I Had A Crush On 1983 Michael Jackson In 1993 Because My Religious Parents Kept Me In A Pop Culture Time Warp

Michael Jackson poses with his pet boa constrictor Sept. 15, 1987. (Liaison)
Michael Jackson poses with his pet boa constrictor Sept. 15, 1987. (Liaison)

I grew up in a rather religious household to reformed Born Again, Evangelical Charismatic, Non-Denominational Christians. I know, that’s a mouthful, right? Like most folks, on Sunday we went to morning service. Unlike most people we were back later that same day for afternoon service or, “Church Part Two: Electric Boogaloo” as I mockingly referred to it. On Wednesday we went to bible study where we learned about church stuff the pastor failed to mention that past Sunday. There was also monthly building fund meetings, praise and worship rehearsals for my mother and that summer my parents made me go to Vacation Bible Camp even though I honestly would have preferred a trip to Camp Crystal Lake. My family was serious about our church thing, religiously so, and yes I wrote this entire post just to make that cheesy ass joke- fight me.  f you came thru la casa chances are Benny Hinn in all his peanut butter charlatan glory was on the TV knocking Theresa from Toledo out of her wheelchair or kicking the crutches out from underneath Barry from Boca Raton. In the name of Jayzus, be healed! Ashamana high I justbought a Honda!


It should come to no surprise then that my parents drew a very bold line in the sand separating our family of believers (and me) and the secular world. We were to be in the world but not of the world. Which sucked because the world had all the best stuff.  We didn't get cable until I was damn near a teenager because of the plethora of options available to watch filth flarn filth on HBO and Alex Mack was teaching that witchcraft on Nickelodeon. We were very tardy for the party and Clarissa had already been done explained it all.

Music was another medium where the devil laid his wicked mindfields. Rap music, unless it was Christian rap, was a def no-no in our household. Most of my music was either borrowed from friends or recorded off the radio on cassette when my parents were asleep. You need that radio-edited version of “Mo Money, Mo Problems” with the DJ talking over the best part? Holler at ya scholar! It was hard growing up without secular music. It made me a social outcast at school often. That was until we got our first babysitter. Her name was Tara and all I wanna say is that she aint really care about us. Like AT ALL. My parents would go out for the night and leave us with pizza money and strict instructions on what we were allowed to watch. Tara would nod and then promptly invite her friends over to eat all of our pizza and watch music videos on VHS tapes that she had recorded off of BET or The Box. That’s how I figured out there was more than one Dr. Dre and that neither of them were equipped to perform open-heart surgery.

I wanted to snitch on Tara so much but as snitches get stitches and Tara intimidated me more than that time Kristi Thomas called Mallory Pike the n-word, I kept my mouth shut. When my parents finally caught wise and fired Tara, they got rid of all the secular music in the house. This was rough for everyone as both of my parents were former late 70’s/early 80’s funk/soul musicians who gave up Earth Wind and Fire for the the Eucharist. Basically there was no Prince, no Stevie, no Chaka and for us kids that meant no Crazy, no Sexy, no Cool. No bueno!

My father did allow us to make one exception in the form of a certain incredibly popular late 80s Thriller follow-up album titled Bad. Maybe you’ve heard of it? We weren’t allowed to listen to Thriller because, even though Michael Jackson said it didn’t, my dad thought it promoted the occult. But we could “Smooth Criminal” all night long if the holy spirit moved us. And moved us it did. My younger brothers and I spent hours listening to the Bad album, practicing our dance moves to each track. We had a jazzy Alvin Ailey-like routine worked up for numbers like “You’re Just Another Part Of Me” and “Liberian Girl”. Being the oldest sibling I choreographed all of our moves and I chastised my poor baby brothers whenever they missed a step. Why was it so important to me, you ask? Well, good question!

You see, even though the Bad album came out in 1987 and my family was living in the early nineties, we were behind the times. We were so far behind the secular times in fact that us kids never got the memo that Jackson-Five era Michael Jackson with his handsome Black features who had morphed into what we’ll just refer to as late 80’s Puerto Rican Pecan MJ had now turned into something all-together… different. The Michael Jackson in my head at the time still looked like the dashing guy with the strong cleft-chin who punked Wesley Snipes on the subway. And that version of him was apparently the man of a young Jordie’s dreams, even if he was a lot little eccentric. So we practiced and practiced and practiced some more because I was in love. With Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson from Gary, Indiana. And I just knew that someday I would meet the man and he would ask me if I had any moves and I would reply, “Why, yes, Michael. I do have moves” and then he would take me on tour with him at which point he would fall helplessly and hopelessly in love with me. I continued this unrequited crush for over a year watching the “Dirty Diana” scene from the Moonwalker home video until that tape popped.

Finally, a little over a year later, my family and I gathered in the den to watch the premier of Michael’s new single, “Jam.” My parents had relaxed a little bit on the secular music ban as I had started to sneak more rap and pop into the home and they got tired of throwing away my several pirated copies of Krush Groove. We were all excited to see MJ’s new video which we heard featured Michael Jordan. I’m pretty sure they cut into an episode of The Urkel to premiere the video too so that shows you how big of a deal this all was to America at the time. Not just us. My heart was racing because I was still holding out hope that one day Michael would discover me and put me in a video and then make me his Queen To Be. My dad hushed us as the video began.




“Who the hell is that guy?!” I screamed.

I was sent to my room without being allowed to finish the video. I was actually good with that. I couldn’t figure out what exactly about him had changed. Let me rephrase that. Of course, I knew he had undergone some major changes but he still more or less looked like the Captain EO I knew and loved. More or less. But something was different. And just like that I stopped fantasizing about Michael Jackson and I driving away together. Besides, I was pretty sure his sister was the cooler one in the family anyway.


Jordan Kauwling is an early thirties Philadelphian but she tells everyone she's in her late thirties because she doesn't understand how math works. When she's not busy writing, singing, eating all the falafel or unsuccessfully finishing another craft project you can catch her talking junk on Twitter.



Your taco meat looks like bullet wounds.