"I'd catch a grenade for ya, throw my hand on a blade for ya. I'd jump in front of a train for ya…Take a bullet straight through my brain..." — Bruno Mars in "Grenade," the No. 1 song on Billboard's hot 100 list
Some 69 million people have watched the YouTube video, with Bruno Mars lamenting that he would die for his girl — though she wouldn't do the same for him. Is it healthy for anyone to declare such devotion? Probably not.
But you and your family can use Bruno Mars' "Grenade" as a teachable moment. Some issues to discuss:
Bravado. "I do think the people who say 'I'd take a grenade for you' are the ones who are more likely to flee in a hurry when the grenade really arrives," says psychologist Carl Hindy, author of If This is Love, Why Do I Feel So Insecure? "It's something that's easy to say and hard to do."
Better signs of love. Hindy suggests giving your sweetheart a coupon book full of tasks you'll do in the next year. Forget the grenade. How about taking on the laundry or the trash? "It's kind of like the big Valentine's gift," says Hindy. "Why don't you skip the gift and do the things I really want?"
Real heroes. Think about federal judge John Roll, who videos indicate saved a man's life during the shooting at U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' gathering in Arizona. And consider the many courageous people during the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001. "These are very humble people who never talk of being a hero," says Hindy. "The ones who are predicting they would [take the grenade] are the big talkers, not the big actors."
Reality. Luckily, not many American couples are together in grenade-throwing zones. So any declarations are "not likely to be tested," says Hindy. (Indeed, when I asked my friend Marty Beene and his wife the grenade question, they said their first reaction was, "How would we ever be in a situation where that was needed?!")
Unequal love. My 11-year-old, who loves the Bruno Mars song, says it's just about how "he loves her more than she loves him."
Wording. Some people may take the lyrics literally, which is a problem. "'I'd take a grenade for you' is pure, high neurosis," says psychologist Marcella Bakur Weiner, co-author of The Problem Is the Solution. People who simply say "I'd take a grenade for you" are using words too flippantly and failing to treasure life enough, she says.
Commitment. "A lot of this song and the notion of 'taking a grenade' is metaphorical for commitment in a relationship," says Daniel Levy, a developmental pediatrician who sits on the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on communications and media. "The idea of commitment for an adolescent audience is romanticized, and generally short term. Teens reason and make decisions much more emotionally than a fully formed adult, but most still understand the true meaning of this song." What can you do when this tune plays on the car radio? "You can talk about commitment and its difficulties," says Levy. "Parents need to discuss the concept of commitment and its difficulties with their kids — not to mention the pain of a broken heart."
Metaphor. "Pop songs are metaphors — mostly," says psychiatrist Elizabeth Berger, author of Raising Kids with Character. "'Would you take a grenade for me?' is really a metaphor about devotion, expressed in a fairly unrealistic — for most people — fashion." Make sure kids understand figures of speech. "A poetic metaphor is one thing and real life is another," says Berger. Occasionally, a disturbed person might take this idea too literally and bring a grenade to school. "Sometimes in millions of children there will be one or two who have access to grenades and are very concrete in their thinking, so that 'I love you so much I'd jump off a cliff for you' involves wondering about the nearest cliff and making plans to jump," says Berger.
Gore. "There is a kind of casual brutality in the idea of 'taking a grenade' for your girlfriend," says Berger. "Something about it sounds a little false and cynical in the context of teenagers…I suspect that actual soldiers don't brag that way to their wives and girlfriends."
Pop culture. Bring up Iraq, Afghanistan, and Egypt. "With the newsflashes dominated by grenades and bullets, it is only natural that pop culture reflects this metaphor in its language of love," says Berger.
Sacrifices. Since every family faces crises, says Berger, "It is reasonable that we wonder about our own resources of courage, as well as the willingness of boyfriends and girlfriends to sacrifice for our sake." She notes that families may also want to segue into a discussion of astronaut Mark Kelly, who decided to command the next shuttle mission while his wife, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, remains in her rehabilitation hospital. DJ's are asking listeners, "Would you take a grenade for your lover?" — broadcasters are asking viewers, and "Would you go into space while your spouse was recovering from a gunshot wound?" "If you were in a hospital, would you want your spouse to go back to his day job?" she says. "Would you want your spouse to partake of a life's dream?"
While you're talking about Bruno Mars, you can use his drug case as another teachable moment. On Friday the pop star told a Las Vegas judge that he will plead guilty to a felony cocaine charge that would be erased from his record if he stays out of trouble for a year. Police said he possessed 2.6 grams of cocaine at a nightclub last September.