Essay

My Dreams Growing Up to Be Mrs. Michael Jackson

He set hearts afire: Michael Jackson when he was part of the Jackson 5.
He set hearts afire: Michael Jackson when he was part of the Jackson 5. (Universal Music Group Archives via Reuters)
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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 6, 2009

If Michael Jackson had married me, none of this would have happened.

That was the plan, from way back in elementary school. I was going to graduate, become a world-famous model and actress, and marry Michael Jackson.

There were several scenarios as to how this would happen, most of them dreamed up as I lay on my pink bedspread with yellow, green and blue butterflies in Indianapolis, about 150 miles from his home town of Gary.

Like thousands of other girls, I fell in love with Michael listening to Jackson 5 45s and LPs, long before videos, CDs and DVDs. For women of my generation, loving Michael Jackson was a rite of passage. We first saw him on "The Ed Sullivan Show" or "American Bandstand" or on the pages of teen magazines like Right On! and 16. We fell in love with Michael before he became the world's "Thriller," when he was still chocolate brown and had a wide nose and a big Afro and belted out love songs in a voice that hadn't yet changed.

We didn't have videos, but we saw him every night in our dreams, where he sang to us the way a man sings to a woman he loves deep down in his soul.

I had a special relationship with Michael, one that I argued about with girlfriends as we debated who was better suited to be Michael's wife. I had slumber parties where the activity focused on listening to J-5 records. My friends and I danced in the street on summer nights as his songs played on portable record players, singing at the top of our lungs:

Stop! [right arms outstretched, a la the Supremes] the love you save may be your own,

Darlin' look both ways before you cross me,

You're heading for a danger ZONE!

"People today just don't understand how much he meant to us," said Carolyn Winbush, 52, a nurse who lives in Bowie and has been mourning by playing her MJ and J-5 records with her daughters Jamie, 16, and Jade, 20. "We just loved him. There is no other way to describe it. There is no relationship today like we had with Michael."

While today's tweens, teens, Gen-Xers and millennials feel the pain of Michael's passing, they haven't loved him long enough to feel it as deeply as the baby boomers of his generation.

They love the superstar he became after moonwalking on "Motown 25"; we were there when the Jackson 5 were competing with the Osmonds for most-talented musical family. Since his death, they've devoured his CDs on Amazon, while we've headed to the attic to pull our old albums out of the cardboard boxes that have kept them safe for decades.


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