Renember when music videos told stories?

A friend posted an old Janet Jackson video on my Facebook wall yesterday and I started you-tubing Janet’s videos from the mid 90’s to early 00’s. The “Got Till It’s Gone” video took me back to the 7th grade–the last time I was really content and oblivious to the world around me. In other words, innocent. I  was socially awkward in my early teens (hard to imagine if you met me in high school and beyond) and didn’t have many friends. My frequent companion was music–particularly music videos; MTV, VH1 and BET were my major forms of recreation before the boys came knocking, before fashion become an obsession, and before body image issues started creeping up.

I remember watching “Got Till it’s Gone” and not getting certain parts of it; what did a guy getting his head shaved have to do with anything? But, the video did have a certain effect on me, despite the fact that I didn’t know the story behind it. It made me feel calm, cool and relaxed. I loved Janet’s funky hair, loved the mellow beat, loved how carefree everyone in the video was. But most of all, I loved the unique looks of everyone in the video. The song is set during apartheid and depicts 60’s and 70’s black culture, and while I didn’t find this out until later, the essence of the song wasn’t lost on me. I wanted to grow up and be like the people in the video–carefree, lively and happy.

This isn’t the first JJ song that defined a moment in my life. In the 4th grade, one of the “popular” girls in my class asked me to sit at her table at lunch. I was excited but scared–why would she want to sit with a geekazoid like me? As soon as I set down my lunch tray, the grilling began.

“Do you watch MTV?”, the all-powerful mean girl asked.
“Yes.”
“Name a cool song, then.”

I thought hard. What was a good song to impress her with? I chose something that I thought was mature.

“That’s the way love goes by Janet Jackson,” I replied. It was 1994.

Jessica and the other girls burst out laughing. My face felt hot.

“What a corny song,” exclaimed Jessica. She and the rest of the girls ignored me for the rest of the lunch period.

For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with that song. Janet was beautiful and had the coolest videos, how was that corny? That video was what I pictured love to be like that the age of nine–hanging out with a cute boy, looking pretty and being surrounded by my friends.

For the rest of elementary school and junior high school, I spent most of my time after school time memorizing music videos and devised my own video ranking system–no one would ever tell me how corny or uncool a song was again. I became a walking, talking video library. I was a lonely kid at school, but with videos–especially Janet’s–I didn’t feel as alone anymore. I was content to spend time with myself.

Combing through JJ’s videos on You Tube reminded me of the last time in my life I was happy being alone. Sure, I wanted more friends but I was content living in my daydreams.  But when I started making friends and got immersed in building a thriving social life, my daydreamy Piscean nature got placed on the back burner. If I ever caught myself daydreaming, I quickly put a realistic spin on my thoughts and worked out a way to get as close to my daydream as realistically possible, but that of course defeats the purpose of daydreaming.

Now, I’m at that place in my life where I’m required to daydream, required to be my own best friend, my own confidante. One of the side effects of switching from an introvert to an extreme extrovert is forgetting how to be by myself and get lost in my own head. Living alone in a new city, at the beginning of a new chapter of life, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to daydream again. Besides, “That’s the Way Love Goes” is still my idea of true love.

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