Here are the things that Rowan is currently obsessed with or has been obsessed with at some point in his life:
Foxes (current love, and my favorite because we can pretend to be foxes in their den, which means I can lay down)
His penis ( I mean, really. He’s pretty much past this one, but let’s face it, it will make a comeback.)
The number 150 (see below)
Godzilla (see below)
Komodo Dragons (Modern-day poisonous dragons? Um, HELLS YEAH!)
Xiphias gladius (North Atlantic Swordfish, duh. I may have the only child who, at age three and a half, asked for a Xiphias gladius for Christmas. And got one.)
Prehistoric creatures (sea and land, because they are awesome.)
Saber-tooth tigers (I had to buy a giant box of bendy straws in order to continually supply him with new sets of saber teeth.)
And when I say that he has been obsessed, what I mean to say is that he has been really fucking obsessed. Like, Loony Toons. Cuckoo. Nut job. It becomes all he talks about, and he begins to actually embody his obsession. So much so that, for example, when he was really crazy about dinosaurs, he actually slept with his hands shaped into claws and woke up roaring. We even had to have a conference about it at school, because he stayed so thoroughly in character that he began to (depending on the kid) scare and/or annoy the shit out of his classmates. The dinosaur obsession started young: we have video of Rowan at 22 months naming at least 15 dinosaurs, and his pronunciation is shockingly good. What I thought was a casual interest grew—he could teach a freaking AP course on dinosaurs, like, yesterday. And that was the first obsession.
Now we have the number 150 and Godzilla. Once Rowan found out that Liopleurodon weighed 150 tons, his imagination was completely captured. He looks for the number everywhere and gasps when he sees it. If I am reading a book anywhere near him, he becomes fixated on finding page 150. He taught himself to count and write his numbers all the way up to 150 and measures most anything (time, weight, size, importance) against the awesomeness of his favorite number. And Godzilla? Well, that should be obvious. Godzilla is awesome. Next time you see Rowan, ask him to sing you the Godzilla song. It’s adorable.
Yesterday, after a full day of being Godzilla, Rowan turned to me and said, “remember prehistoric creatures? Long time no prehistoric creatures!” Even he remembers how obsessed he has been about things.
So John and I do what I am assuming most parents do, and that is to think about which freak in the family our kid is most like. And sadly, this one belongs to me.
There are some things about my past that, if I were a different person, would be kept where they live. In the past. But I lack a certain level of shame, which is probably why you read my blog. Imagine how lame this blog would be if I actually felt shame! Hooo doggies! I suppose that I just assume you all have big-hair or mullet pictures lying in a box somewhere. And if you don’t, and you have had perfect hair your entire life, I don’t like you anymore. My admission of anything sort of hinges on the fact that I assume we have all been complete idiots at some point in our lives, thus making you relatable to me, and I to you. I’d rather not know if this is not the case, as I like the playing field to be level.
Not that we are playing anything. Because that would be weird. And confusing.
Oh, forget it.
Last week, after posting an old photo on Facebook, I had a realization that other people have, like, professional jobs and, well, serious careers, in which a picture of them from when they were 10 years old may not be a thing they want shared with their colleagues. How did this dawn on me? Well, I received a note from the person in the old photo with me, basically reminding me that I am solely responsible for the mocking that she was currently enduring at work. I went back to “untag” the picture, and a very vivid and totally embarrassing memory came back to me: the time when I thought that I looked, sounded, and acted so much like Michael Jackson that I was, in fact, a totally believable Michael Jackson.
I wish I could remember the first time I heard Michael sing. I know the general time frame, but based on what followed, you would think that I would remember some specific song or moment through which he entered my life. And enter he did. It was the first total obsession for me. I didn’t just love Michael, I believed that I could make him love me back, if only he would notice me.
Yes, I had the glove. (Really, who didn’t? I never had the jacket, due to financial reasons. I mean, I was 10. It wasn’t like I could raise enough money for that [upon retrospect] monstrosity by selling, say, my button collection [and, yes, I had a button collection].) I had the Thriller birthday party, where we all gathered around the television and watched both the video and the making of the video over and over again. I wrote a fan letter that I would give my left boob to see now, 27 years (or so) later. But there were levels to this adoration that, looking back must have been totally ridiculous to witness.
When she entered our lives, my stepmother was selling Mary Kay and had a gigantic case containing every single make up product ever created. If I were more of a woman, I could tell you specifically what kind of stuff was in the case, but since my idea of makeup consists solely of mascara, I will just say that it contained everything. So, when the talent show for our middle school came around, I decided it would be amazing to lip-sync “Ebony and Ivory,” with me as Michael Jackson and my friend as Paul McCartney. But, alas, I am white. So, toner or base or whatever it’s called that transvestites and very unevenly tan women wear was dug out of the Mary Kay case and smeared all over my face and arms so that I could look enough like Michael Jackson. I had a perm. And no boobs. And I guess I figured that, well, darken me up and let me at ‘em!
So I went on stage and lip synced. And no one stopped me.
Why for the love of the SIPNEL did no one stop me?
It was more than just the desire to look like him, though. I thought of him constantly, and I was convinced that he would one day find out about me and all my specialness, because, let’s face it, I’m pretty freaking special. Each night before bed, my stepmother would come in and begin a story, leaving off in the middle allowing me to continue the story in my head as I drifted off to sleep, and each night (it seemed) the story went something like this:
“One beautiful day after school, you are in the living room folding the laundry and listening to Thriller when the doorbell rings. You turn down the record and walk to the door. When you open it, the person at the door has his back to you. He turns around . . . and it’s Michael Jackson.”
Then she would say, “Goodnight!” and leave the room.
It was like giving an addict a taste of heroin. I wanted that story every night before bed. My every waking moment became consumed by thoughts of him. When I was sent to France as an exchange student in the fifth grade, I took it largely as an opportunity to role-play. And thus, for three weeks I convinced (or thought I convinced) the sweet Parisian children that I was, in fact, Michael Jackson.
I wrote him letters, practiced singing like him, and learned how to dance like him, cultivating a perfect moonwalk. I thought about him all the time.
Perhaps the feather in my cap of total and complete creepiness came on Michael’s birthday, when I baked him a cake, put on the glove, and sang Happy Birthday to the poster of him I had hanging in my room.
What can I say? I loved him so completely! You probably did too, but you are deeply ashamed by it, whereas I feel pretty much no shame about anything.
So I can add it to the list of things I have passed on to my children. I totally know where Rowan is coming from! He wants to immerse himself in his subject and become whichever creature is currently in his rotation. You can see that he believes he is Godzilla! So who am I to stand in the way of that? Now, if he decides to get up in front of a room full of people so he can lip-sync a terrible song in blackface, then and only then will I probably stand in his way.