Remembering Michael Jackson

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I can’t say that I’m still a Michael Jackson fan, but when I heard the news on June 25, 2009 that Michael Jackson had died, I couldn’t help but feel an emotional tug. Michael Jackson had been a big part of my life during my pre-teen years – those awkward years from sixth grade to eighth grade.

I remember the world premiere of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video on Friday Night Videos. My brother and I stayed up to watch. I listened to a bootleg tape of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album until it broke. Then I saved up my money to buy a legal copy – which eventually wore out also.

My walls were covered in Michael Jackson posters and everyone in my family knew that they weren’t allowed to say anything critical about Michael Jackson in my presence. In truth, Michael Jackson was my first real celebrity crush (I don’t really count the very early crushes on Sean Cassidy and Rick Springfield – they were short-lived). That’s saying a lot for a very white young lady who expected herself to always be perfectly proper. Having a huge crush on an African-American celebrity was a real no-no. I dreamed of marrying Michael Jackson. Yes, it was silly, but to a 12-year-old girl – it was important.

One of those years – which I now call my “Michael Years” – I received a Michael Jackson doll for Christmas. My mom still has it, even though I told her she should get rid of it a few years ago.There was a girl one year ahead of me in school who had two authentic Michael Jackson jackets – one from Thriller (the familiar red and black) and one from Beat It (the red, zippered jacket). I was envious – wanting one of those so bad, but knowing that even if I had one, I wouldn’t be brave enough to wear it in public for fear of being made fun of.

I had several Michael Jackson gloves that I wore around home. Of course I wasn’t brave enough to wear those in public either, but I loved having them because they were part of my “love” for Michael Jackson.

I was well over my Michael Years by the time I reached high school. By then, in late 1986, Michael Jackson’s popularity was starting to roll down the other side of its peak. I no longer wanted to marry Michael Jackson – he would soon be replaced by Patrick Swayze (a la Dirty Dancing) in my girlish and fickle heart.

I no longer defended Michael Jackson to my family. I put away the stacks of magazines that had pictures of Michael (many of which had either been worn out or had been cut up). Some of those magazines even ended up in the trash. I tore down the posters on my walls and put away the cassette tapes.

Now, as I ponder the sad news of Michael Jackson’s death, I look back at the sad and strange turns Michael Jackson’s life took over the years. I think back to my Michael Years and feel a little embarrassed. Not completely though – they taught me that it’s okay to be who you are – even if everyone around you is disagreeing. Even though I received lots of teasing and ribbing from family members during my Michael Years, I never gave up on my crush.

While I am no longer a fan and in truth have been horrified by some of the events that have transpired in Michael’s life in recent years, I still love several of Michael Jackson’s songs – most specifically those that were such an integral part of my pre-teen years (“Thriller,” “Beat It,” “Billie Jean” and others). So I guess I have to give credit and thanks to Michael – for helping an awkward and lonely little girl through a rough spot and helping her to see her own worth.

Rest in peace, Michael.

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