After the Dance: My Life With Marvin Gaye - Jan Gaye (2015)

Mind Games

If Marvin had common sense, he would not have pushed me into the arms of another man.

If I had common sense, I would have resisted all such moves on Marvin’s part.

Common sense told us that we were in desperate need of righteous counsel. We were in desperate need of psychotherapy—both as individuals and as a couple. We had to immediately get off marijuana and cocaine. If there was any chance of renewing our relationship and salvaging our marriage, we had to seek help. We were smart people with progressive ideas. Surely we understood that if we could openly and candidly address the issues tearing us apart, we’d have a fighting chance. We’d be able to see that we were surrounded by people who wanted to ruin our relationship—those who were envious, those hell-bent on stirring up the chaos in our lives. We’d be able to extricate ourselves from those negative forces.

And yet we did nothing.

We did not reflect inwardly. We did not employ outside counsel. In our multidimensional disease of dysfunction, we got worse.

We were still on the island of Maui.

Marvin lit a joint, inhaled deeply, and passed it to me. I took a hit, reached for his hand, and told him that I loved him.

When he didn’t respond, I said, “Let’s just go to the market. Our neighbor will take care of the kids. Let’s just spend the afternoon alone.”

“The market sounds good,” said Marvin.

The market was crowded with locals and tourists buying baskets and beads, surfboards and painted seashells. Shapely women were parading around in bikinis. Several recognized Marvin and made a fuss. He graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures. Strolling along, he noticed a tall young black man who was strikingly handsome.

“Your type, dear?” he asked me.

“Please don’t start, Marvin.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t get off on those rippling muscles. He must be an athlete. And he’s about your age. A perfect fit, I’d say. Let’s introduce ourselves.”

The guy’s name was Steven, and of course he was thrilled to meet Marvin Gaye. He was, in fact, a college football player.

“My wife couldn’t wait to meet you,” said Marvin, embarrassing me. “Will you join us for a glass of wine?”

Steven turned out to be a charmer. Like Marvin, he had an easy banter and a kicked-back style. He answered Marvin’s questions about his feats on the football field, and Marvin answered his questions about the life of a superstar. All the while, Steven was throwing furtive glances in my direction. Marvin caught one of those glances.

“We’re going out tonight,” said Marvin. “Why don’t you join us? Meet us at our place and we’ll have dinner first.”

Later, when we were alone, I asked Marvin, “Why did you invite him? What’s the point?”

“He’s a cool brother. I like him. You like him. Don’t lie and say you don’t.”

I didn’t say anything. To do so would have only added fuel to the fire.

That evening Steven showed up and had dinner with Marvin, me, and the kids. The conversation was easy. Everyone was pleasant. Once again, there were quick glances from Steven in my direction.

“Tonight’s my night for taking care of the kids,” said Marvin. “So why don’t you two go dancing at the beach club? Have a good time while I play Mr. Mom.”

“No, no, man,” said Steven.

“It’s cool,” Marvin reassured him. “Jan’s been dying to go dancing.”

“Well, if you insist.”

I protested, but neither man would be moved. I knew I was being set up. Part of me wanted to defy Marvin by refusing to play this game. But another part of me was gratified and even excited. For weeks Marvin had been distancing himself from me in bed. Then along came a man—a drop-dead gorgeous man—who desired me.

When we arrived at the club, Steven’s desire was apparent. He couldn’t stop praising my beauty. I wanted to resist his advances—and I did—but I also knew that he knew that my husband had not only arranged this meeting but relished it.

We had a drink.

The DJ spun Marvin’s “Got to Give It Up.”

Steven smiled.

“Don’t we need to do what the song says?”

“I’m singing on the song,” I couldn’t help but say.

“All the more reason to give it up. At least on the dance floor.”

We moved to the dance floor. Our dancing was restrained. If there were sexual suggestions in our moves, those suggestions were subtle.

After Marvin’s song was played, we returned to our table and ordered another drink.

“Your husband is really great,” said Steven.

“Here’s your chance to tell him that in person,” I said. “He’s walking through the door right now.”

Steven abruptly turned around. Marvin was walking directly to our table.

“I thought you were taking care of the kids,” I said.

“I found a babysitter and thought I’d check in on you guys,” said Marvin, who seemed disappointed that he hadn’t caught me and Steven in some passionate embrace.

“They just played your song,” said Steven.

“Which one?” asked Marvin.

“The one where you say you’re too shy to dance,” said Steven.

“Was my wife too shy to dance?” asked Marvin.

“It would have been impolite not to ask her.”

“And she accepted, right?”

“She did, and she’s a good dancer,” Steven lied.

“Good in all ways. But now I’m afraid that I must take her home. It’s way past her bedtime.”

“I hope we all get to see each other again,” said Steven.

“We will,” said Marvin.

Riding back to the condo, I lashed out at Marvin. “You humiliated me!”

“Why?”

“You acted like a father spying on his daughter’s first date.”

“So that’s how you see me?”

“I see you torturing yourself.”

“And aren’t I justified? Weren’t you dreaming of falling on your knees and giving him head? Weren’t you dreaming of having that hunk on top of you?”

“Your dream,” I said. “Not mine.”

“I know my baby. I know what she craves. I know she’s insatiable. Admit it.”

“I admit nothing except that I’m tired of these goddamn games, Marvin. Stop it!”

“You like the games. You love the games. You love fantasizing.”

“You sound like you’re writing lyrics to a song. That’s not real life. Real life has to do with me and you and the kids.”

“That’s just the point, Jan. You don’t understand me as an artist. You’re killing my spirit.”

“And what are you doing to my spirit?”

“I’m afraid of your sexual spirit. It’s so powerful it will consume us both. It’s clear that I can no longer satisfy you. You need a Steven. He can fuck you right. I can’t. At least that’s the message you give me.”

“And what message do you give me?” I asked. “That my body is repulsive. That I’m past my prime.”

“Well . . .” Marvin started to say.

“Well what?” I shot back.

“Aren’t you?”

When it came to verbal jousting, I had learned to give as good as I got. But in becoming a more aggressive combatant, I had also learned that there were consequences.

As a result of our nasty spat in which I’d accused Marvin of supreme manipulation, he decided to punish me. He left me and the kids behind in Maui as he and his sister, brother, and mom traveled on for his performances in Japan.

I relished the time alone with Nona and Frankie but felt a growing resentment that the man I loved so deeply had so much power over me. The more strained our romantic relationship, the more twisted our sexual liaisons.

Given the presence of inhibition-loosening drugs, there was physical pleasure in such encounters. The aftermath, though, brought me deep humiliation. Why hadn’t I found the wherewithal to resist Marvin’s maneuvers?

Because I loved him and wanted to please him.

Because I was afraid he would leave me.

Because I was intimidated by his power.

But as I continued to give in, anger built inside me. I lacked the self-confidence to challenge him, yet I had enough self-knowledge to realize that I was disrespecting myself. I felt trapped, frustrated, and confused.

The confusion compounded when Marvin returned from Japan bearing gifts. He’d bought me a gorgeous kimono. He spoke to me lovingly.

“I missed you, dear,” he said. “I was wrong not to take you and the kids along. I was terribly lonely. Can you forgive me?”

“I can, I do.”

“And will you confess that you got together with Steven? Will you be honest and tell me that it was the hottest night of your life?”

“Don’t start, Marvin, please. I didn’t see him.”

“I don’t believe that he didn’t call you.”

“He called but I never called back.”

“And I’m supposed to believe you?”

“Yes. I was with the kids every minute of every day. And I loved it.”

Marvin felt my sincerity and stopped the questions.

“Well, let’s gather up our babies and go to the beach,” he said. “Let’s just be a family.”

Marvin’s mood was back on the mellow tip. It was a perfect day for a long walk along the shore. The sky was cloudless and the ocean calm. The world was blazing blue. The kids scurried into and out of the water. The animosity between Marvin and me had disappeared. He took my hand.

“Let’s just let love lead us on,” he said. “The scripture says a perfect love casts out all fear. Today I’m not feeling afraid—not one bit.”

I put my lips to his cheek and whispered in his ear, “I want this moment to last forever.”

A few minutes later, walking calmly along the beach, we saw a man approaching us. From a distance it seemed like I knew him. Yes, I was almost certain I did. But it couldn’t be. It shouldn’t be. The coincidence was almost too much. He was probably just a look-alike. It was just my imagination. Or was it?

“Frankie!” Marvin exclaimed. “Frankie Beverly! Hey man, fancy meeting you here!”

The two men stopped and chatted for a minute. When Marvin learned that Frankie was going to be in Hawaii for another week, he said, “That’s great, man, ’cause tomorrow night I’m going to have to jump to another island to do a show. While I’m gone, please keep an eye on Jan for me. I know she’ll like that.”

“No problem,” said Frankie.