I had the biggest crush on George Michael when I was 13. I am well aware of the fact today that he was technically into dudes back then, even though he held the facade he was into ladies. But in 1988, he made all the girls swoon.
He was good looking, he had sex appeal, he sang about sex…He was the one musician my Mom loved to hate.
Growing up in a strict Baptist home, George Michael singing “I Want Your Sex” did not bode well with faith-based instruction, nor clean thoughts, even though I grew up in a family of nurses and learned about “that stuff” officially in the fourth grade (got 100% on that test…so did everyone else in the class). Sex talk was still a stoic subject with the adults. That stuff was not to be talked about, seen, nor definitely explicitly sung about in my house.
It didn’t help that George Michael’s hit, Faith, was scorching the charts with its simulated church-hymn organ music at its start. A casual religious listener would think, “ah, nice tune! Gotta have faith! Great! Very Christian.” Don’t let my mom see that video with George’s bum front and centre and say that’s religious. It didn’t work – she was onto it. Father Figure and One More Try certainly didn’t help the cause either.
My Mom’s fear my sis and I would become too interested in boys and then teen moms was palpable, so she definitely put the FEAR OF MOM into us. I don’t fault Mom for any of this – widowed single parent with two kids, and trying to keep us as wholesome as possible for as long as secular culture would let her. And my sis and I were both at the age (13 and 16) where boys were on our radar.
But I was a sensible kid: that was not going to happen to me (and it didn’t). Even at 13, I didn’t think any of this was a big deal. A song was not going to make me pregnant. “I Want Your Sex”…It’s a song. There’s a sexy video, but so what? Will it mean I’m going to run away with George Michael? In my wildest dreams, Mom.
All this meant that I was not allowed to buy, listen to or watch George Michael at home. If it popped onto the radio by chance and my Mom was in earshot, she’d tell us to turn it off. Strict? Well, it was George Michael-specific. Before him there was Duran Duran and she basically let us watch, buy and see Duran Duran without a fight (I mean, Hungry Like the Wolf ain’t about starving for a bacon double cheeseburger, people!)
Regardless of the rules at home, there were other ways to listen to George Michael. I was a clever girl. This didn’t mean my mom knew what was happening away from home…
One of my closest friends at the time was an only child who was a year older than I was, but who basically had the best selection of music and clothes of anyone I had ever met. One would think she was spoiled, but I don’t remember her ever begging anything from her parents, or her ever saying, “I’ll just ask my Daddy for that…” She would just… have it. She had a lot of stuff that other girls my age wished for. To start, she had George Michael’s Faith on cassette, and whenever I was over at her house, we’d listen to it. Sooner or later, other classmates acquired Faith through Christmas gifts or what have you. George Michael would be heard at school dances and classmates’ birthday parties. But, I still was not allowed a copy. Meanwhile, I’d groove to Hard Day in my own head, hum to Kissing a Fool under my breath, and dance like George to a version of Faith that played in my brain: “‘Cause I gotta have a-Faith-a-faith-a-faith-AH!” I knew every song on George Michael’s Faith album, but didn’t own a copy.
Then, June of 1988 rolled in – Grade 8 graduation imminent, and my Mom asked me: “Your sister had a Grade 8 grad party…you can have one too, if you want – do you want to throw a party?”
Are you kidding? My answer was YES!!
Preparations were made for this bash: We made room in the garage for dancing (because there had to be room for dancing!) and had the run of the backyard. Being June in Sudbury, Ontario, we’d be guaranteed decent temperatures. Pizza, pop and music. That’s all you need.
Except for one thing…my classmates were going to expect George Michael on the music roster. I didn’t have any George Michael. I was not allowed any George Michael. What to do…what to do…
I decided to let people bring their own music and play it on our shitty stereo system. Problem solved! This worked out especially well as others brought music I didn’t have access to.
The party went awesomely – a 3 hour festival of fun. Everyone had a good time. George Michael played endlessly without a peep from my mom.
I was soon leaving on a month-long exchange trip to Toulon, France, and I remember trying to think of a way to get my hands on a copy of Faith to listen to while there, because even though she allowed me to play I Want You Sex on the home stereo during my Grad party, my Mom still wouldn’t budge on me owning my own copy of Faith. At this point I dropped the $2 to get my hands on a 45 of the title track, Faith, and I would secretly play it while my mom was at work. You’re probably thinking why I wouldn’t just borrow my friend’s copy: she clung to that cassette and refused to lend it out.
Not all hope was lost, however. A few days before my party, I ran into an old friend at the Orthodontist. I invited her to come to my party. Thanks to reconnecting with her, she lent me her copies of Faith and Crowded House’s self-titled album on cassette in time for me to leave on my trip, in exchange for me buying her a copy of Depeche Mode – the French fashion magazine that a certain band named themselves after – DONE! I hid the fact I had a copy of George Michael’s Faith burning a sinful hole in my carry-on luggage and no one was the wiser.
That month in France allowed me to acquaint myself further with the Faith album. Listening to Faith today conjures up great memories for me.
After my trip, I managed to dub myself a copy of Faith onto a blank cassette. I listened to that for a few months until my shitty walkman ate it. It’s almost like neither the universe, nor my Mom for that matter, wanted me to have this album in my life.
After that summer, I started high school, and my Mom lifted her ban on George Michael. But, I slowly moved on to other musicians – INXS for starters – and getting a copy of Faith became less important. So it goes.
I didn’t end up with my own copy of the Faith album until 2004 when I randomly found a used copy in a bin at a record store. Listening to it again was like coming home, only this time I could listen to it without interference.
When I look back on this situation now, I know it seems like my Mom was a bit harsh. Like I said, it was all meant to be framed in love and protection, and I forgive her for it today, even though it wasn’t understood as such at 13. Back then, all I wanted was a little “Faith-ah faith-ah faith-AH!”
And today, a lot can be said for making up for lost time.