Monday, January 3, 2011

Mike check.

"What are you getting the boys for Christmas this year?" my girlfriend asked during a phone chat last month.

"Oh, you know. . .standard boy stuff. . . superheroes, trucks, yadda yah," I replied while thumbing through a magazine and balancing my iPhone on my shoulder.

"Are you getting them new video games?"

"Video games? Uhh. . .that would require some kind of video console, which the Manning ninos do not yet have," I said sarcastically, "Although Isaiah did ask for a Nintendo DSi which we are somewhat considering."

I heard my friend pause and laugh. A deep and hearty laugh. "Girl! How old is Isaiah? Five and a half, right?" I could tell she was going somewhere. "He doesn't have a Nintendo DS yet?" She laughed again. A deeper, heartier and somewhat incredulous laugh. Which sort of made me feel fleetingly like I felt when my mom sewed a penguin onto the polo shirt she had sewn me for the first day of school in 6th grade, and all of my friends had store-bought alligator versions. I thought the penguin shirt was gnarly until I got on the bus and ruthlessly learned otherwise. (Sorry, Mom.) But seeing as this friend is not a mean girl from my middle school bus route, I decided that I wouldn't take it personally. She added, "You guys haven't caved and at least bought the Wii or the Xbox yet?"

I wondered if I really was as uncool as I was feeling at the moment. Then I remembered how pricey those things were the last time I perused them in Target. I shook my head and said, "Dude! My kids are four and five years old!" I firmly turned the magazine pages without reading them and tried to stay cool. "Plus I just don't get the whole hype of those things." My friend is a "wii" bit too silent, which makes me take pause.

Oh no! History repeats itself! My kids are going to be penguin shirt kids, too! (Errrr, no offense, Mom.)

First day of 6th grade: La Penguin complete with double belt + scary glasses

Finally she speaks up. "The Wii is for the whole family, girl! Seriously, some of them are a good work out and are super fun."

"Uuuhhh, okay." I decide that those penguin shirts had love in them and saved my momma a lot of money. I return to my position on the video games. "For all that money they'd better be a damn good workout."

"No, I'm serious!" my girlfriend playfully pressed me, "It's really worth it."

"Uuuhhhhh, okay," I repeated. "How 'bout you warm it up before we come visit you so we can get our workout, too." We both laughed out loud.

"Cheap-y," she teased before we got off of the phone.

Ha. Viva "La Penguin," my friend. (Not to be confused with the pricier "Lacoste.")

Okay. . . now while I am pretty. . .errr. . . thrifty, I have been known to splurge here and there. We did break down and get the kid a Nintendo DSi, which certainly qualified as a sho' nuff splurge. But. . . .I wasn't exaggerating when I told her that I haven't quite understood the hype of all these video games. As a kid, they never did it for me, and I think I may be traumatized by the boy I dated in college who had a way too serious love affair going with Techmo-Bowl on Sega Genesis. Harry is no big fan of video games, either and seems to harbor some kind of bizarre paranoia that any boy who touches one might immediately turn into a gaming addict. Combine all that with the price tag and it shouldn't surprise anyone that, up until Santa brought Isaiah that Nintendo DSi, no video game had crossed the threshold of the Manning house and into the sticky little mitts of Things 1 and 2.

Yeah. The ads for those things do look kind of cool. But as novel as the advertisements for them seem, it always looks to me like something that would be fun for a couple of days and then thrown into a cabinet somewhere for months at a time.

At least that's been my take on them.

But then, I had a recent experience that just might force me to change my position. On New Year's Eve, Harry and I went to a party given by two of our good friends. I had just finished a grueling stint on the Grady inpatient service, and was super tired. So tired that I would have been fine to ring in the New Year with Bravo and my remote control. Fortunately, the gathering was fairly low key, so it was perfect for a pooped Grady doctor. It was primarily couples; easy conversation and a nice vibe. Once everyone planted kisses on each other at the stroke of midnight, the men retreated to the deck with cognacs and cigars while the women shared pleasant conversation around a table. Despite our best efforts, we found our way to the default topic choice of every mom--our children.

After hearing about every milestone of every one of our kids--something happened. One of our girlfriends reaches into her purse and says to the hostess, "This might sound funny, but. . . . uuuhhh. . .do you happen to have a Wii console?"

The hostess (being like every other non-penguin-shirt-wearing American with children four and older) quickly answers, "Sure, we have one. What's that you have?"

That's when she unleashed it from her purse. Michael Jackson -- The Experience.

What is it, you ask?

Unless you've been under a rock like me, you already know exactly what it is. But in case you don't, essentially, Michael Jackson The Experience is a Wii game with a bunch of Michael Jackson songs on it. The objective of this "dance game" is to let you get your full Michael Jackson on--despite how foolish you look doing it. You hold the "numchuck" or whatever you call that hand device, and follow the moves of the King of Pop (or one of his gnarly back up dancers.) And that's it.

MJ in a box.

I secretly gave Lana (the friend who packed it in her purse) the hairy eyeball when she clapped her hands, squealed with glee, and pulled it from her bag. I internally decided that, even though I was secretly intrigued, that nothing could possibly be lamer than what we were all following Steph, the hostess, into her living room to do.

O.M.G. We're about to play some kind of dancing video game on New Year's frickin' eve. W-ow. Is this what happens when you're forty and you finally get a night away from the kids?Really? Really.

Steph turns on the Wii as a few good sports get up to try it out. They pop on "Thriller" first. I offered a few obligatory laughs when I first saw the computer-generated Mike with his two back up zombies. I imagine what others might be doing at parties across the globe and raise my skeptical eyebrows at this alleged party in a plastic box. Wow, we are officially old. And lame. The lyrics roll across the bottom and the music starts pumping. I try to fold my arms and be cool, but before I know it, my foot is tapping. A few moments later I'm singing the lyrics under my breath. But remaining cool, of course.

"They're out to get you demons closing in on every side. . . ."

My butt starts rocking in my chair, I can't stop myself. Part of me wants to join in. But I'm wearing car-to-bar, scary-tall party shoes. Not at all meant for this kind of thing. Plus, it would be lame of me to do this. A foot tap and a head bop will have to do.

"They will possess you. . . .unless you change that number on your dial. . . "

Next thing I know, I can't help it. I'm full-on singing every word with my outside voice, swaying from side to side, and. . .oh shoot. . .occasionally kicking up my leg, Michael Jackson style. Like it was some kind of phantom limb. What the heck is going on?

"I'll save you from that terror on the screen. . .I'll make you see. . . ."

That did it. Like a woman possessed by the same thing that made those creepy ghouls boogie out of their graves in the original "Thriller" video, my body was taken over. In five seconds flat, I kicked off my stilettos, leaped out of my seat and morphed into something that even I didn't see coming--a full on MJ explosion.

You know you've performed it in your mirror, don't lie.

"That this is thriller! Thriller night!
Girl, I can thrill ya more than any ghoul who ever dared try!
Thriller! Hooooo! Hoooooo! Thriller night!
And let me hold you tight and share a thriller! killer! thriller night!"

O.M.(expletive) G.

It was bananas. We were marching side to side with the monster claw hands, dropping our hands to our knees and doing the classic MJ semicircle scoot complete with the head shake (you know you've done it), kicking up our legs, swirling. . .but mostly laughing, panting and reliving the first time we ever saw that video. It was so, so, so fun. . . and unexpectedly unifying.

It was also exhausting!

By the time we got to the MJ hit "Remember the Time" we were all dripping with sweat and breathless with hysterical laughter. My girlfriend was right about this Wii thing. It really was a great workout. So great, in fact, that I think I'm going to suggest it to my patients who have Wii consoles at home as a way to exercise. Yep. Even the Grady elders whose grandkids have them tripping over the crazy contraptions.

I'm 100% serious. I always tell my patients that the best exercise is exercise that you'll actually do. And I think Michael J. The Experience qualifies as an exercise regimen in which anyone would willingly participate. (Even a Grady elder.)

Here's why:

After my experience with Michael Jackson The Experience, I've come to the conclusion that inside every person--old, young, black, white, brown, blue, Jew, gentile, straight, gay, animal, vegetable, or mineral-- resides an inner Michael Jackson. Yep. You heard me. Whether you're four years old, forty years old, or have grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are four through forty--your inner Michael Jackson is in there.  Complete with hip thrusts, crotch grabs and high pitched squeals. Heee! Heee! Heee!

"Mike" check. . . 

Got to be there.

Yours might be little Mike circa 1969 with shoop-de-doop Jackson 5 moves. . . . or the post-surgical pop star circa 1999--you know. . .the one with a high speed fan and a billowy white shirt being blown open to the belly button. Yeah. Whether you know it or not, your inner Mike is in there. So in there.

Belt-buckle Mike

Don't believe me?

Just try to sit in a room where someone is playing Michael Jackson The Experience, and see what happens. Your inner K.O.P. will come leaping out of you when you least it expect it. No matter how tightly you fold your arms, or even if you weren't even born when the "Thriller" album was released. He's in there. And trust me, he wants out.

The one I had a crush on

It's hard to know who your inner Mike is. For all you know, you might be a "Billy Jean" kind of MJ. . . but then you just might be a foot stomping "What About Us?" Michael with gauze blowing in the wind from your outstretched right hand. And trust me, people, there's something about unleashing your inner King of Pop that's so . . .so . . . liberating. This is why I maintain that your inner Mike wants out.

My inner MJ fully emerged on "Black or White." I lost my mind and went completely crotch-grabbing, leg kicking crazy on the reprise.

See? Who knew?

Black or White: My inner Mike

So now I guess I'll eat some crow and call up my girlfriend to admit that I was wrong about . . . I won't say all video games. . . but definitely the Wii. (Although I don't think she reads this blog, so I might be safe.) No, I think I will tell her. Especially since now that my inner Mike has been rubbed out of the genie bottle my whole life might be on a different trajectory altogether, man.

For real.


Last funny thing: Today I took Isaiah to my fellow Grady doctor and friend Lisa B.'s house for a play date that was definitely fun. Karate chops, Iron Man and the like. But suddenly Aaron (Lisa's son) busted out the Wii and fuggeddaboudit. That's when the party really got started.

Let's get it started!

Go figure.

All I'm saying is this: Your inner MJ wants out.  Don't fight it.  It's futile, people. And don't worry if releasing him makes you feel a little uninhibited because that's the point. You can blame what ever happens next on the boogie.


  1. Makes me want to get a Wii just to play that game! Everyone loves it!

  2. I absolutely LOVE my Wii! Funny story: my daughter has a Wii, and also the Wii fit board. She was using it to stay fit when she got pregnant, but every time she got on it, it would yell at her: "you've gained MORE weight!" "You're getting really FAT!" (it was of course all baby weight) so she quit using it. When her husband got on it, the first thing it said to her is "Where's Stacy? Did she give up? Tell her to see a doctor! She's gained too much weight!" It was really funny. The Wii is a great workout, though. The Wii sports bowling is the best.

  3. oh this is making me wish we had a wii too! And I totally agree with you.... everyone has an inner Michael Jackson. He was my idol growing up and seriously how could you not love his music and wanna get up and dance every time its on?!

  4. My favourite has always always been "The Way You Make Me Feel". It makes me happy every single time it comes on.

    Have you seen "This is It?". I saw it in the theatre, by myself because my husband refused to go, and I LOVED it. I was a huge early MJ fan but would confess that I didn't quite understand his lifestyle choices later in his career, so still enjoyed the music but wasn't necessarily a "fan fan". It would never ever have occurred to me to plan a trip around seeing him at one of the London shows but after watching "This Is It" I totally regretted the fact that that show will never be seen as it was meant to be seen. I cried at the end! Anyway, It's a great video and well worth a watch.

    Thanks for (yet another!) great post!

  5. Awww... Purple Neon, thanks! "The Way You Make Me Feel" is super awesome! Good that you saw that movie alone. My husband nearly divorced me after I had him see the movie version of "Rent" with me. Seriously, he was like, "Wait--are they about to sing like this for the whole movie?" Girl, he was rolling his eyes at me for three days. .. .

  6. I laughed so hard! We do a traveling dinner on NYE with 5 couples (all 40ish) and at the last house, right before midnight.....they pulled out the Wii and we did a Dance game.
    My boy is 7 and he just got his first DS because we were afraid of a gaming adict too. Now, I totally want a Wii so I can dance!

  7. this was an awesome post....I enjoy them all but I laughed out loud several times reading this one : ) May 2011 bring you & yours blessings, health & happiness!

  8. This picture of 6th-grade Dr. Manning is an instant classic! The highlight of my day.
    I had some similar frames around that age :)


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