Knowing that I have my most important life event this evening, the perfect outfit just isn’t enough. I need something extra. So, I’ve come prepared with a pack of frosty lilac colored Lee Press On Nails. My plan is to apply them on the bus ride home from school. I’m fairly certain that my mother will not be terribly happy about it, but less likely that she will make me go to the trouble of taking them off if I have already put in the work.
Naturally, the kids on the bus make fun of me while I adhere plastic nails to my tiny fingers.
“That’s not normal,” they say. Unfazed, I carry on with my beauty business. I always knew that normal got you nowhere.
“Say whatever you want, but I am going to see Debbie Gibson in concert tonight and you are not.“ That shut ‘em down.
Once home, I have a light snack of chocolate Teddy Grahams with milk and I half-assedly rush through my homework. If all of the blanks are full on my reading worksheet, then that will be good enough. I have places to be and Debbie to see.
I pull my awaiting ensemble out from the back of my closet. Its moment has finally arrived. I carefully dress myself. Stunning! Now, I must get my hair just right or more importantly, my bangs. What was a girl in the 80’s if her bangs weren’t banging? After a twenty-minute session with my curling iron, Goody bristle brush, and Rave hairspray, my hair is coiffed to teenage wannabe perfection. The sun is starting to set and we are out the door and in for a long drive. The Omni in downtown Atlanta seemed quite a haul from the suburbs we lived in outside of the city.
As we walk into the enormous arena, I am filled with so much excitement and wonder, I am completely overwhelmed. I have never seen anything like this. My biggest adventure thus far had been going to a movie theater or my brother’s high school football games. This was a real coo. I could feel the energy of all the excited concertgoers around me. I made sure to stick close to my mother and brother. I had never been around a crowd like this before. It was a bit unnerving.
We find an usher and walk down a level through the arena. Greeted by another usher, he checks our tickets and directs us down another level. This continues as we are escorted through a sea of teenage girls in black bowler hats, all the way down to the floor. We find our seats and they are very close to the stage, about twenty five rows back. The view is incredible; I can’t believe it and I can only imagine what my eyes are about to see in front of me.
As we settle in, I look around in complete awe. Billy Joel is blasting over the speakers. A group of drunken teenagers are sitting directly behind us. They are wearing sunglasses and flailing around as they loudly belt out “Piano Man.” After one of the young gentlemen falls from his chair and bumps me, my mother swiftly turns and gives them a polite yet sharp southern scolding a la Julia Sugarbaker of Designing Women. They quickly shut down their Piano Man party.
Just then, the lights come down and the swell of the cheering crowd takes over my head. It is a sound I have never heard before. It engulfs my whole being as chills run down my spine. Debbie Gibson runs out on stage. She is spectacular. Her energy lights up the entire arena. And of course, she’s wearing her signature black bowler hat. She bops around on stage and sings my favorite songs. I am electrified. I am an Electric Youth!
After a couple of numbers, my mom leaves. I guess she’s heading to the restroom but she is going to miss all the good stuff! I am jamming out with my brother to one of my favorite songs that never was a hit, “Should’ve Been the One” when she returns. I yell over the music, “Where’d you go?”
“Oh, nowhere,” she sing-songily says with a huge sly smile. She’s up to something, but what? My attention is brought back to Debbie as she leaves the stage. The concert is all could have ever hoped for. My heart is bursting with teen idol adoration. I feel cooler for being here.
The band jams out for about fifteen minutes. Where did Debbie go? Is she coming back? Was that it? My mom assures me that she is coming back, that the show is not over, but I am skeptical. She hasn’t even performed “Electric Youth” or “Only in my Dreams” yet, how could she leave us like that? I am truly worried.
Suddenly a man in plain clothes and a backstage pass around his neck appears next to me and motions to my mother. She tells me to come with her as she follows him. I trail behind, even more worried than before. Am I in trouble? What is going on? I don’t want to miss Debbie when she comes back on stage? Why isn’t my brother coming with us? I need answers but I can’t ask any because it is so loud. All I can do is follow my mom and this strange, official man.
At some point, I realize that we are heading backstage. WHAT IS HAPPENING!? We get to a stopping point and my mom turns to me. “Do you want to dance on stage with Debbie?”
Ummm, yes. That’s all I have ever wanted in my entire life, everyday, since I have known that Debbie Gibson existed in this world. I have daydreamed about being a dancer in her music videos on the daily. “YES!” I exclaim as I ferociously jump up and down. I quickly cut myself off from movement that might create too much wind, as I must ensure that I don’t ruin my bangs before I make it to the stage.
The next thing I know, my mom is signing a waiver and I am waiting at the base of the stairs that lead to the stage. The stage manager has let me know when Debbie comes to the top of the stairs, I am to walk up and take her hand. From there she will lead us all on stage.
“Then what?” I shakily ask.
“Then, you dance!” he tells me.
Coincidentally, my brother had given me some freestyle dance lessons just a few weeks before. I was a dancer and was used to performing, but I only knew routines, I wasn’t familiar with free styling. My bro was a break-dancer, knew all the cool moves, and had imparted his 80’s dance wisdom upon me. The timing was impeccable.
As we are anxiously waiting, an overly excited young Asian man takes control of my arms, waves them wildly in the air and operatically sings, “AREN’T YOU SO EXCITED WE GET TO DANCE WITH DEBBIEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Only my mother could read through my stone face that was actually shock and discomfort and she politely requested that the fired up fan keep his stranger danger to himself.
Suddenly the stage manager shouts, “Okay, kids get ready!”
My mouth goes dry and I’m pretty sure all the color has drained out of my face. This combination of fear and excitement is nothing I have ever felt before. I look up and I see a hand moving toward me, It is Debbie Gibson’s hand. Right in front of my face…
Part III coming next week!
© Sarah Blackman 2015