Whitney and me

I’m watching myself respond to the news that Whitney Houston died.

I heard on FB.  I watched the status updates change, and was – still – in disbelief.

My first reaction: what???

My second was a status update:  “alright. stop the world right now for a minute please. I’m having a moment.’
I mean, what the fuck…?  I realise I’m still fighting to put words to feelings long buried and usually hidden.

I’m not one to get sentimental about a popular figure.

But I feel like I lost something of myself in these recent deaths – earlier this week it was Wilmot Mutty Perkins.  Today, it’s Whitney Houston.

When I came to the US in 1985, my first purchase with my birthday money was Whitney Houston’s album aptly named “Whitney Houston.”  I played that LP day and night.

I gazed at her for hours posed in her Norma Kamali bathing suit on the album cover.  I promised that the moment I could afford it, that’s the exact bathing suit that I would purchase.

Her music took me thru a  turbulent year and a half.  Her voice comforted me through a rough period of displacement, of being forced to grow roots in soil that was hostile to me, of having to grow up and get used to a whole new way of life and of identifying myself.

I tried to decide whether I liked any of the boys that were in my high school, but I ended up fantasizing about Whitney instead.  I learned to dance to this album;  I cried to it, laughed, wore out a few needles on my new turntable that sat at the foot of my bed.  I still have the album.  Never saw the need to get rid of it, no matter how much technology has changed.

Major moments of my girlhood took shape with Whitney playing in the background.  I can’t help but feel connected to her joy and her pain.  I never knew what to do or think about her drug habit, so I pushed it out of my mind. I had no answer, none that made sense.  Although it did make sense. She was dealing with her emotional pain the way so many of my generation were dealing with theirs.   She simply was Whitney.

Dulce posted:

“Ay, Whitney!!! May she rest in peace and may all her pain be finally gone! In sheer disbelief and sadness and feeling like some part of my youth and early adulthood has gone with her!”

I responded:

” yes. I’m having the oddest conversation in my head as I’m listening to her music. Even as I’m just stunned into silence, I’m asking, why am I feeling like the wind was just knocked out of me? like I don’t even know where to turn? Like all the mirrors are cracking and falling down and I’m left looking around for something to look at, reflect back something loving, inspirational, a reminder of what’s possible? why am I feeling this way, totally bereft of those moments of pure joy in my young adulthood? I’m not supposed to feel this way about a pop star? would I feel the same way if Mariah Carey died? I know I wouldn’t.”

Nicole echoed that sentiment:

“Now that my childhood is officially over, I am going to bed.”

Tony, too:
” I just want to say that I am deeply shocked, disturbed and shocked by this news and feel as if a major part of my youth has been stabbed in the back.”

And when we wake up tomorrow, we will still have that dull feeling of having lost something, and perhaps feel guilty that we never loved her enough.  Otherwise, she would have stayed.  Or maybe not.  The point is, we just lost something big, and we have no idea how to fill that gap, or whether it can even be filled.


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