I’m a Believer

Davy Jones of The Monkees died last week at 66. This is my love letter to the man who took me from a girl to a woman, without even knowing it.

His handshake was firm–firmer than it needed to be.

Several security guards stood close by. People fussed around him like he was royalty. Girls squealed in the corner waiting their turn. I was tongue tied, the hundred things I had practiced saying to him for the past four years floated out of my teenage brain, and suddenly, I was like all the others. “How d’ya do?” Davy Jones said, grinning warmly, clearly enjoying this effect that he had on people.

The first time I met The Monkees, I was 17 years old.

I don’t remember the first time I heard The Monkees, it just seems like they’ve always been in my life. But I do remember the first time I put faces, and laughs, with the names.

I was 14-years-old, and MTV took a break from their all-music video programming1 to run a marathon of The Monkees television show. Just two months before the debut of the first New Kids on the Block album, this “boy band” concept was new to me–and I liked it. Affable, funny gents, who cracked wise (“Yeah! Take THAT, establishment!”) just enough to keep me interested but not so much that I worried about my mom walking in while I watched and sang catchy pop tunes about love and our generation.2 Oh, and did I mention “handsome”? Yeah, that’s kind of important.

Because I was just discovering my feminine power: noticing things about my own body and noticing others noticing them, too. Realizing that the words I chose had a very real effect on people. Learning to wield this power (and still refining my use of it 26 years later) responsibly and kindly. I studied episodes of The Monkees, wherein one was always in love with a girl or three and looked for clues as to how men and women interacted to each get what they wanted.3 Basically, my sexuality was budding with the help of four boys named Micky, Mike, Davy, and Peter.

So, I saw every episode and bought every album. I knew every word of both. I wrote my first name and the last name of each of them, in turn, unable to decide which was the right one for me. Jennifer Dolenz, Jennifer Nesmith, Jennifer Jones, Jennifer Tork. My walls were lined with posters featuring the boys in wacky poses.

Then, there was a tour. A new generation had discovered the music of the group and clamored to hear it live. The Monkees? Actually “coming to my town?” I schemed. I planned. I imagined the possibilities. I imagined the last names.

And I saw them. And they were great. But I was in a stadium with many thousands of other screaming girls. If not for the jumbotron, The Monkees would have been but faraway dots on a faraway stage. The experience was less than personal and much less than satisfying.

And so I schemed. I planned. I imagined the possibilities. I imagined the last names.

Then, opportunity knocked in the form of a radio contest. The prize was four tickets to a Monkees concert in the next big town over and a personal meet and greet with them. I knew I had to win.

I sat by the radio. My best friend, a fellow Daydream Believer (naturally) sat by the radio. My mother, brother, and father sat by the radio. We dialed and dialed and dialed and were disappointed, repeatedly, but not licked.

Then, it happened. My mom was the one to get through. The wacky morning DJ suggested she make monkey noises to prove how much she really wanted the tickets. And she did, proudly. My mom is alright.

Cut to me, still tongue tied in front of the man whom I’d imagined meeting no less than one zillion times. Him, shaking too firmly, smiling too warmly. I felt faint.

My time with them was too brief, and I left with my own last name. But I was changed. I loved them more now–if that were possible, because I saw them as human.4 They looked old, they looked tired, they looked still–all these years later–overwhelmed by their power. It was so lovely.

And, so, I went on to see The Monkees in concert seven more times and met them two more. Each time, falling a little more in love. When I was pregnant with each of my children and struggling through a marriage that was absolutely wrong for us both, I’d get anxiety attacks. The only thing that could head them off, and this was if I caught them early, was quietly singing to myself a lovely, simple Monkees song. When the kids were born, the only thing that could soothe them when they were uncomfortable was that same song. As a 40-year-old woman, I still love them as much as ever. They are a part of me, of who I’ve become. So, you can imagine the loss I felt, last week, when Davy Jones passed away. The girl who has seriously said “If one of The Monkees dies, I don’t want to live” is having to face that reality.

And it hurts like the real loss of someone I really love. Someone close to me. And I’m grieving in the same way.

So, farewell, Davy Jones. You were a brother, a lover, and a friend. You will be missed.

— ∮∮∮ —


  1. It’s like I’m speaking a different language, isn’t it? 
  2. I mean, not my generation, but I still felt them. 
  3. It seems that what they really wanted involved stars in their eyes. There was a lot of that in the show. I guess it’s a type of foreplay. 
  4. Which is, bar none, the most endearing thing anyone can show me. 
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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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