In the summer of 1964, a sixteen year old invited me to a Beach Boys concert. My mother drove me from one end of Kansas City to the other. In the car on the way to my date’s home, I imagined myself in love, but by the time we arrived, I went mute.
His mother, a petite cotton clad homemaker, known for doing her part in a solid marriage, invited us inside. At more than six feet, my mother towered over most people, especially her. Their difference hurt my eyes. Mom had on what was then called a squaw dress: bare shoulders and swirling skirt with rick-rack on the edges. (Still under wraps except in our household: my dad was nowhere to be found.)
As Mom walked to the car to leave, she casually said, “Goodbye, cruel world.” I was used to her final proclamations, and assumed I would see her after the evening ended. But I didn’t know when I would see my dad, if ever.
Settled at the concert like two opposing magnets, we sat behind a girl who scratched at her face and bawled at the first note from the band. As her frenzy progressed, one scream at a time, the buttons down her back came undone. The first one exposed her bra. I noticed right away that only one of the two closure hooks was fastened. A teenager’s bra hanging by one hook meant my date avoided looking at her, and I averted my gaze from his.
At the end of the last song, when the girl stood to go toward the exit aisle, her friends discovered her bare skin. With only the top button remaining closed, once again, they hit the high notes of hysteria. Someone threw a coat over her, and then stared at me like I might have done something to help. But I was impervious to her scorn, to the music of The Beach Boys, to my date’s attention. The only thing on my radar the night of my first concert, was an unraveling. And I was helpless to change it.