How one woman's unexpected Michael Jackson mania helped heal her world.
Michael Jackson saved my marriage. It wasn't him exactly, but the Jackson mania I uncharacteristically developed following his death in June 2009. Not long before, in the heat of battle, I had nearly told my husband to beat it.
Although we had once danced to his music and liked his videos, Michael Jackson had never been important to us, a typical middle income, middlebrow, nearly middle-aged, white suburban couple exhaustedly raising two kids.
Things used to be different when it came to music. Frank and I were both frequent concert-goers in our teens and 20s. A friend and I once traipsed around half the country after a mediocre cover band. Frank once sang with performing choirs, and when he sang in my ear I used to go liquid in his arms. When the boys were little, we took them to hear indie folk singers and sponsored drum and cello lessons. Except for Frank's adoration of the Beatles, that was about it.
Except. I'm a Jersey girl with the requisite buzz on for The Boss. I always appreciated his lyrics. I liked his look. Listening to him made me happy. Bruce Springsteen had the opposite effect on my husband. In spring of 2009, while driving with our sons, Springsteen's "Our Hometown" poured from the car radio. I think I started singing along.
"Ugh, I hate this guy," Frank growled, pounding the power button. I seethed for days, and soon we were embroiled in an ugly fight. It wasn't about Springsteen or music, of course. That moment had merely punctuated other problems—about staying interested in each other after two decades of cohabiting, commingled income and co-parenting, and what often felt like codependence. At one point, I yelled, "you don't have to like what I like, but damn it, stop dissing my interests, especially in front of the kids."
Which brings us to June 25, 2009 and what happened next: I became someone I barely knew. Overnight, I became obsessed with Jackson, staying up until 3 a.m. searching for fresh information. Here I was, a supposedly sane, slightly conventional woman, a mother, a reliable professional, a no-nonsense type-A type, spending hours watching videos about a controversial dead celebrity. Michael Jackson: The First Man I Ever Loved
I invited my sons to watch his music videos, running nonstop on cable. Later, I invited them and Frank to watch a hilarious "Billie Jean" "literal music video", tipping us into an hour-long fest in which we searched for similar literal videos for other artists.