We're All Damaged

Friday, June 26, 2009

I Didn't Think I'd Be This Sad

When I was a little kid, I was absolutely crazy insane for Michael Jackson. This probably isn't the most interesting or unique thing I've ever written on this blog; when I was a kid, everyone was crazy insane for Michael Jackson.

I hadn't discovered girls yet, and, perhaps more importantly, I wasn't old enough to look behind the curtain intellectually and question why it was that a grown man would hang out with a chimp and live in an amusement park. Like all kids, I lived on the surface of the world around me, and I was happier for it. I had a poster of him in my room and his officially licensed stickers on my Trapper Keeper. I bought the Thriller tape and literally wore it out, and so I had to buy it again. Years later, I bought the CD in college, and when I eventually lost that, I downloaded it on iTunes.

My grandmother died when I was in the fourth grade, and so I remember her just barely, more like snapshots than actual memories. She was tall and dangerously thin, and she was a quiet woman from the Midwest with cold hands. I was at her house in Council Bluffs, Iowa once, and I was watching Michael Jackson on television, probably a recap of some cheesy awards show on MTV. I explained to her who he was and told her in staggering detail why he was so incredibly awesome. I may have even used the word rad. She just sort of nodded her head and told me that that was very nice.

My birthday was a month or so later. I have no idea how old I was, however old second or third graders are, I guess. After my special dinner, my grandma presented me with perhaps the greatest birthday gift ever. She'd sewn me one sparkly, sequin glove, just like Michael Jackson's.

My parents were a little tentative about their young son prancing around Omaha, Nebraska in a sequin glove, and so they forbid me from wearing it to school or soccer practice. But I wore it everywhere else--everywhere else. I was the coolest little boy in the history of the world.

Michael Jackson has been reduced to little more than a punch line for the last 15 years. Deservedly so? Maybe, maybe not. But next time you're at a wedding or a graduation or any other party, whether you've been drinking or not drinking, pay attention to what happens when one of his songs comes on.

Michael Jackson, with one sparkly glove, I salute you.


  1. Yes! I was actually happy thinking today that we played at least one of his songs at our wedding....I had a glove, too!!!

  2. "Like all kids, I lived on the surface of the world around me, and I was happier for it" You know, I have been trying to verbalize that sentiment for days and you nailed it. We never did think it was odd- he was just cool and one of us and those that were old enough to know it was strange would just cite his tragic upbringing so it was alright. Even now after all that indoctrination I find it hard to think of him as anything other than charming. I spent all weekend in bed (I had surgery) crying (prolly partly the Vicodin) at VH1 as I watched video after video go by, remembering where I was and how I felt when I heard each song. He wasn;t just an amazing entertainer, he was the soundtrack to some of the most pivotal and precious times in the collective childhood of a generation and in a sad and strange way, his death sparks the realization that those days will never come back. We will never be that innocent or care free again. So I sat in bed and polished each and every tiny morsel of memory that came with those songs because those were really precious memories. Like you with your one glove, I smiled thinking of moving my parents' furniture to the edges of the room like the house had been hit with a vortex and floating about Man in the Mirror with one wooly glove and my Dad's white socks on squealing "OOH"!! Did I mention I'm a girl? Whatever he did or did not do, the world mourns the loss of an icon. Thanks for sharing your story.

  3. Seriously? I want to go back in time and tell myself that you had this just so my younger self could rip on the younger you! Not to change the world. Not to invest in Microsoft. Just to make the youger you cry.