Every woman remembers her first crush and mine was on Michael Jackson. I can trace my crush on MJ to the diary I started in fourth grade. My epic tale was titled “My Life So Far” (as far as a life could be at that age) and the second sentence reads: “I love, love, love, a boy named Michael Jackson in the group the Jackson Five.” So began my love affair with this young, talented, Black boy with the big Afro and bigger smile who could sing and dance so well my little girl heart would melt.
I begged my Father to take me to see the Jackson Five when they came to Philadelphia. My Dad, a man I loved more than words can ever adequately describe, always wanted to please his baby girl. So, Daddy took me to see the Jackson Five in an over crowed concert hall in Philly. Because I was so short I couldn’t see the stage and had a panic attack. So, my Dad being the best Daddy ever, picked me up, put me on his shoulders and let me watch the entire show above the crowd where my love for Michael Jackson grew and grew. Poor Daddy, here he was looking at the back of some other parent’s head, listening to music he could care less about, and surrounded by screaming little girls. Dad is in heaven now laughing about that I’m sure!
As the Jackson Five albums were released, I got them hot off the presses. I sang to each song and knew every single word. Daddy soon got me a subscription to Right On! Magazine. I soaked up everything written about my favorite singer and my favorite group. I’d cut out Michael’s photos from the magazine and make beautiful, colorful, collages that were plastered all over my bedroom wall. Every little Black girl finally had a little Black boy to fantasize about and it was wonderful. Well, we thought it was, the brotha's in my class didn’t like it one bit. They were hatin’ on the J-5 something awful. “He ain’t all that”, Todd would say. “My ‘fro is better than his”, you would hear Edsel whisper. “He can’t even sing", Edwin lied. I paid those silly little boys no mind. “I’m going to marry Michael Jackson one day”, I said to myself… and I meant it.
In grade school we’d have arguments about which member of the Jackson Five were more deserving of our love. Little brown girls, sitting around the lunch table getting in heated debates about these boys who we never met, who lived across the country, who didn’t even know we were alive. I must admit, there was a short period of time when I thought I was in love with Marlon Jackson (that boy could dance) but my heart belonged to Michael and soon I came to my senses and went back to the little Black boy with the big Afro, big smile and even bigger voice who originally stole my heart.
I can remember like it was yesterday the first time the Jackson Five were on Soul Train. I was playing outside with my friends and someone yelled “it’s time for the Jackson Five on TV! Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” We scattered in all directions trying to make it to the TV in time. There were no DVD or VHS recorders and no one could have even imagined TiVo. If you missed the live show, you missed The Jackson Five, and I was NOT about to miss my heartthrob. I also remember when I got the ABC album that opened up to reveal private photos of the Jackson Five. I looked over each photo at least a thousand times trying to get a good look into his personal life. I was looking for some clue to tell me something about this little boy I was so infatuated with.
My fondest memory was when I was getting ready for my very first play. I was all dressed up in my costume and had on red lipstick… thinking I was grown. I was walking out the door, stopped in my tracks and then ran back into the living room, grabbed the “I Want You Back” album and kissed it for good luck. I still have that album and the lipstick stain is still there. It’s not worth anything to anyone but me. The album cover is so worn out that it’s being held together by staples. The LP itself is so worn you can’t hear the background singers anymore. It would be decades later that I even knew Jermaine was singing background on the “I Want You Back” single... this only after hearing a digitally mastered copy of the song.
Fast forward to college. One of my ex-boyfriends who to this day is a very good friend of mine, reminded me just last night, that as an eighteen/nineteen year old young woman I told him I was going to marry Michael Jackson. Can you imagine? He thought, “either this girl is delusional” or “you know, she might just marry him.” See, at that time Michael had not blown up yet and the possibility I could be Mrs. Michael Jackson still remained. The Up Against The Wall album was just about to drop. When it did, it was over… Michael was on his way to being a super star. By the time Thriller came out I was working at BET. By then I knew I wasn’t going to marry Michael but I’d be telling a big fat lie if I didn’t think getting a job with BET would give me access to him. I wasn’t completely wrong. BET allowed me to get tickets to his concert with The Jackson's. After many years I even got a chance to meet Michael Jackson but by then he was no longer the person I was once infatuated with. By the time I met Michael he was slipping away from us. He was a major superstar. He was an icon. He was untouchable. He was the King of Pop. He was strange.
I defended Michael and his antics for years, decades even. I stopped defending him after his trail. I had lost my infatuation. It was replaced with frustration, questions, accusations, and finally indifference. I didn’t even purchase his last CD. I laughed at jokes made about him. I turned my back on him. But now that he is gone I can only remember the love I felt for him. I can only remember how much joy he gave me. I can only remember what a great singer, dancer, performer and artist he was.
Michael Jackson, you were my first love. I am broken hearted that you have left us. I know you are at peace now... a peace you couldn't find on earth. In my mind, you are still that little Black boy with the big Afro, big smile, and apple hat on. Or, you are the young man in the video wearing a sliver outfit living off the wall. You left us with an incredible catalog of music. You left me with a boy to swoon over, my first crush, and my first love. Maybe that’s why I never married. I was waiting for the little Black boy with the big Afro and big smile to come propose to me. That won’t happen now but I love you, Michael Jackson, and I always will. Say “Hi” to my Dad and let him tell you about the concert he took me to. You two will like each other. It makes me feel good knowing my two greatest loves are together now. I still have some living to do but in due time “I’ll Be There.”