23. “The Body That Loves You,” Janet Jackson

I’m not an expressive dude. There’s that phenomenon called “resting bitch face.” Well, I’d say I have resting serious face. Often, even excited serious face. How many times in my life, especially in my teens and twenties, did someone tell me to smile? That would be a lot.

I was, and am, an introvert. So not only did the resting serious face work against me in social situations, but I didn’t say much, either. Socially, introversion can be a painful paradox. I simultaneously felt comfortable being alone and enjoyed alone time, but I also craved real connections with people. And it’s hard to achieve that when you look serious and don’t say anything. Who wants to hang with that dude? I always felt, though, that I had so much inside to offer the right person, or people, the ones who had the patience to scratch away at the stoic surface and uncover the colour beneath. And there have definitely been people, here and there, who have got that about me.

I think, in part, it was my introversion that attracted me to Janet Jackson as a teenager, with her first two albums. She seemed like a bit of a kindred spirit. Her first two albums were great fun, yet she seemed like a quiet person, she was smart and, for the Madonna age, her style was relatively conservative. “Rhythm Nation,” the song, was even militaristic, with its tight, staccato snare and hyper-choreographed dance posse in the video.

But something changed with her third album, Janet. She let the world see more of her, literally and figuratively. The back of the CD cover was her bare  midriff with partially unzipped jeans — a far cry from Rhythm Nation‘s full-cover black suit. I still remember my first time seeing the video for the album’s first single, “That’s the Way Love Goes.” It was Janet and a bunch of her friends (oddly, as I write this, “Rhythm Nation” just came on on shuffle!) hanging out and talking/singing about life and romance. It was chill, it was sexy. It was Janet saying, “I’m not just another member of a marching band. I’m an individual among individuals. I’m expressive. I love. I lust.

And nowhere do the latter two points become more clear than on this song. No metaphors here. She wants you. Her body wants you. Her body loves you. Her arms want to hold you.

Her body is arched for you.

That’s the line, a little throw-in toward the end, that spelled the whole thing out for me. That dropped my jaw. That freed my mind. That was the sexiest thing I had ever heard. Okay, Janet, I thought. I get it. I get you, now more than ever. She had done for herself, through her art, what I’d always wanted other people to do for me: scratch away the surface and uncover all the colours beneath.

It’s only now, more than 20 years later that I’m understanding that if I want people to see my colours, it’s up to me to scratch away at my own surface. Janet had her music and her videos. And my tool is this blog. This is a huge reason why I started it in the first place, other than a compulsion to write and excitement about the idea. It’s filled with more of me than I’ve ever revealed to all but a few of the closest people in my life.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, my blog is arched for you.

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