I wouldn’t have expected I’d spend the days right after Christmas holding a personal one-woman YouTube remembrance ceremony for two of my childhood (and then adulthood) idols. But there I was, jerking my emotions back and forth from the gleeful “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” to the broody “Careless Whisper.” From the young and nervous Carrie Fisher “Return of the Jedi” Johnny Carson interview, to the dark but still light “Oprah” interview with her mom, Debbie Reynolds. And then we lost Debbie, too. My brain was a melodic fog of catchy hooks, twisty hair, plaintive wailing, blaster guns wailing, white robes and white booty shorts.
George Michael -- along with Michael Jackson -- was the ultimate in coolness to my 5-year-old self. My sister was 13 at the time and we weren't strictly parented or Amish, so we watched a lot of "Who's The Boss?" and MTV in our house (my fondness for Tony Danza did not stand the test of time). I had a thing for boys with an unusual level of gravitas for their ages who were excellent singers and dancers, and had "Michael" in their name. AND two first names for full names. And wore statement gloves.
While on this journey through my departed childhood idols, admittedly I was not thinking of Crohn’s very much. But when re-reflecting, I was (sort of) able to make (weak) connections. It's not like I tapped into some great truth or deeper meaning in his songs (though it's definitely there! That's just not what I'm doing). Mainly, I just wanted to think about George Michael some more, and this column is me (and you, if you'd like!) doing that.
“One More Try” (Teacher)
There are things/ that I don’t wanna learn
The phrase "I don't want to learn" is one I use often, when I am too exhausted or exasperated to learn how something works (like a microwave at someone's else's house), and I just want it to be done for me. I can deal with the medical parts of having Crohn's, but for some reason, dealing with the financial side of it is what drives me over the edge. Maybe it's that I feel like it's forcing me to pay for the privilege of having Crohn's -- when if anything, I should be getting paid. So I have willful ignorance that has manifested in a new wing constructed to my Quest Diagnostics Barbie chalet (a la Titus on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt").
“Everything She Wants”
I don’t really have anything for this one. But, man, is this a great song. Same for “Father Figure.” And "Careless Whisper" is worth a Google for damn sure.
“I’m Your Man”
“If you’re gonna do it, do it right.”
People with IBD often opt out of things because they can’t do them the way they want to. This is always a judgment call -- is it pouting and self-induced exclusion, or is it a healthy way to deal with an unhealthy situation? If I'm in a certain frame of mind, I’m not going to attend the work Christmas pizza party and eat salad with a smile slapped on my face, just to be a good sport and participate, OK? Life is too short for me to spend more of it brooding over how much I hate you for being able to eat crap. And explaining why I'm bringing my own food to a work-catered event. It’s better for our relationship.
If I'm in a certain frame of mind, I’m not going bar-hopping if I can’t drink, because I’ll be hopping mad before the night’s through. It's not a universal excuse to opt out of life, but it is a valid decision to make if it feels right to you.
Freedom! '90 (but watch "Faith" first for context)
What every IBDer aspires to. Freedom from health insurance struggles, searching for bathrooms, tracking prescription refills, injections, procedures, surgeries, exhaustion, moon face, 'roid rage. But I have learned a lot along the way about what to fight for and what to leave behind. What truly matters and what is just eating one or two Russell Stover truffles out of my Christmas stocking because I'm sorta hungry but not really and shut up.
As George put it:
"Today, the way I play the game is not the same;
Think I'm gonna get myself happy."
So sad that this was George Michael’s last Christmas. I would’ve loved to have had one more try at seeing him perform. I took him for granted, like Prince and David Bowie; someday, of course, I would see them, I figured. I'm inspired by him channeling his inner struggles and his grief into his music, bravely letting other people view his pain and recognize themselves in it; anyone who has ever blasted anything from Nine Inch Nails to Alanis Morrissette after a breakup knows how cathartic this can be.
For more about appreciating our best musicians while they’re still alive, check out Slate's Wonder Week about the still-living greatness of Stevie Wonder.