I Used To Love Him: Michael Jackson (AKA Teenage Idol)

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“Hey spider, you’ve got a Michael Jackson stuck to your butt…”

Who did you idolise as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end? Via The Daily Post (January 11th 2016)

Justin Bieber? How young do you think I am?! (*Fluffs hair*).

It’s been quite a pressured week, so I’m taking time out to do a blog prompt because sometimes I like to seek inspiration rather than think for myself, alright? So sue me.

Obviously this week we very suddenly and shockingly lost a true legend in the shape of Bowie, and the world is still reeling. I haven’t seen this much widespread grief since Diana (or the person I’m about to wax lyrical about) and it’s incredibly sad.

It’s made me think on and off about heroes growing up, personal influences and how they mould us as young people and how we carry them into adulthood, like pretty, shiny talismans (men?).

I was obsessed with Micheal Jackson from a very early age. Like OBSESSED. Every video, album, film starring my boy – I was all over it. My Mum made me a ‘Bad’ birthday cake and there were MJ themed parties. I even convinced the girl next door, who was terribly uncool and ate only oranges and peanut butter, that I was named after my hero.

“Michael can be a girl’s name too, you know” is what I’d haughtily respond when she questioned me. I wish my name had been Michael to be honest but alas, my parents were not major fans themselves nor mind readers.

I would lie in bed at night with my Walkman plugged in, lip syncing the Vincent Price bit at the end of Thriller to myself. I knew all the words to Liberian Girl.

Man in the Mirror actually did make me look inside myself and ponder if I really needed to change. I decided the answer was no, I was only ten and perfect as far as I could see. 

Alas, my hero did some heinous things that caused his shine to all but extinguish. I won’t rehash those things here, nor will I deny them because I believe the accusations are true. There’s no defense and no amount of love for a former idol, who carried you through the awkward years into adulthood, that can excuse what he’s done.

My hero was messed up and then he messed up very badly. I think even before he died I’d forced myself to move on because good people don’t hurt the vulnerable, they don’t hurt anybody, even if they themselves seem vulnerable and childlike.

My ultimate hero wasn’t going to be a bad man even if he was Michael Jackson, King of my Heart. The first man I ever loved who wasn’t my father.

I can’t remember how I processed all that but I must of because by the time he died I was very sad but accepting. It had seemed only a matter of time, judging by his frail outward appearance and rumours of drug abuse. And again, how could I forgive him?

I still feel sad for the loss and that I’ve never felt the way I did about him since, about anyone. No more idols for me.

Actors and Musicians I like very much, sure but nobody I’ll ever pretend to be named after.

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret Review

wpid-img_20150207_131346.jpgWhen I mentioned at the weekend that I would be having a look back at some vintage classics, starting with a couple of Judy Blume‘s best known works, my news feed came alive with nostalgic comments.

A lot of my friends remembered the books fondly and it made me feel even more excited about hunkering down with some familiar characters over a cup of tea.

I wanted to read Forever first but in the end decided to save it until after I’d revisited Margaret. I’m glad I did that, for reasons I will come back to in the Forever review (spoiler alert: it’s still quite saucy!).

But to this book. I love it still and the thing that stood out most for me is the fact that the writing is really good. I have to confess that I half expected to be taking the piss out of the books that I was so into as a kid/teenager but there wasn’t a trace of that as soon as I picked them both up.

AYTGIMM follows 11 year old Margaret Simon as she navigates her way through a new school, new friends, a secret club, periods, boobs and boys. Written from her point of view, we learn some of the secrets that she doesn’t care to share with her friends, such as her true feelings for Moose, the boy who cuts the grass, and how much she really wants to get her period.

Margaret’s core group comprises Nancy Wheeler, Gretchen Potter and Janie Loomis. Together they form the Four PTSs (Pre-teen Sensations) who meet every Monday to pore over their boy books, talk about periods and do their boob enhancing exercises.

All my life it seems I have been semi-aware of the “I must, I  must, I must increase my bust” mantra and it comes from this book. It may have been a thing way before it was set to paper but this is where I picked it up. Yes, I did do it myself (and look at me now!). It was very pleasing to get the warm and fuzzies whilst remembering it.

Despite her intimate circle, every night Margaret chats with the one person (or entity) who will listen to her no matter what. But when she starts to question religion on a deeper level and it brings up issues she doesn’t like, their relationship becomes strained. Will Margaret continue to turn to G-O-D or with they grow apart forever?

I thought that the religion thing was actually quite inspired. Margaret is brought up in a similar way to how my brother and I were; encouraged to choose her own faith when she feels ready. Margaret’s father is Jewish, while her mother is Christian so Margaret decides to give each a fair crack before she commits to one of religion, if at all.

I won’t go into it too much, but it’s quite refreshing to think that this topic was approached head on and then handled in such a sensitive way. I’m impressed with the diplomatic way it raises questions but doesn’t veer in any one direction.

Margaret also shares a close relationship with her grandmother, Sylvia. Keen to convert her granddaughter to Judaism, Sylvia nicknames her “Jewish Girl” which just adds pressure to Margaret as she tries to work out which way she should turn, biblically (or Torah-ly).

Blume also addresses the subject of slut shaming, although I am confident that this was not a phrase back when I was 11, even if it was definitely a thing.

Poor Laura Denker is labelled a bit of a goer (my words) because she is tall and well-developed for her age. She is  the subject of much bitching (but mostly envy) within the secret club, who have heard rumours about her getting felt up behind the bike sheds (or the US equivalent, the bleachers?) by Nancy’s brother, Evan and the aforementioned, Moose.

But the main topic on all the girls’ minds is of course, puberty. The girls do focus a lot of attention on boys, mainly Phillip Leroy, the class fitty but that’s nothing compared to the massive amount of time they all spend fretting about growing up, finally getting their periods and proving that they are normal.

I remember so vividly how I used to feel before the Big P came along, how much I wanted to get it and kick start womanhood. It’s nice to be reminded of the girl I used to be, who still pops up her head every now and again, who sometimes has the same worries she used to about the way she looks.

Ah, the simpler days.

(Incidentally, on the day I finally got my period, I was running indoors and banged my head, cutting it open. That day I bled from both ends, proof you should be careful what you wish for. Although, as compensation, we did get fish and chips for supper).

All in all, I adored my trip down Memory Lane. Judy Blume did so well because she understood, and was able to convey what it’s like to be this age. In 2010, Margaret was placed on Time magazines Top 100 fiction books written in English since 1923 list:  ″Blume turned millions of pre-teens into readers. She did it by asking the right questions—and avoiding pat, easy answers.″ (via Wikipedia).

Which sums it up better than anything. She just gets it.

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Cover by Julian Montague

The question to answer, I suppose, is does the book hold up? I think so. I mean, I’m 25 years older than the main protagonist so the things I worry about now are somewhat different to then. However, from a nostalgic point of view, I can remember those feelings of inadequacy and pressure like they were yesterday.

I like to be reminded of who I was and of being that age. I also wonder if there is that much difference between being (nearly) 12 years old back when I was 12, or indeed back when AYTGIMM was first published in 1970 (over 40 years ago), and being 12 now. I would imagine, at the centre of it they have the same worries with a lot more besides.

I think my generation are lucky they didn’t have to grow up in the digital age. Nobody had a phone of their own until the very early naughties (or I definitely didn’t) and MySpace was just about the most exciting thing happening on the web, which was still dial-up and patchy at best.

I can only imagine what this book would be like if it were rewritten in today’s setting. A hell of a lot more slut shaming, a bit of internet trolling and a lot of distracted tweeting, rather than two minutes in the closet, I’d bet.

I’m sure I’d still love it though.

Book details:

 Next up: Forever by Judy Blume.

Stories: the One With the Internet Date

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Way more glamorous than our first flat in Brighton…

Back in the early noughties, back when I was still fresh, single and somewhat naive, my friends and I found a delightful source of entertainment called Love@Lycos.

It was the sister site of Lycos.co.uk the search engine and was solely designed for dating, hooking up and lurve.

Set up so you had your own page (sort of like Facebook looked when it first began), you had a visible bio, pictures if you were feeling brave and you could chat to your heart’s content, either privately or publicly (as I recall). Nothing that innovative thinking back but it was user friendly and like, the funnest thing ever!

Now, dating apps are ten a penny and people meet people everyday with no qualms at all. Which is great. But then, to us at least, this new gateway through which we could fearlessly talk to boys (or in my OBFF‘s case, chicks), was wondrous and exciting – we were obsessed.

The three of us, OBFF, B and I would all go to work as normal, Love@Lycos chat all day on the sly, then reconvene in the evenings to compare notes.

During this period in time I wasn’t all that experienced, had had just the one ‘boyfriend’ and a small series of silly liaisons. In fact, I recall (and this may make another full Stories post) having just been dumped by text when we moved to Brighton from our hometown. Text!

So I was snogging boys like crazy, from work and the like, but was definitely looking for love by now (hey, I’ve always been a romantic). Hence pinning my secret hope on the love part of Love@Lycos.

Alas it was not meant to be. I don’t remember any of the boys I talked to now except one, and only because he takes his place on my Map of Life as the Only Boy I Have Ever Met From The Internet/First & Last Blind Date. Which is pretty significant, I feel.

NB: I am using the term ‘boy’ and ‘boys’ throughout this post because that’s what they were then. And I definitely didn’t feel like a woman yet either.cat-gemma-correll-haha-illustration-internet-Favim.com-144975

Looking back I can’t believe I was so brave when it comes to meeting RunsWithScissors. He just seemed to be attuned to my sense of humour and seemed to like WondyWoman as much as she liked him (Wondy was my alias).

He ran a website that seemed sarcastic and bright, lived in London and was willing to come to Brighton for the day, I believe he had a sister here. So all systems were go after a few months of back and forth.

Our chatter was not sexual or particularly flirty (that I remember), so perhaps this is where the balls came from to go and meet him IRL. I don’t know.

All I know is that, one Saturday night, I somehow made it to Palace Pier by way of the corner shop, where I stopped to buy a tiny mini-bar sized bottle of Cointreau. As the sickly cough medicine kick of the orange liquid hit the back of my throat, I started to calm down. And with every step I felt better.

When I saw him, I was delighted. I can’t say how he felt when I rocked up, but he didn’t run away or stand me up so it felt positive enough. There was no attraction at all on either side though.

I should point out here that we hadn’t seen each other’s real photographs. This was a blind meet. Almost unheard of now!

He was very good-looking. Dark, piercing blue eyes with great chiseled bone structure. He was also charming and funny and exactly what it had said on the tin.

We spent all night laughing in the Hop Poles and then he came back to mine. When it came time for bed, I leaned in close and whispered minxily: “You can have my bed if you like, I’ll sleep on the sofa…”

And he let me! In the morning, we woke up early, had a cup of tea and then I drove him to his sister’s house.

No kiss, no romance, just a good fun night.

We stayed in touch for a little while longer, but like lots of things around this time, it fizzled out. I’m sure he did, and I hope he has had a lovely life as he was a lovely guy.

What I learned: This may have come around the same time I started to realise you could have male friends that you didn’t kiss. Sounds stupid now, but I used to look at every boy I saw as a potential love interest and that didn’t always make for a good time for either party.

Meeting and getting on well with, but not shagging/snogging the arse off every male I met (or imagining it, more likely) was a new and fruitful discovery. As soon as I got my head around this phenomenon, my life got infinitely better and easier.

So it was a good lesson and a good experience. I haven’t met anybody else off the internet since, except my husband, but I don’t count that as we had already met in the flesh. The Internet facilitated our long distance relationship, but it was not born of it.

I’m all for internet dating. It looks so fun and I love hearing stories about it. My friend recently signed up to Tinder and although, like most things, there is obviously a dark side to it, she finds it hilarious.

Do you have internet dating experience? What are your thoughts?

Hand-Me-Downs: The Red Shoes

My red shoes looked nothing like these!
My red shoes looked nothing like these!

Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life. Via The Daily Post (10th September 2014)

I coveted those red shoes for what felt like years. To my childish heart, it felt like forever but in reality it was probably just a few weeks. Those shoes, though, those pillar box red, stiletto heeled mules; they epitomised glamour, making me think of women. Of the woman I so desperately wanted to be.

I must have been about ten or eleven and I was already daydreaming about who I would become.

My aunt owned those shoes and I insisted, every time we went round, that I get to try them on. One day I will buy my shoes just like these, I would think to myself as I trotted around like the perfect cliché of a little girl, except less cute.

I was a tom boy (I think) with short hair back then (not my choice) and my aunt Sine was glamorous to me, with long hair and lashes. Looking back I never saw her wear these shoes herself, and she always seemed to be doing something practical, with two sons it was just the way it was. Still, that’s how I saw it; I wanted to walk in those shoes and be just like her.

I could draw you a picture of them right now if you asked me to, their shape and how they felt is still etched on my heart. They were The Future and when my aunt finally handed them over, I thought my tiny heart might burst with happiness.

I wore my shoes the incredible day they finally became mine and then, as quickly and as childishly as I had fallen for them, I put them away in favour of The Millenium Falcon. I still think of them to this day though and of what they represented to me.