, neither Brit Brit nor I were lacking in literal or figurative dirt under our nails—a fact that became abundantly clear as my early-morning hit of endorphins began to recede from my body and, alone on the Las Vegas Strip as "Toxic" played to me and only me, I saw stars. The bad kind. I realized I needed to get some sleep before the festivities commenced, and decide that I would save time by not driving out to the condo where I was staying and, instead, I checked into the day spa at the Venetian. Yes, I realised how basic of me this was, and no, I couldn't think of a better day to do it.
Two naps and three cups of jasmine tea later, siesta time was over. It was time to get ready. For Britney. I got my money's worth by using the facility's shampoos and lotions and hairsprays. When I returned to the LINQ, Britney Day had brought the action.
A giant crowd of drunkards, many of whom had those chunky blond highlights that were tragically forgotten in non-Britney populations after the year 2006, had gathered around the stage. I walked by a photo op where a Britney look-alike was posing with attendees three times before realising that the "look-alike" was actually a pile of wax.
Because I was a Britney, I was granted access to a corral on the side of the stage. I was annoyed to find that they were not limiting access to the Britney corral to Britneys only: Two attractive gay men in expensive sunglasses faced the stage in front of me. Ugh. These frauds. Some of us had bought a fake ID for this. One of the gay guys turned around and complimented me on my Uggs, which made me like them because there was plenty of Ugg competition that night. "What are you drinking?" asked one. I held up my Coors Light. The other one rolled his eyes, disappointed. "No hard alcohol?" They both wrote me off completely. This, more than their given gender or birth names, proved to me that they were not real Britneys. Since I was alone, I bought a tall boy of Coors Light so that I could make sure I was attracting the right kind of people.
More Britneys were loaded into the Britney corral. I was not surprised to see that one of them was dating an attendee at the monster-truck convention, and they held hands over the top of the Britney barrier.
A host came on stage and asked whether we were pumped. He repeatedly told us that in just 40 short minutes, "Britney Spears will be standing right here. On this X." He assured us that Entertainment Tonight would be taking pictures and that we were all going to be famous, completely missing the point. We were not here to be average people who got famous. We were here to see a famous person who is average. He told us that his "Twitter was blowing up" and encouraged us to "Make this trend." We, the Britneys, hated him.
It was T-minus one minute to B-time. A gaggle of Harrah's showgirls came onstage and did some really impressive dancing. We hated them too. Just give us Britney, bitches! At last, from my view on the side of the stage in the Britney corral, I saw her.
She was hiding behind the showgirls' feathers and awkwardly holding her wrists. She had that upside down smile she gets when something confuses her, and my eyes welled up with tears. This is what I had traveled through days and nights and sides of the law and a day spa for. This was the Britney I think I know and know I love.
The feathers came down, and Britney was revealed to the rest of the crowd. The CEO of Zappos.com was inexplicably running the ceremony, and within seconds it became apparent that this entire day had been a roundabout way to advertise for his shoe-slinging site. Britney said her line in the sing-songy, auditioning-for-the-high-school-musical voice that she uses when she's forced to speak in public: something about her charity blah blah blah. In closing, she gave a shoutout to her fellow Britneys, and gestured ambiguously. She clearly did not know or care where we were. She closed by saying, in a voice so unconvincing that it might have been intentional sarcasm, "This is definitely our day."
Then, the key giving ceremony-turned- Zappos.com ad took an unexpected turn for the best.
"And now," began Mr. Twitter Blowing Up, "we told you Britneys we had a special treat for you. Right now, Britney is going to take a ride in the LINQ High Roller with all of the Britneys that we can fit in one of those—"
WHAT. WHAT. WHAT.
None of the Britneys waited for him to finish talking. We made a mad tear to the entrance of the High Roller. We screamed, we hugged, we elbowed one another. The Shitney hit the fan. I was one of the lucky few who made it in before they cut people off.
I ran head first into a giant tangle of tattooed flesh. Collectively, we cried and jumped up and down.
"We're meeting fucking Britney! We're meeting fucking Britney!"
"My weave!" yelped a Britney.
"I'm freaking out. I'm freaking out!" panicked another. A different Britney handed her a Xanax.
"Who has gum? Who has gum?" begged a Britney. "I've had so much wine!"
"Britney won't care. Britney won't care," I assured her.
"You guys! You guys! Work Bitch hat or no Work Bitch hat?" I implored of my Britney brethren.
"No hat!" barked a Britney.
"Yes! Any Britney flare!" insisted another.
"Wear it like K-Fed! Wear it like K-Fed!" realized a genius Britney, and we all knew she was right.
We were herded into an elevator and thrust upward into the moment we'd all spent so many pedicures fantasizing about.
"Is she seriously going to ride in one of those bubbles with us?"
"That's what they said!"
Oh my god. Ohmygod ohmygod ohmygod. What was I going to say to her? "I love you. You're my favorite person of all time." No. She hates that. "You are my spirit animal." No. "Will you sign my arm so I can get a tattoo of it?" Maybe. She does like bad tattoos.
The elevator doors opened. It was happening.
We, the Britneys, found ourselves corralled once again, this time on the loading dock to the pod we would enter with Britney. A transexual Britney who looked uncannily like Britney Britney got so excited she took off her pants.
As soon as the cray-cray melee began, Britney's body became visibly stiff with fear. She put her hands behind her back and assumed the position of someone about to walk the plank.
"Britney! Britney! We love you, Britney! Britney! Britney Britney!" Then she approached the pod loading area with her security detail, and we all wailed involuntarily.
We rushed into the pod like ravenous hogs, and she made eye contact with nary a single Britney. With expert precision, she flashed a smile and posed for the millisecond it would take to get a promo shot with us, and then hauled ass out of there before any of us could process what had just happened. We, the Britneys, should have known better than this. She's expressed in multiple documentaries that she is "shy" and "just wants to be able to walk around the mall." We've watched her, since the beginning of the K-Fed dynasty, make attempt after attempt to sleep her way to the bottom. Britney Spears hates being famous. She wants out, but as she's gotten older, she's resigned herself to the fact that there's no escaping. She's been Miss American Dream since she was 17, so she sates us with the smallest possible piece of her. This is why we love her unconditionally, why we root for her, why we defend her at all costs. This is also the ouroboros that keeps the Britney machine running: The more of a reluctant superstar she is, the more we love her, which makes her more reluctant, which makes us love her more.
The more lucid Britneys exited the pod, but the rest of us were still in there when the doors closed.
"Wait!" yelled a Britney.
"What's going on? Do we seriously have to ride this thing? It takes 45 minutes to go around."
"It's Britney's gift to us," offered a Britney, sadly.
We had been riding in silence for a few minutes when "Lucky" came on the monitors. Britney videos began playing on the screens. Not even this cheered us up.
"This song gives me chills," remarked a Britney, and we all nodded in agreement and began singing along: "She's so lucky, she's a star, but she cries, cries, cries in her lonely heart."
As we floated, trapped in a claustrophobic bubble, high above the rest of the world, I couldn't help wondering if Britney had done this to teach us a lesson.
We were finally allowed out of our plexiglass prison and the exhaustion of the day hit me like a ton of bricks. It was backbreaking work being a Britney. I got some Chipotle and contemplated going home to sleep, but then I remembered that if Britney could make herself go to the live Zappos.com commercial, disguised as an honor for her, I could make myself go to her show.
I got a whiskey at the bar and spotted another platinum blond Britney who was also traveling solo. We immediately locked eyes and started talking as though we'd been mid-conversation for hours.
"Are you here alone?"
"Not anymore. Follow me."
We moved past the assigned seating section, which my ticket was for, and into the general admission section right at the foot of the stage. My new partner in Britney sweet-talked the ticket taker. This clearly wasn't her first Britney rodeo. I followed along flawlessly—it wasn't mine either.
In an instant, I found myself flush against the stage and in the midst of my new Britney friends: a swarm of gay flight attendants, all drinking Coors Light tall boys. I. Had. Arrived.
As soon as her taut, spray-tanned ass arrived onstage via giant wire bubble, I was back at the frenzied state of elation I had been in before being ditched and held captive in the giant plexiglass tank. From this close, I could see her tramp stamp and the nude whale tail of her thong peeking out over the black beading on her butt. I could see her stop lip-synching when she turned away from the crowd and faced a "mirror" with images of her past selves. I noticed her acrylic french tipped nails—the kind I got for prom and then accidentally set on fire while trying to smoke a bowl. She was wearing a watch on one wrist and a hair tie on the other, and she kept them both on throughout the entire show. Not once during the entire concert would she make mention of Britney Spears Day.
I squeezed my new Britney-in-crime's arm.
"Her hair tie! She's perfect."
"I know," she agreed. "She's just like us."
I supposed I would figure it out later, after I drove these delightful drunk flight attendants home in my filthy, standard issue car. I didn't know if Britney was just like us, or if we were just like Britney. We had been feeding off one another for so long, each wanting to be the other so badly since adolescence: Britney and the Britneys.
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