Michael Jackson and Me

I cried like a baby when I learned Michael Jackson was dead.

I was already teary-eyed when I heard the news. I had just posted this about my father-in-law's illness. I was missing my mother-in-law like crazy, lamenting a blow-up with Graham during which I lost my temper and terrified about how Rob was going to cope with the seemingly never-ending stress.

I had, in fact, taken to wondering when exactly being a grown-up started being so hard - so goddamned hard - when I heard that Peter Pan was dead.

"Have you seen my Childhood?
I'm searching for that wonder in my youth
Like pirates in adventurous dreams,
Of conquest and kings on the throne..."

I worshipped - worshipped! - Michael Jackson during my formative years. I was 13 when Thriller was released and he swiftly became the object of my every puberty-obsessed dream and desire.

I memorized every dance move in Thriller. I fell out with my best friend and cousin over a crush we shared on a boy who styled himself as a Michael Jackson look-alike. (He preferred her.) My first boyfriend in the ninth grade brought me home a Michael Jackson calender from a family vacation and grudgingly sat for hours while another girlfriend and I stylized his face, hair and clothing in an attempt to Michael Jackson-ize him.

I loved Michael Jackson and his music just as passionately when I grew older. I was in my early 20s and driving Canada cross-country when I made an hour-long detour in rural Saskatchewan on a wintry afternoon in order to find a bar where I could watch the North American premier for the Black or White video on the big screen.

I do not know whether Michael was guilty or innocent of the spurious child abuse charges that were ultimately his undoing: nobody does. I suspect he was innocent. I know that he was a victim of abuse and exploitation in his own childhood and later in his adult years when his money and fame seemed a barrier to treatment for what was clearly a heartbreaking descent into mental illness.

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