Monday, February 13, 2012

Why I Care About Whitney

I found out about Whitney Houston's death, fittingly, through Twitter. My daughter saw it on her feed while the rest of the family was playing a little snowy day Rock Band (Alice was wailing on the drums, or "grums" as she calls them), and not believing her, I picked up my phone and confirmed on my own feed. Such is the way things are done now, I suppose. Within minutes, I was posting my own thoughts on Facebook and scouring other people's posts for more information.

It didn't take long, as it never does, for the trolls to come out with their typical rallying call of "SHE WAS A CRACK ADDICT! WHY DO YOU CARE! I SAVE MY GRIEF FOR PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER COMMITTED AN OFFENSE OF ANY KIND EVER." I saw this a lot when Amy Winehouse died, and to be honest, I was too upset then to mount any kind of response. I was a big fan of Amy, still am. So I just ignored it. But now, with Whitney, it all just pisses me off.

We all make mistakes and do horrible, horrible things to one another and to ourselves. It is part of the human experience. I dare say that if all of our mistakes, issues and foibles were laid bare to the public absolutely no one would mourn anyone when they died. Or maybe we would, because we would only then realize that no one, no matter how angelic their voice or beautiful their face is immune to the very real notion of being human. Whitney struggled with a very real problem--a disease, in fact--that does not reveal her as a horrible person. It reveals her as a person, a very real, imperfect one. Much like me and you.

My parents divorced when I was two. I don't remember it at all, really, and that's for the best, I suppose. My mom and I moved in with my grandparents for three years following the divorce while my mom got her accounting license and started a business. During this time, she also bought this little gray Mazda RX-7, a two seater deal with plush, burgundy interior. It was the first car she'd ever purchased on her own. She would pull the top down on that thing on the weekends and put me in it, and we would fly down the road to Kingsport to eat dinner out on a Saturday night. Our favorite tapes were the ones by Tina Turner and Whitney Houston, the Whitney album to be exact. I thought about that a lot yesterday. My mom was the age that I am now at that time in her life. She was navigating a new life alone with a toddler and a new business. And Whitney helped, I think. No matter what was going on, she could get in that tiny car on those winding country roads and there was a perfect voice guiding her on.

I asked my mom about that tape this morning and she choked up a bit and said that she had downloaded the album on her iPod when she got rid of the last cassette player she had. She still listens to it, she said.

My first cd was The Bodyguard soundtrack. I have joked a lot in my adult life that everything I ever learned about sex was from Janet Jackson's Janet album, but a lot of what I learned about love and romance was from listening to The Bodyguard in my room, dancing like a maniac to "I'm Every Woman," and imagining who I would someday sing "I Will Always Love You" to. The music was the kind of music that you remember, that got you. I had a lot of other cds during this time period to, but I don't remember much of them. But I can remember specific moments of sitting on this big white trunk that used to sit in my room, the wicker making impressions on the backs of my bare legs and listening to Whitney.

No, I didn't know her, and it may sound odd to someone on Facebook who doesn't mourn celebrities. But she knew me. Somehow, she knew me and she knew my mom and she sang to us. She helped us grow up, to move on, to become who we are.

And yes, people die every day. And it is horrible and sad. But we should not let that reality tell us who is deserving of our grief.

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