It was late fall/early winter 1981. As the memories of my first concert ever come flooding back the first thing I recall is my disbelief that my parents gave their permission for me to walk several blocks, get onto the train and go to a rock concert in New York City’s Madison Square Garden. This would be an exhilaratingly scary adventure for some adults, let alone a 14 year old girl, especially considering that the same girl would have to make the trip back in the wee hours of the morning after a night of teenage misadventure as she was finally allowed to step out into the world commencing her coming of age.
To be honest I don’t remember if INXS or Saga was the opening act that night but the memories of that concert are deeply impressed upon my mind for several reasons. I was pinching myself the entire time. First, it was because I would be allowed to make the trip into the big city to see a real live rock star in concert. Secondly because of the reality that my parents were allowing their 14 year old daughter into a den of iniquity with a congregation of miscreants to “party on” well past midnight, long after a respectable girl would have turned into a pumpkin. (Please read between the lines. I am being PC.) This thought would have never crossed my parents’ minds if it weren’t for the fact that my older brother and his friends were willing to watch over me. My older brother had had his license and was allowed many freedoms by that point in time. He and his friends were going to the concert. I was merely a tag-along.
The opening act was good, but as previously stated hardly memorable. The energy that shot through the theater was indescribable though as the massive crowd waited for the main event: Pat Benatar. Everyone was chanting and clapping in the darkness waiting for Pat Benatar to step out onto the stage. And then she was there and it was pure magic. Pat Benatar delivered a performance that I can still hear and see if I close my eyes and relive the memories of that concert. The crowd held up lighters to show a visual display of their appreciation during the entire event. She was so small but her voice was incredibly powerful. Her performance was exhilarating. The song that stands out most in my mind as I recall memories of that concert was her final encore. She performed the song, “Hell is for Children.” Having been a life-long survivor of abuse the memory of that performance gives me strength to this day. As an advocate for survivors of abuse I find the memories of that particular segment of the concert to be empowering. But at that time I had no idea how profoundly the memories of that concert would affect me throughout the rest of my adolescence and again throughout the rest of my life as my own children would become trapped in a hell from which I have been powerless to save them.
I was simply floored at how permissive my older brother was regarding my partaking of all the adult activities that were going on around me. My Eastern European parents were ultra strict (to put it mildly); my older brother even more so. I knew I was definitely in Bizarro World all night long. The details of Bizarro World are not relevant. But I will say is that I am now quite appreciative the technology that has been readily available to our children for about 10 years now was not available to us then. I was always a very good kid. Graduated 7th in my class from high school, member of the National Honor Society, got partial scholarships; was accepted to every university to which I applied and always had a job from the age of 14. As memories of that concert come to mind, I wonder if I had the technology available to our children today, would my life have been negatively impacted because of that one night of youthful misbehavior.
Once our great adventure began it became increasingly clear to me that my parents had good cause to keep their little girl from such venues before. Now at the age of 43 with 6 teen-agers of my own (5 of them girls) I simply shake my head and chuckle at my parents’ na ї vit ѐ . At the time it was so odd to me that when teenagers got together, even though the older ones were supposed to be watching over those that were younger, they were still teenagers. So they were far more permissive than any supervising adult would have been, not that the punishment was any less severe were there any missteps that would have brought shame onto the family name.
It was truly a night to remember for a host of reasons. The more the memories of that concert come flooding back as I write this article, the more I think that perhaps my parents weren’t naïve at all. Maybe they realized that the circumstances that would arise that night would be the types that would cross my path with increasing frequency as I was growing up. I suppose they figured that since my older brother managed to maintain a high GPA in school, got accepted to highly ranked universities and had managed not to kill himself in the process, that he would be an acceptable guide while testing the waters as I began to sample life.
My parents were from a different country and a different time. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll were foreign to them. Well, not the sex part as they had 3 children, but they didn’t marry until their 30’s. They knew that we were growing up in a very different world so I suppose they left tackling the unknown current social issues of the day up to my older brother. In hindsight it may not have been the best choice, but I do now fully understand that they may have felt that it was their only choice. I do suspect that they were thankful that luck gave them a son first “to protect” his younger sisters. Now as I look back on the memories of that concert I see that my parents were doing the best they could with the circumstances life had given them, though the irony was profound.