Since I’m nothing if not timely I thought I’d write a little something about how Michael Jackson molded my life, indirectly. This isn’t really a tribute to the man, let’s face it there have been more than enough of those in the last four days, and they were all done better than anything I’d be putting out there. Not to mention there are more than a few people who question whether he was worthy of tribute or not. This is just a story I’m reminded of by his passing.
If you grew up in the 80’s chances are you were a Michael Jackson fan. I loved Michael Jackson, to this day Human Nature and The Way You Make Me Feel are two of my favorite songs. In 1987 Bad was the first tape I ever bought and I probably played it a thousand times in the next 4 or 5 years. I could listen to Wanna Be Starting Something over and over again and not get bored with it**. Seriously, I loved Michael Jackson.
One summer when I was 6 or 7 years old I was playing in the front yard with the radio blaring. Billie Jean came on and I guess I was inspired. I broke into a full on lip synched MJ performance. I’m not really sure why I was showing off the way I was, probably because Deanna and Candy (the two girls from down the street) were there, I can’t really remember but I was tearing it up. I was on the hood of the car doing my best impression of the dance moves from that iconic video. I was using the car antenna as a microphone when I snapped it clean off. Uh oh. This was not good.
My parents were never ones to tolerate stupidity. And seeing as I grew up (to put it mildly) dirt poor, they especially didn’t tolerate stupidity that involved them having to spend money unnecessarily. Needless to say when my mom saw that I had broken the antenna off of the car doing a Michael Jackson impersonation she was pissed. I should mention that my mom was also pretty liberal with the corporal punishment. It was the mid 80’s, it was still ok to beat your kids back then and my mom took advantage of that fact. When you’re doing something that you’re pretty sure is going to result in a whipping if you’re caught you know what you do not want to do? You don’t want to create a weapon that makes the beating process more efficient and painful. Like, I don’t know, maybe a long metal rod the size and shape of a car antenna.
My mom uncorked the beating off a lifetime on me. It was hellacious. The kind of beating that resonates, sticks with you for a very long time. She wacked the hell of me with that antenna. My ass still hurts a little when I hear Billie Jean***.
It’s impossible to predict what events, large or small, will shape you into the person you become. But I can say this; I’ve never been in trouble. Ever. Sure I’ve done a lot of dumb things, but I’ve never been in trouble. Here is the worst trouble I ever got into in school: In fourth grade we had a girl in our class with a pretty severe learning disability. One day everyone was making fun of her because, well, fourth graders are little assholes. My teacher Mrs. Daugherty had to call my mom to tell her she was concerned about me. Not because I was making fun a girl with a learning disability, but because everyone else in class was and I wasn’t defending her. My teacher thought that was out of character for me and wanted to call home to make sure everything was ok. So to same I’ve been somewhat straight laced might be an understatement.
Was that a result of the thrashing I took one summer when I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for Billie Jean? I don’t know, but I think it played a big part. And for that I can thank my crazy ass mom, and Michael Jackson for being awesome.
*Isn't that title kind of creepy in light of certain allegations? I kind of love it.
**Obviously there was a ton of Michael Jackson music on the radio, television, and at every bar I went to this weekend. It gotten me thinking, why did the guy have to die for people to start playing his music more often, it's the best it should always be played.
***Save your jokes please.