There’s nothing more exciting than being fifteen and going to your first concert--unless you’re going to a Tom Jones concert with your mother and grandmother. While the law of nature dictates that parents exist solely to embarrass their teenagers, some visions go beyond the maximum allowable humiliation. When I saw my mother dancing around the living room, brandishing free tickets and singing “It’s Not Unusual,” I immediately began calculations on how much cement it would take to seal myself in my room until high school graduation.
Before I could escape, she saw me and sprung into action. To this day, I still think I could have outrun her if I had less mousse in my hair. That stuff was not aerodynamic.
“You’re going to the concert with me!” she squealed.
I whipped out my best eyeroll. “Moth-er! No!”
To a teenager in the 1980s whose hormones were fine-tuned to Eddie Van Halen and Prince, being confronted with Tom Jones is like seeing Freddy Kruger in bicycle shorts: it’s creepy and uncomfortable on levels you don’t even understand yet. All pleas were in vain. She had the double whammy of parenting: free entertainment and a custom-made bonding experience. I would have been happier if they used real glue.
On the night of the concert, the three of us piled into the car. I smuggled a book into the back seat, but “Atlas Shrugged” was promptly confiscated by the parental authority.
“You are not going to read at this event,” my mother sighed. “But we’ll get you a t-shirt.”
During the hour-long ride to the amphitheater, I heard my supposed female role models giggling like mad schoolgirls, cracking jokes about the swivel potential of Mr. Jones’ hips, and singing repeated off-key performances of “What’s New Pussycat?” Which somehow lead to more giggling, and the circle began anew.
We sat a mere two rows from the stage, slightly off center. The music started up and he strutted out in all his gyrating glory. When unmentionables started flying over my head, I checked to make sure Mom’s panty lines were intact. I wasn’t too worried about my grandma; it would have taken some true acrobatics to get her out of those bloomers. If she did throw them, they would just cover him like a B-movie ghost. Other women were picking up the undie-tossing slack, though. He picked up a pair, made an off-color comment, and stayed close to the edge.
At that moment, I felt something tickle the back of my head. A wisp of pink nylon clouded my vision and I realized a pair of bikini underwear was caught in my over-moussed curls. I screamed, shook them off and stomped on the offending garment like it was a burly spider in Viking armor. Stunned, I looked up. Tom Jones was looking at me. He mistook my scream of horror for a shriek of delight. He smiled, winked and kept singing. My face beat the color of the trampled panties by several shades.
My mother never noticed. She thought he was looking at her.
I never got that t-shirt, but between that $20 and the money I saved giving up hair product cold turkey, I had enough for a few Van Halen albums and better speakers. Revenge was a dish best served with a maxed-out volume knob.