Monday, June 29, 2009

Growing Up with MJ

There is nothing to say about Michael Jackson that hasn't already been said. To me, his death was a particular shock because as a kid of the 80s, I grew up on his music when he was at his peak. He was the benchmark of a good dancer for our generation. When talking about someone who could dance, the defining test of if they were really that talented was if they could do Michael Jackson moves. How many childhood hours the world over were spent trying to moonwalk?

He was the only person me and my sisters ever wrote a fan letter to. I believe it was a critical dissection of his Moon Walker movie which we addressed to Michael Jackson, Neverland, America. God only knows where it ended up.

Our mother would go to the video shop and buy Michael Jackson music videos which we watched on an endless loop during our parents' afternoon siestas. This was before we had any sort of music channel in the Home Country.

People even teased me about resembling him and I once donned a pair of Aviators and white tape on my fingers for a picture, stood next to my Michael Jackson poster which is the only celebrity poster I ever bothered buying. It was flattering as a kid when he was still normal looking, but when the last comparison occurred just four years ago, I was deeply insulted.

As the years rolled on I abandoned my Michael Jackson fan status as things got weird and eventually he became not much more than tabloid fodder to me.

And then on Thursday night, as I was inspecting the skin peeling from my face from over enthusiastic spot removal efforts, my youngest sister rushed into the bathroom and told me that Michael Jackson had died.

It was only after that that I realised just how much fantastic music he made, and how much of that music appears as a backdrop to childhood memories and how my future kids would ask me where I was when I heard the news, the way we ask our parents where they were when Elvis died.

The Thriller video scared the living daylights out of me until I forced myself to watch despite my terror to the end and assure myself that the zombie does turn back into good old MJ. I defined what I wanted to look like when I grew up by all the women in Michael Jackson videos. Isn't it nice when you're a kid and you just think that you'll grow up to look like Iman simply because you want to?

And kids of today have no idea how cutting edge for its time the Black and White video was when the people in the end are all merging into each other, not even movies were doing that back then. As for that particular video, my sisters and I were beside ourselves with joy that an Indian woman got to dance with Michael Jackson in a video. Man, we knew the entire script to that video by heart.

And now all we are left from a life we literally picked and pecked to death is the music. At least I got to see Michael Jackson in the flesh for a few very brief seconds.

It was the late 80s and on one of our trips to the UK, our parents carted us off to Madame Tussaud's wax museum. Amongst the other attractions, a new statue of Michael Jackson had been unveiled. I was pretty young, but as far as I can recall the statue must have been stood under a spotlight because the rest of the room was very dark and gloomy.

All of a sudden, my mother shrieked "Oh my God! That's Michael Jackson!" I thought, yeah, it is Michael Jackson, it's his statue, why did you realise that all of a sudden? She repeated again that it was the real Michael Jackson and I spun around to catch a glimpse of the man himself flanked by bodyguards making a hasty exit as the crowd surged in his direction. That night, his clandestine appearance botched by my mother made the news.

When the news broke of his death and we sat together recalling how crazy we all were about Michael Jackson, I told her I wished she had quietly turned us around and pointed instead of notifying everyone in the room, causing his exit and making my one and only glimpse of Michael Jackson the back of him. At least I fared better than my older sister who turned in time to be hit in the face by Michael Jackson's shoulder bag and thus saw nothing at all. On our return to the Home Country, awe-struck friends told her she should never wash her face again.

1 comment:

Psofofeggaro said...

My mom and sis made fun of me because of the color changing and the operations and how he resembled "not a man anymore" and made me feel embaresed that I adored him when I was a teen on the 90's. The whole scandal thing made it worse, but always responded to them that maybe he was or did what they say he did, as it was natural because he'd had been grown up this way for sure.

After all, what the world would eventually remember 40 years from now is still gonna be the moonwalking, the moves and the music.
R.I.P. M. J.