This was a week for Gen-X nostalgia.
For starters, I was never a Farrah fan, although I was an enthusiastic follower of Charlie’s Angels in its first two seasons. (Cut me some slack here, I was nine in ’76!) Gender equality was still in doubt in the 70s and was a frequent topic of debate. Charlie’s Angels, for all its jiggly camp, showed glamorous, uber-hetero women who could look fantastic and still solve the crime and bring down the bad guy. They did it without smudging their makeup or tripping in their spike-heeled Candie’s. Is it any wonder I grew up with never a doubt that I could do calculus, run marathons, and still be totally fem?
Thank you, Farrah.
As for Michael Jackson, I watched the Jackson 5 on TV as a kid and heard their songs on the radio. I never owned any of Michael’s albums, but most of my friends had Off the Wall and Thriller, and Michael’s early-80s hits were staples at school dances and friends’ parties. We all tried to moonwalk and we watched his videos to pick up the latest moves.
Then I grew up and MJ grew weird. His '70s and '80s hits continued to bring a smile to my face, but I’d be lying if I said I was a true fan. It was comfort music, the soundtrack of my childhood, and I craved it now and then in the same way I sometimes need a grilled cheese sandwich with a side of tater tots. Comfort music, like comfort food, is something you know isn’t all that good for you, and you wouldn’t want a steady diet of it, but oh, how you need it now and then!
No matter what one believed about the scandals of the ‘90s and ‘00s, it was clear that MJ went off the deep end. And yet, we couldn’t mourn that talented, charismatic kid we grew up with because there was a freakish caricature walking about still claiming to be him. The Michael of our memories never re-emerged. Now we can finally say good-bye to that other Michael, the one whose soundtrack ran in the background of our childhood, and who will always be inextricably intertwined with our memories of the ‘70s and ‘80s.
So here I am this weekend, waxing nostalgic, even more aware than usual of the passage of time. I wasn’t a big fan of any of the recently departed, but they were part of Then, and their passing reminds me that I can only live in Now.
I must also accept that Ed McMahon will never show up at my door with a big fat check, since he died this week, too. It does no good to argue with time. And after some time spent pondering and listening to a little Jackson 5, I’m okay with that.