Downstairs, my father is bellowing about what an effing pervert Michael Jackson was, and how he hopes he's in "a special place in hell for child molesters right now."
If I were about 10 years younger, I'd probably go down and get in a good old-fashioned screaming match with him. Specifically, I'd tell him that there's probably a special place in hell for people who beat children too, and maybe he'll be able to wave across hell to Michael Jackson someday when he's in it.
But I'm older and wiser and tired and I've learned by now that there's really no point in fighting. Sure, you get the opportunity to say a bunch of ugly things to each other, but where does it really get you in the end?
I was at Hair Fair when a friend messaged me with the news that Michael Jackson had been rushed to the hospital, and I was still at Hair Fair when he was pronounced dead. People started shouting the news in open-chat in the candy-covered streets and I was struck by how truly bizarre that moment was -- sharing a shocking moment with virtual people in a virtual world.
And then ironically at the same time in real life, I was sitting in the room that once was my childhood bedroom, surrounded by walls that once were covered with Michael Jackson posters.
I don't know how I should be feeling right now. I feel heartbroken and sad, and then I worry that I'm mourning the death of a sicko pedophile and it makes me feel queasy.
I don't know if Michael Jackson really molested a bunch of young boys. In my heart, I want to believe that he was a just screwed-up man chasing the elusive childhood he never got to have, and that he surrounded himself with kids for that reason. I want to believe that his accusers saw an opportunity to take advantage of this weakness and went after him with dollar signs flashing in their eyes. But . . . I don't know.
There are things I do know for a fact though.
I know for a fact that I never really paid attention to music until I heard the song "Beat It" -- and I'll never forget that feeling because it was like something inside me woke up at that moment.
I know for a fact that I never wanted to dance until I saw Michael Jackson dance. And then once I started dancing, I never wanted to stop.
I know for a fact that some of my favorite young-teen memories are set to a Michael Jackson soundtrack:
-- A bunch of girls giggling in our socks as we try to moonwalk back and forth across my family's kitchen floor.
-- Running around the mall with my best friends looking for that one Michael Jackson poster, you know, the one where he's leaning in an open doorway, dressed in yellow, wearing a bow tie? Yeah, that one. I saved my allowance. I think it's at Spencer's.
-- Staying up late one night watching my mom as she sews a bajillion sequins on a white glove for me, because if you didn't have a white sequined glove in sixth grade, well, you sucked.
-- Sitting with my brothers in front of the television, our brand-new cable box set to MTV, fingers poised over the VCR, ready to jump and hit "RECORD!" the minute that "Thriller" video comes on.
-- My friends and I, begging my dad to buy us tickets to Michael Jackson's concert and grudgingly agreeing to let him come with us because he didn't want us going to a concert alone at our age. And then me -- at my first concert, Michael Jackson on the stage, my friends by my side -- watching my dad try to act cool as he gamely bops along to the music, trying his best not to embarrass the hell out of me and my friends. It was one of those moments you could freeze in your head, so I did, and I remember thinking, "This right here, right now, is a really good moment."
-- And years later, me alone and in school in Italy, a little shaky, trying to learn the language and wade through a new culture and figure out where to catch the bus and how to find my house in the winding streets of Florence. Me hearing that there was a new Michael Jackson album called "Dangerous" out and paying something like $25 U.S. bucks for a bootleg cassette tape that I bought from a guy in an open-air Italian market. And later, me getting on the bus and popping that tape in my Walkman and listening to the song "Jam" and feeling a little less homesick and a little less foreign.
I don't know. Then I grew up. And things got weird. They got weird for Michael Jackson and they got weird for me and . . . well hell, I grew up. That's all there was to it really. I stopped caring so much about music and started worrying about bills. And Michael Jackson, well, he started screwing around with his nose a lot and turned into something of a freak show. Maybe it's because we all grew up and left him behind. I don't know.
When I cried for Michael Jackson today, I cried for those pure and innocent times when life was good and our biggest worry was how far we could moonwalk and if we had enough allowance money to buy the latest Michael Jackson poster. I cried for those times when we would wait all day by the television just to see that Thriller video one more time. I cried for the singer who taught me to love music. I cried for the performer who made me want to dance. I cried for the soundtrack of my youth, now silent. For my generation, today was the day our music died.
Michael Jackson died today, and it really felt like part of my childhood died with him. And people might get outraged at that statement and say, "Think of the kids he probably molested -- he killed their childhoods before they really had one."
And that's when I go back to feeling confused about how to feel.
Michael Jackson is dead. Michael. Jackson. Is. Dead. Downstairs, my father -- apparently not as sentimental about that concert memory as I am -- is yelling gleefully. My mother is rummaging through boxes in the spare room, looking for my old still-in-the-box Michael Jackson doll (the one with the black jacket, not the red one) and wondering out loud how much we could sell it for. And I'm in my room crying -- and hoping that it's OK to cry.
This day sucked. I want a do-over.