At the age of seven, I was taught to make a fist with my thumb on the outside when I wanted to smash someone, otherwise if I landed a really good hit I risked breaking my own thumb in the process. Ok, check. When I was sixteen, I broke my brother’s nose. My own thumb was not harmed in the making of his new look.
This week of course, has seen the death of singer Whitney Houston, and all the hoopla surrounding this event has left me rather perplexed. Admittedly, my exasperation was unduly influenced by CNN Europe – the ONLY channel I receive in my mini-flat here in Austria in English – running full coverage of her entire funeral service last night… for THREE HOURS. I ask you. I’m here for the culture, damn it. Anyway, this whole week has been Whitney Whitney Whitney and enough references were made to THE VOICE that I had to give in to it a bit and do a little background sleuthing. Don’t get me wrong: I am familiar with the girl. Her era was my era. Except that her music was not my music. I was rarely into fluff pop in the ’80s and am even less so now. But everyone raving about the voice made me pick up my laptop and check it out… manic opera fan that I am, surely I hadn’t missed a great talent that I should have been paying attention to?
And yes, I found the famous tunes that embodied the talent she held. And I appreciated her for them. But in my reconnaissance mission, I came across something far more interesting.
In her famous interview with Oprah – after seven years of silence following the débacle that was her interview with Diane Sawyer – she was talking about her notoriously tempestuous relationship with Bobby Brown. Oprah leans in and asks, “was he …violent?” And Whitney laughs and says “uh, no… cuz I was raised with two boys, and I will fight you back. I will fight you back. With anything I can find.” Oh wow – how fabulous.
I’ve tried to explain this concept to Miss S., a dear friend who nonetheless thinks it’s cute to whack me in the shoulder every now and then – hard. The surging need for retaliation that is triggered in me when she does this is a force to be reckoned with. Sometimes it seems very difficult to contain. I tried to explain it to her rationally a couple of times: my brother and I grew up beating each other to a pulp at every opportunity. I am hard wired to respond in kind to violence. You must stop hitting me when you’re playing around. But she wouldn’t be convinced. Finally, one day when she went at me not once, but twice, I yelled at her: You don’t seem to understand me. The next time you hit me, I will have no choice but to lose it on you… and it won’t be a good thing. I think raising my voice finally got her attention. Thankfully she finally took me at my word… but ever since, I get the feeling she thinks I’m a force of evil just waiting to snap.
But no, not evil. Just… me ‘n’ Whitney? We will fight you back.