Childhood Wounds of Michael Jackson
I grew up with Michael Jackson, like most of us. I loved this guy. Hard for me to admit — as his fascination with children really bothered me — but even through all of that, there was so clearly someone very sweet and very wounded in there. The lovely world of paradoxes we all live in.
Michael was someone I adored as a kid. I thought he was so handsome! The cover of Thriller used to, well, thrill me. I would pretend to audition for him in my living room for hours. No kidding. To my father’s LP (if you don’t know what that is, keep it to yourself) of Thriller. I would pretend that Michael was on the couch and I would dance my little nine-year-old heart out hoping he would choose me as a back up dancer.
I’ve danced all my life, and I know that was because of Michael. He was magic to watch, wasn’t he? Just incredible. I’ve heard very spiritual and zen-like masters talking about “becoming” one’s passion. When we are truly at peace and great at what we do, we — the human being — disappear and become the passion itself. I heard Michael say that once, that he doesn’t know how he dances that way, that it just happens. He said, “I just become the dance. I don’t know.” That’s pretty magical.
It’s hard to reconcile this incredible — maybe even unparalleled — talent with the man who was accused of what he was accused of. The man who so transformed his own face, mostly so he wouldn’t look like his father or be reminded of the constant teasing he received as a child about his nose. The man who’s voice mysteriously never dropped, and who was asexual his entire life. The man who would rather be like the fictional Peter Pan than be a man like his father. How could someone so mind-blowingly talented have been so blind to who he really was?
My opinion is that it wasn’t the fame and the spotlight. It was because he was a child when the criticism from his father started. We hear over and over about how he wasn’t allowed to have a childhood, but he was still a child. His small brain was developing and creating neural pathways, and well, he was still fragile. And he broke. Our little children are so fragile and they believe everything we tell them. I think Michael Jackson is a very vivid and poignant example of what can happen when a child is verbally beaten. I use the word beaten because I really believe that’s what it is. To a child, a parent’s criticism is one of the most powerful blows to the sense of self a child can experience.
I was recently watching an interview he did a few years ago, during the whole “Blanket” fiasco. I watched him nervously feed Blanket in front of the cameras the morning after the “incident”, trying so hard to prove that he was a good father. It actually made me tear up. I won’t lie, I wanted to grab the baby at the same time and show Michael how to hold him and feed him and not be nervous. But it really broke my heart. To see this man so transparently trying to fix the wrongs that were done to him by having children of his own to take care of — it was painful to watch. Say what you will about the man, he was still a human being, and a very broken one at that.
As we’ve all seen hundreds of pictures of Michael flash across our TV sets and websites since his passing, it’s very difficult not to be struck by how beautiful he was as a child. That face! Wasn’t he just adorable? That sweet smile, the beautiful happy eyes, the dancing and that angelic voice. Amazing to think that behind the scenes he was being told he had a huge nose, he was awkward and the coup-de-gras — that he looked like his father.
The fact that he shared some features with his father was enough for him to start down the long road of facial transformation we all witnessed. His father beat him, pushed him and so terrified him that Michael actually said that he used to throw up from nerves when his father would walk into a room. No wonder he went under the knife as many times as he did. Anything to remove any reminder of where he came from, or who his father was, including refusing to become a man. It’s easy to see how he chose Peter Pan as his idol, he was a much safer alternative to manhood.
I don’t know that this would have struck me as powerfully as it is now if I weren’t a parent myself. I hear how quickly we can tease our children or reprimand them in public for things they do. And I wonder just how much damage that actually does. Obviously Joe Jackson is the poster child for how not to parent, but I do wonder about our teasing. Parents words are incredibly powerful, and I think this is a very potent example of that.
We could all see Michael’s good looks. We could see that there was nothing at all wrong with his face. We could see his talent and his shy nature and the gifts he gave us all.
But he couldn’t.
The man in the mirror indeed — all he could see was a big nose and a scary father. Even after all the surgeries, he couldn’t get his father to go away. I know now that any time I hear someone say something about my kids: “His hair is a little thin.”, “Poor kid has her father’s feet.”, “His nose looks a little flat.”, that I will speak up loud and clear and make sure my children don’t hear it.
As adults, we have enough of our own neuroses. We don’t need other people adding to them, especially the two most important people in our lives — our parents.
So as I mourn my dance icon, a singer who’s songs still make me smile, the master of bass lines, I will remember that there was also a child in there…one who heard that his nose was too big. One that had to have no less than 50 surgeries to change what he thought was wrong with him. One of the most talented people this planet has ever seen…and his focus was on changing his face.
We’ll miss you Michael. And we’ll always remember you with the perfect face you were born with. We wish you some peace now.