The Jackson 5 were the bomb back in my day, but I hadn't heard of them until my cousin gave me the rundown on who they were, one weekend when we were staying at Granddaddy's. She said we just HAD to see this group that was coming on The Ed Sullivan Show that night. I'm so glad I watched it, I had never seen anything like them before. They sang songs that I really liked, they danced like I had only seen grown-ups dance, they were around my age and black. WOW! I fell in love. My cousin and I had to go to bed right after the show went off, (church the next morning) but before we went to sleep, we tried doing some of the Jackson 5 dance steps (when we got the steps down, we showed-off in a little talent show we put on for our family) (don't laugh, you know ya'll did it too).
There was nother teenage, R&B group, The Sylvers that came on the scene, a little while after the Jackson 5. They had big afros, they were fine (hot, cute, good looking) too, but no one could take Michael's place in my heart. Michael had the baddest shaped afro in the world. Whenever I could get my little sister to sit long enough, I practiced picking out an afro and shaping it just right. (I usually only got her hair into puff balls, but hey, I tried) Until I was probably 14, Michael Jackson was the only one for me. It was going to be me and him forever, MJ + MM= Love 4ever and ever.
Growing up, there were a couple of little crushes, Derek in the sixth grade and a crush on Alfred, in the 7th and 8th grades. They would've been dropped in a heartbeat if Michael had ever come to his senses and realized that there was no other girl in the world, for him, but me. (not Brooke Shields or Tatum O'Neill)
Well, one day when I was around 13 or 14, my three hanging buddies and I walked across the street to the 7-11. This was when you could still do something with 50 cents and we all had some change to get some Jolly Ranchers. We go in the store all happy and chattering, like teenage girls do, and we went to the candy isle to look for the long, rectangular candies (I still love them). It took us a while, for some reason even though we all knew we wanted Jolly Ranchers, we still checked out all of our candy options. We go to make our purchase, sitting the candy on the counter and then putting all of our change together to pay for them. One of us, not me, was counting the money to pay for our candy. While we were waiting, one of my two other friends, who are sisters, gave me a little jab in the side and did the 'head point thing' and I looked over in that direction. Three boys playing on the video games, I think it was Astroids or something, but now that I think about it, I believe we still had pinball machines. That part really doesn't matter, I don't remember which game it was, but they were over there playing. Seeing the afros, my first reaction was a little gasp, and I sure was hoping they were as fine in the face as their afros were from the back.
My friend finished paying and we all got our Jolly Ranchers. Sour apple and watermelon, mmmmm. We were headed to the door when one of my friends thought it would be funny to all of a sudden shout something like, "Maria said hi". They ran, duh...and I was standing there by myself, when all three boys turned to look at me. I know my face must've been red, but I still took a good look at the three of them. Two of them were fine as wine (I didn't cuss back then, but fine as hell) the other one not so much. One of them was about my color and he was cute, not bad. But then I looked at his tall friend...my eyes felt like they popped out of my head. Tall, light skinned, and an afro like Michael's. I looked at the not-so-cute guy and he busts out laughing and says "looks like the last thing you need is some candy." They all started laughing at me and turned around to go back to their game.
I caught up with my friends and of course they wanted to know what happened and I was too ashamed to tell them what happened, so I lied. I told my girlfriends that they all said hello to me but that was all. We walked on back across Gull Road. to our apartments, we were all kind of quiet, which had me thinking that my friends knew I was lying to them. I think more than my heart being crushed, I was really upset because boys never seemed to like me.
As time went on, I saw those three guys a few more times, but kept my distance. But my heart would get all jumpy when I saw them, my hands would get sweaty and I found it very hard to swallow. It was kind of the same feeling I had when my great-aunt Elizabeth took me to meet Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5, when we were visiting her and my great uncle, a professor at Hampton Institute ( it was 1971 or 72, that's another post). One day, much later, I had to go over to the 7-11 by myself to get something for my mom. I always hated going there by myself because that one not-so-cute guy hung out there a lot and always made fun of me and his friends would laugh. But sure enough I walked in and there they were with a few more people around playing the game. I tried to go get my bread or whatever it was I was there to buy, really quickly so I wouldn't draw attention to myself. But no such luck, I paid and grabbed my bag and Mr. light-skinned, Michael Jackson afro dude (I didn't know his name for years) looked at me and said, "quit following us, damn." I wasn't the Maria most of you know now and instead of standing my ground and telling his yellow butt off, I ran. As I was running I knew they were laughing at me and I just wanted to get home. Right there in the middle of Gull Road, the grocery bag broke, my hands had been so sweaty, it made the bag weak. I didn't want to bend over to pick it up, cause I knew they were still looking and laughing at me, and there were cars coming, so I went on across the street and left the bag. The car ran over it, and smooshed the bag. I walked on home, I could cry because I was by myself and of course when I got home, I got yelled at for dropping the food and letting it get run over.
That was the last time I went over to that 7-11 by myself, for a very long time. I just would go down the road a bit more to the Minute Market and even though there was always someone, somewhere who felt it was their business to tell me how fat and ugly I was, it didn't hurt as bad as it did coming from Mr. Light-skinned, Michael Jackson afro dude.
I didn't see him again for a couple of years because I went to Comstock and he went to Kalamazoo Schools. One night, when I was 16 or 17, my friend from church, asked me to ask my mom if I could go to Roller World. I couldn't skate and didn't really want to go to just watch, but then she told me about all of these cute boys who didn't go to our church who would be there. So, I got the car as long as it was just the two of us and I came straight home as soon as it was over. By this point in my teenage years I had become quite good at boy watching, but boys who didn't know me, didn't talk to me and I wasn't about to try to talk to them.
We got to Roller World and she was right, the music was jammin and being that I went to a predominantly white school, the only black boys I ever really saw were the ones I went to church with. And when I walked in they were everywhere, standing along the long hallway you had to walk down to pay, to get in. I paid less because I didn't skate and I wasn't quite sure it was worth giving up my $1.50 if I'm going to go somewhere to just look. I was very nervous about being around so many boys I didn't know, I felt anxious about what they would say to me. Would they say hi or would they call me fat and all of their friends would laugh at me? I got a little of both. My friend got her skates on and walked me to the wall and told me to just stay there and she would wave to me when she went by. She skated around the rink, and waved to me a couple of times before she hooked up with some of her other friends and skated with them.
I was left with nothing to do but watch. I saw a few people I knew from church but for the most part I just stood at the wall and checked out all of the cute guys there. Believe it or not, my friend talked me into doing that quite a few times. One night, standing on the wall, I turned to check out who was coming in, who was going to the concession stand and who was putting on skates. And right there, on one of the giant spools where people sat to put on their skates, was Mr. Light-skinned, Michael Jackson afro dude. I hadn't seen him in a long time, I didn't expect my hands to start sweating or my heart to be all jumpy, cause I was supposed to hate him. But doggone it, he was even finer than he was the last time I had seen him. He had a little bit of a mustache and looked a little more like a man. If he looked up, I looked away pretending I had been staring over his head or something. Then this chick comes and sits down next to him, she was gorgeous and there was absolutely no way that he'd pay me any attention when he had a girlfriend like her. I tried to brush it off like I didn't care, but dang, he was sooooo cute.
When my friend came off the rink to come and talk to me, I asked her if she knew who he was and she told me his name. I mentioned that his girlfriend was really pretty and she laughed and told me that was his sister. Hot dang! Okay, reality check! I still had no chance of getting his attention. But that next week, I Farrah Fawcett flipped my hair, put on a little make up and headed to the rink with my girlfriend. I would get posted at my spot on the wall, and watch the skaters, and watch the door for him to come in.
He came in and I swear it was like one of those soap opera dream scenes, he looked my way, and he walked in my direction. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!!! He noticed me....YEAAAAA! I'm on the wall with my back to the rink, leaning back on my elbows pretending like I was checking out the other dudes. He came to the space right next to me, I could smell him. I didn't know boys could smell so good, all the boys I knew always smelled like dirt, the outside and funk. So I turn back around to face the rink, and with every nerve that I had in my body, I made myself say hello (even though I felt like I was going to throw up). He looked down at me, no recognition in his eyes at all, gave me a quick hi and then yelled for a girl out on the rink. I thought it was weird because I hadn't seen his sister there before, but maybe she went out on the rink when my back was turned. But this girl, a pretty brown girl with really pretty eyes and nice brown hair, skates over to where we were standing and this hef....sorry, this girl kissed him right on the lips, right in front of me. I gathered my heart and what little pride I had left and went to the concession stand and got me a pretzel.
Four or five years later, the pretty brown girl with the pretty eyes and brown hair became one of my best friends. We were inseparable until she moved out of state, more than a decade ago.
Then a couple of months ago, way over my crush, Mr. Light-skinned, Michael Jackson afro dude and I connected on Facebook. I reminded him who I was back then in the 70's and he says he remembers me, but he never knew I had a crush on him. Any girl who felt they were the ugly duckling, and then grow up to have a change in attitude about who she is, should have an experience where they run into some of those very same guys who used to tease her. I have, and most of them I've forgiven, but some of the real mean and nasty ones can just get ta steppin (in my Martin voice).
Yesterday, he Mr. Light-skinned, Michael Jackson afro (which he no longer has) dude told me that I was beautiful! (he might have said cute, but in my mind he told me I was the most beautiful woman on earth, so that's my story and I'm sticking to it)
My inner, eighth-grade Maria drove around, running errands today with the biggest, cheesiest, happiest grin!
The lesson to be learned here is to always love yourself, no matter what and don't let anyone else tell you, who you are. I wish I had learned this lesson much earlier than my 30's, but better late than never!
He thinks I'm pretty! (cheeeeeeese)