Meeting Ricky Dillon...Whoever That Is

When you have kids you start to hear a lot of names that you probably wouldn’t hear otherwise. What I mean by that is that you get exposure to celebrities that a lot of people your age have never heard of. I’m pretty well versed in popular culture. I know who Jay-Z is. I’ve heard the latest Justin Bieber, and I can name all the guys from One Direction…Harry, Niall, Louis, and Liam (Zayn left last year).

But we now live in an age where the word “celebrity” encompasses a lot more than it used to. I’m used to it referring to actors and actresses on TV and in film. It also referred to musicians and famous athletes. But now a “celebrity” can be a politician, a news anchor, or the woman that plays Flo on the Progressive commercials.

YouTube has created a lot of celebrities. People that used to be regular Joes picked up their phone and made a couple of videos and now are international celebrities. There are a few “YouTubers” that I watch. But there are tons of them out there that are teenagers or young adults making videos to entertain kids. As a parent I have to squash a few of them when they make it into my house because of the kinds of things they talk about, but most of them are innocent.

I tease my daughter for watching a lot of these things. Mainly because she likes to watch videos of guys with hair that stands straight up in front like a wave. They’re usually really thin and look like a stiff wind would blow them away.

If you know me well then you know that I’m not one that has a problem with anyone’s sexuality and I believe that everyone should be allowed to live their life the way they choose. After all, we only get to do this one time. But when I see that most of the boys in the videos that my daughter watches sound like little girls when they talk, I feel the need to tease her that I don’t think she has a shot with them. It’s all in good fun. No hatred or malice is intended.

Well, last week she comes to me and tells me that Ricky Dillon wrote a book and that he’s having a book signing in Birmingham. She wanted to know if I would please…please…PLEASE take her to get a wristband and then take her back the next day to meet him. I groaned because it’s not exactly my cup of tea. But, I knew that this week was going to be kind of rough for my family. We buried my mother on Tuesday afternoon. I thought that this might be a welcome distraction. So, Tuesday morning we drove down to the bookstore and purchased the book.

If you don’t know who Ricky Dillon is…I can’t help you a whole lot. I know that he has a YouTube channel, he’s a singer with a few music videos, and he has something like three million Twitter followers. Yesterday afternoon my wife and I took my daughter back to the store to attend the book signing.

I worked at Books-A-Million when I was younger and I had to help with book signings. We used to have celebrities like Charlton Heston, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and Dan Quayle come in to meet fans. They usually had a table set up in the back of the store. This was different. They had a stage set up outside the store in the courtyard of the mall. Another stage had a live band. And when we arrived I realized that not only was I the only dad standing in line, I was surrounded by a billion teenage girls.

I continued teasing my daughter by telling her that she needed to let Ricky know how much she loved him and asking her if she needed me to run to the jewelry store to pick out a ring. She’s a good sport and laughed because she knows her dad is playful and that none of it is out of spite.

But inside I was groaning. This was not what I wanted to be doing with my evening. I’d worked all day and wanted nothing more than to be sitting on my couch watching Netflix. I tried to enjoy the atmosphere, but I was stuck in an issue of Tiger Beat Magazine. Even the live band was a “chick” band.

When we got closer to the front I stepped out of line so that I could try to get a picture of the big moment. As I stood there a girl of about fifteen screamed out to Ricky Dillon…

Girl: “I love you, Ricky!”
Ricky: “I love you, too.”
Girl: “I’m two years clean because of you!”

What? Did I hear that right?

Gracie finally got her turn to meet him. He hugged her and complimented her outfit. She gave him an envelope of drawings that she’d made for him and they had their picture taken together. When she came off of the stage she was in tears. She was so happy. I was glad that she was able to have a happy memory to go along with the bad ones from this week.

On the way out to the car I told my daughter what the girl had said and asked her what she meant. She said that the girl meant that she used to be a cutter. If you don’t know what a “cutter” is, it means that they have an anxiety issue in which they literally cut themselves as self punishment to help relieve their stress. Kids have been doing it more and more the last few years. It’s terrible and causes a lot of physical and mental scars and can even lead to death.

That’s when I realized how big of a jerk I am.

I grew up in an environment that was full of racism and bigotry of all kinds. If you were different then you were not accepted. I myself was not accepted most of the time, which is why my feelings lean toward being more tolerant now. But I realized in that moment that even though I don’t have a problem with someone’s lifestyle, I was still discounting how important these people were to my kids. Just because to me Ricky Dillon is a boy that makes some silly videos on YouTube…he’s obviously much more than that to other people. To my daughter he was important enough that meeting him drove her to tears. To another girl he was important enough to inspire her not to hurt herself anymore.

So, from now on, as long as they’re not talking about something explicit, my kids can like what they like without criticism from dear old dad. I have no way of knowing if one of those celebrities they like is actually helping them in ways that I can’t, I don’t want to unwittingly take that away from them by making a flippant comment.

And, I need to work on slowing down myself. I almost missed a beautiful moment last night because of how much I wanted to veg out in front of Netflix.

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