He’s a man of ‘if-it-were-nots’. A man of uneasy, turbulent, messy, and at times, crappy, past. A man whose melodramatic relationship with her superstar, too-confident-to-be-narcissistic, and sassy daughter becomes more or less, or more, perhaps, complicated than a reality TV show. Or that his life has been destined to be that confounding. I have no idea for that.
To get yourself more puzzled, read the full article in GQ (it’s outdated, but that may still be a reference to explain the latest series of misconducts Miley has made, including that ‘We Can’t Stop’ performance on this year’s VMA. You really can’t stop, huh?)
Cyrus can be confounding. He is covered in tattoos but now wishes he had none of them. One moment he’ll mutter some playful comment about one of his entourage having a “smoky wokey.” (I don’t know why I find this quite so funny. I guess it’s the echo of “achy breaky”; for a moment I imagine there really might be an alternative reality in which Billy Ray Cyrus is cursed to communicate every thought, however deep or shallow, in pairs of rhyming adjectives.) The next he’ll try to interest me in a charity for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, but in a way that seems curiously guileless (he tells me he’d never heard of the disease until recently), and then the press releases I’m later sent mention that Cyrus is “being reimbursed” for his “time and expenses” by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. Likewise, there’s an awful childhood tale he shares about waiting outside church with his mother to see whether his father would appear with another woman: “And he did. And it got ugly right there in the church parking lot. My mom jumped on, fought some woman, beat her. I seen it. I seen that happen more than once. I seen my mom pull one woman out of my dad’s convertible by the hair of the head and stomp her ass in the ditch. I seen that.” But I’m not sure whether he’s trying to show me a snapshot of a mother wronged, of a father besieged, or of a boy already accosted by dramas he can’t control. And how to weigh that against the declaration Cyrus repeats to me several times about his current life changes: “It’s the first time in my life I’ve ever stood up for myself. I’ve always let people just run over me. The least likely thing anyone in my family thought I would ever do is stand up for myself.” Or to measure it with the moment—remembering the time the 6-year-old Miley helped a blind friend hear God in the sound of the wind through the grass—that Billy Ray stops talking altogether, and when I look over I see that his eyes are full of tears.
“Makes me so sad,” he says, “just to think about it.”