Madonna appeared on Ellen this week (I have never noticed the physical similarities between them, but it’s there, right?) and towards the end of the segment she brought son Rocco out to take part in the Splash Tank; each dunk earns 10K for breast cancer research, so you know he was going in. (My parents were going to name me Rocco if I came out a boy -- so ahead of the trend.)

So here’s Rocci. He’s 12. And he is TWELVE. Shy, quiet, his voice slightly cracking as he gave monosyllabic answers. He talked briefly about dancing on his mom’s tour and gave an exasperated answer when asked about her flashing the crowd. He also acknowledged that Madonna is strict, and I totally believe this. You don’t get to where she is by being blasé about anything.

There is something about Madonna in this segment, a marked difference to how she can appear in interviews – humourless, rigid, controlling, condescending (when she’s on her game, these are some of the reasons I love her). But she’s been hard to love lately – the Ed Hardy trucker hats and Superbowl bicep curl are embarrassing. Here she looked like she was genuinely enjoying her kid. I mean she’s still Madonna (watch at 00:40 who she grabs the mic from Ellen’s hand – classic Madge) but definitely more appearling than usual.

It’s nice to see her comfortable and it seems like being around her son makes her comfortable. But is it because that’s where we expect someone like Madonna to be – with her kids, and not out flashing her nips for applause? Maybe not; there are many women 50+ who we consider to be sexy -- Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, Helen Mirren, Allison Janney (the former two are mothers as well) and they don’t pull and inject and fill until they are a parody of what a 50-something woman should look like.

I don’t know if Madonna has ever been traditionally sexy, but her sexual aggressiveness has always been part of her persona. Her mooning the audience comes off as tired because it is tired – we’ve seen her do it all before, and then some. As a performer she’s addicted to shocking the audience, but a boob here or an ass there isn’t shocking and it isn’t relevant;  if anything it shows that she’s out-of-touch and clinging to the same tricks she was doing at 35.

Throwing a ball (way off target) and laughing and giving the thumbs up to her son, she looked like a woman who was ok with being 54. She was still cheeky, she wouldn’t stop mugging for the cameras behind Ellen’s back, without being all “I’m still young, please watch me thrust my crotch!” She doesn’t just bring her kids on tour with her, she brings them on stage sometimes too – Lourdes and little David have DJed– so it must be fun for her. Maybe she’s becoming more comfortable with being youthful than being young – how cool would that be?