Friday, May 9, 2008

Sex in the suburbs

Elvis did it. He was my first. On the day it happened, I didn't really know what was going on. But my mother explained it to me. And no surprise, she was not happy. Actually I think both my parents were quite disturbed by the, uh, affair. Now before you start wondering about the sordid details of my teenage fling with Elvis, let me tell you the real story. It was May 25, 1956, and I was about to graduate from eighth grade at Paul Best School in Oak Park, Michigan, a boomtown suburb of Detroit. Rock ‘n’ roll had just launched its social bomb, knocking teens over with excitement while at the same time sending panic through the minds of parents who were convinced we teens were doomed to hell or reform school or both, depending on the individual families’ beliefs. We didn’t care. Rock ‘n’ roll was our music and no one was going to take it or its recording stars away from us. What none of us realized at the time was rock not only smashed music barriers but crossed racial lines. To us, there were no racial lines. There were no barriers, just great music. We loved our recording artists, all of them … Elvis, Bill Haley and the Comets, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price and countless others whose hit records, now relegated to the oldies stations, remain part of our generation’s legacy. Now to set the stage a bit more, fashions were very conserative by today's standards. Girls all wore casual dress clothes to school … dresses or skirts and blouses. Black felt poodle skirts were all the rage as were brown and white saddle shoes, even charcoal gray and pink saddles shoes and the ubiquitous penny loafers, all worn with heavy white bobby sox. On weekends, we’d jump into our Levis and white PF Flyers (1950s plain old gym shoes at $1.99 or $2.99, depending on the store), also with bobby sox and a sweater, blouse or boys’ shirt not tucked in. For school, the guys wore whatever kind of pants they wanted, even blue jeans. Slacks with little buckles on the tush and plaid button down collar shirts were just starting to make the male fashion scene in Oak Park. When Pat Boone hit the charts, clean cut boys hit the shoe stores for white bucks, just like young crooner's signature shoes. Now that I’ve set the scene in a little bit more detail, let me transport you back to that memorable spring day in 1956. Five of us girls skipped school, with our parents’ OK. The reason ... we went to the Fox Theatre in Detroit to see, yes, Elvis. Parents even drove and picked us up though most were not enamored with this hip swinging rock star nicknamed Elvis the Pelvis. We already had our $1.50 tickets in hand as Barbara's stepdad had picked them up for us weeks earlier. (Thanks to my friend Sharon Wells Burg in suburban Dallas who remembers the date and ticket price. She and I reconnected about a year ago via e-mail. We hadn't been in touch since high school.) The line outside the Fox Theatre was long and grew longer, but we had arrived early to see our rock ‘n’roll idol so we weren’t terribly far from the door. We must’ve been lined up for an hour or two before the Fox folk let us in. When those doors were thrown open, it was every person for herself as we dashed to the front for seating as close as possible. There was no such thing as reserved seating. Sharon wound up in the second row and subsequently was in an audience picture in Parade magazine. I wasn't that fast but managed to get a seat in the sixth row. As concert neophytes we expected Elvis to come on stage at showtime. Instead we endured some seemingly endless travelogue film. I don't recall the introduction, but when Elvis finally appeared, the entire audience of mostly girls went absolutely wild. I'm sure we couldn't hear Elvis over the nonstop screaming (including our own) but it didn’t matter. He was there, shaking and baking memories for a lifetime. When the show ended, around 5 p.m. I think, Sharon went back stage and managed to touch Elvis (his arm I think). The rest of us went outside where we were going to meet for our ride home. In fact, I had to get right home as I had a babysitting job that night across the street from our house. I went, even though I could not settle down. My insides were shaking, my body and mind felt so strange and I had absolutely no idea what was happening. I told Mom. Now you have to remember, back In the ‘50s, 13-year-olds were still virgins and in fact, na├»ve about sex. At least I was. Very naive. I asked my mother why I felt all shook up, inside and out. “You are sexually aroused,” she told me in her quite stern and matter-of-fact way. I had never heard the expression before and didn't really understand what she meant. But if Mom said I was sexually aroused, then that was it. My first time. My initial experience with sexual excitement. And now you know, Elvis was the first man who triggered my passion. I was quite taken with the strange new experience. Alas, as for Elvis, well he never even knew. I'd love to have told him but ... Elvis has left the building.

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photo by sarah gross

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Tinley Park, Illinois
As a longtime newspaperwoman who left the business to freelance, I want to keep in touch with the world. This is my place to reach out with words.