Monday, June 29, 2009

Goodbye, Farewell

They bookended my childhood. One came near the beginning, at the crucial point where I was first making choices on my own about what I would wear and listen to, about what I liked and who I was, and the other came at the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence, at the crucial point where I was discovering how I fit into the world of sexual desire. When they both died on Thursday I thought about them for the first time in years, their passing signifying my march into middle age, their loss the loss of that childhood.

In 1971, in my elementary school, the lines were drawn, and you were one type of person or another. You were Jacksons or Osmonds. Sure, the odd girl had a weird preference for David Cassidy, but the Partridge Family was fake and even the eight year-olds knew it. Jackson or Osmond was the way you defined yourself. I was firmly Jackson, not because of Michael, because neither Michael nor Donny appealed to me, but because I somehow knew that Jackson was danger while Osmond was safe. Everything about the Jackson 5 was just cool. The Osmonds were a band populated by guys with names like Alan and Wayne; the Jacksons had Jermaine and Tito. Osmonds made you want to tap your foot, Jacksons made you want to twirl and shriek. The magazines of the day included pinups that I was supposed to kiss and invited me to compete to win a date with the flavor of the week, and I dutifully kissed my picture of Tito, having decided that he was my favorite because I liked his name. But at that age none of this was sexual, or pre-sexual. It was about deciding who my friends were, what we had in common, who we were and who we were not. It was Coke versus Pepsi, writ large. By 1973 none of my friends would be caught dead listening to an Osmonds 45, but we all owned all of the Jackson 5 albums.

Three years later we were listening to David Bowie and discovering pot when a show about three female detectives premiered on ABC. It was a show I rarely watched, and then suddenly all the guys were wearing t-shirts onto which that pin-up had been screened. The boys' interest in Farrah precisely coincided with my interest in boys, and if Farrah taught me anything it was what boys liked. From 1976 to 1978 they liked girls with small breasts and a lot of feathered hair. She was blonde, lithe, toothy, corn-fed, exactly everything I was not and would never be. She was the head cheerleader; I was the newspaper editor. My teeth would never gleam from a million posters. My sex appeal would not be broadcastable from t-shirts. Whatever kind of woman I would eventually be was still uncertain, but what was certain is what kind of woman I would not be. In the sexual economy, Farrah and I were using very different currencies, and even at that young age I knew it.

Although I really didn't care too much for MJ in his solo career, and paid no attention to Farrah once all the t-shirts and posters were thrown away or shipped off to Goodwill, I still listen to "I Want You Back" and think, "Damn if that isn't perhaps the best bass line ever." I still look at whoever is the sex symbol of the day and think, "This woman and I share a gender and absolutely nothing else." I still am that eight year-old, and that 13 year-old. And now, without them, I will continue to grow old, their place in time solidified and retreating further and further into my past.

1 comment:

tunsie said...

I didn't grow up a fan of that kind of music.I grew up listening 2 and enjoying JAZZ,courtney claims that is why u r instilled with that MOJO which u have.and I did not have a poster of that woman in a bathing suit on my wall.I had a crush on genevieve bujold when I was younger.I guess i grew up away from the norm.I thought my peers were weird when I was growing up.I still do.I luv u el.xoxoxoxxox tunsie.tunsie.tunsie