In 2004, I was in the basement, working away on some music mix or other, putting song sets on floppy discs for later burning onto CDs, downloading from sources that will go unnamed here but that were sort of okay then.
It was before we had a mad panic to move from that house, which was likely only standing thanks to walls filled with squirrel nests (and carcasses — yes, a few had died in there, likely babies who could not yet navigate the narrow beams and thus plummeted to untimely rodent deaths where we could not retrieve and mourn them) and my then-partner’s father’s prolific use of duct tape.
What happened was we found out that the rickety residence we’d claimed as home would be taken out from under us: we were renters (or my then-partner and his dad were … my son and I came along later and joined the fray) and the owner of the house had not done what was expected. We first discovered the tax bill had gone unpaid and bought it, hoping for a win-fall. Word on the street was that if you held a tax bill like that for three years, you could essentially take the property. About two years, eleven months, twenty-nine days, and twenty-three and a half hours in, the mortgage company dropped a check for what we’d paid, plus interest. It was through this parry of funds that we further discovered the additional issue, that the mortgage itself had not been paid, despite all our rental monies having been sent on-time (mostly).
We attempted to take over the mortgage, going so far as to drafting a short-sale document and getting a signed letter from the owner. The mortgage company gave a flat-out ‘no’, causing me to announce that I had a heck of a parry for them.
I bought a house. A completely different one.
My then-partner was in the throes of health issues. Things went well with the home purchase. We started moving little things, car load by car load. The mortgage company on the place we were moving from sent a trash truck to clean out the house … while we were moving out. Our moving crew consisted of me, my ill then-partner (and I’m not talking a head cold but serious heart-related issues), a fellow we knew from ’round the way, and my son, who was in elementary school. My son and ’round the way dude couldn’t drive, which left me at the new spot and my then-partner, who drove loads back and forth while still managing things at the old spot in between trips.
It was more nightmarish than you can imagine, resulting in the loss of personally valuable items.
Like my Nana’s bible that had her handwritten family names back to hither and yon in it.
Did I mention my Nana was born in 1898? I can’t get that back, but I see it behind my eyelids: red cover, guilded edges. I know exactly where it was in that basement I used to spend so many hours in, hunched in front of two computers, multiple printers, and several turntables.
That move put my then-partner in bed for a while after. We didn’t speak of the losses often but I thought about them all the time. Still do. They were a backdrop to our wedding, which we had in the living room of the new house later that year. They are still a backdrop to my thoughts even now, even though my then-partner is now my late-husband, having died some time ago after fighting a fight of legend against heart failure. But that’s a story for another time.
The loss was not yet a thing early in 2004 when I was working in that basement as my then-partner/now late husband shouted with friends upstairs during the Super Bowl.
Yeah, that one.
I was manipulating music and frankly not thinking about Janet Jackson.
Don’t get me wrong: I loves me some Janet, loves me some Michael. I’m not an all-the-way, listen-and-adore-every-song type, but I have my favorites. When ‘Scream’ came out, it was my anthem. As an anime fan, science fiction writer, and lover of good musical things, it spoke to me. Still does.
That is a tough jam. If you don’t agree, come at me.
But here’s the thing:
I had no idea about the Timberlake-Jackson-boob/nipple-paloosa.
And even after I heard, then watched, then watched again while squinting, I still had no idea.
I shrugged and went back to the basement, and then on into the horror that became our house move and the sadness of health challenges that came along like an extra steamer trunk we couldn’t get to lock and stay closed for the subsequent 12 years.
But leave us fast forward to just a few weeks ago, when the New York Times did a bio on the … event.
Ms. Jackson didn’t need to be in it, likely because it wasn’t a thing like that.
A certain segment of ‘Merica lost its collective little mind because of the non-thing, claiming it was indecent and in some way entangled the minds of the youth who were spending an otherwise pleasant afternoon with their families.
Watching men crash into one another and potentially experiencing life-changing brain and other physical injuries notwithstanding.
She said it was an accident, told her side of what had happened.
CBS dude wanted her to crawl in, kowtow, and kiss the ring, and she refused (rightly so).
CBS dude gets busted some time later for sexual impropriety.
Here’s my .025: Ms. Jackson is over it. She’s gone on with her life.
Was it damaging? Absolutely, but not for ‘what she did’ but for what happened to her. She had an album about to be released and there is no way of telling if all the bad press suppressed its possible success. There was also the entire emotional and physical toll: Ms. Jackson effectively disappeared for a while, likely to get her head on straight.
Leave us remember that her brother would die under terrible scrutiny just five years later.
And here’s the other thing.
In 2004, Madonna was on her Re-Invention world tour. A woman who had been for some time identified as a trendsetter for doing the ‘outrageous’ with her music and costuming. After all, it wasn’t common for a person to be photo’ed in pole dance position for a concert promo in 2004, but she did it.
But that was Madonna, so it was different somehow, right? Her concert tour photos weren’t being paraded in front of the children over mashed taters and green beans, or whatever one serves during the Super Bowl. Madonna was fully woman in her trendsetting body, while Janet was only proximal to womanhood in hers, right? After all, why else would she have been described as a ‘black dominatrix’ and as having essentially the unremarkable breast of a middle-aged woman?
By not doing more, saying more, or self-flagellating for the salivating majority culture folk who felt the thing at the Super Bowl had irreparably harmed their children, families, and Sunday-after-church dinners, Ms. Jackson said in effect that she was a post-proximal woman.
She wasn’t near-woman, a thing, a body to be at once desired and abhorred.
She was all woman.
A woman who was comfortable in her skin and the thing at the Super Bowl was not a display of that comfort.
Ms. Jackson is and remains all woman, not proximal to what similar majorities think of her, me, you, and anyone who looks like us.
And don’t you forget it.
Thank you, @janetjackson, for being a big sister I never had. Your smile has and is the smile of little Black girls round the world. In your eyes, we see us. In the sage words of Cousin Arthur, a member of my extended family, don’t let dem people worry you … Peace and love.