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Indecent Exposure

Indecent Exposure Art“I’m afraid to let you go in there,” I tell my 15-year-old daughter Sophia as I pull into the parking lot of the Amity Teen Center. Three tattooed boys in their early 20s laden with chains, studded leather pants, and black lipstick linger at the door.

“Stay here,” I say, directing Sophia and her two friends to sit in the car.

“We came all the way here, Mom,” Sophia says. “It’s a teen center. It’s the battle of the bands.”

Heavy metal bands, I know now, seeing the crowd. This is typical of Sophia, my oldest daughter, setting me up for something I did not expect. I had promised last Thursday that I would take her to the concert. She had been grounded for sneaking out of the house and had not been out. She wore me down, somehow making me the bad one for having grounded her. Only Sophia can twist me up like this. But we’re here now and I could turn this into the umpteenth argument of the day or I could tell myself I’m trying to understand my daughter and her love of thrashing music and black hair dye.

I’m scared for Sophia; how little control I have in protecting her. She is my child who blows apart boundaries and takes unmitigated risks. Should I let her go in and mingle with these older boys? Will she come out tattooed and pierced?

I reason with myself. I’ll be in the teen center parking lot outside for the next three hours, able to go in at any moment if she needs me. I let her go.

“Come back if you need me, honey,” I say. “I’ll be right here.” The girls get out. “Text me when you get in, just so I know,” I shout. “Do you need money?” Not even the mention of cash slows Sophia down. She and her girlfriends speed walk away from me and towards the entrance. They are dressed in black, but no tattoos or pierced eyebrows in the trio. The tallest of the three boys at the entrance gives Sophia a high-five when she passes them to go in.

I wait five minutes then walk over to the boys. “You in the band?” I ask and they stop talking to stare at me. I am in white jeans and a blue button-up blouse. The boy with the ring in his nose and spider web tattoo on the corner of his eye looks at me. “We are,” he says, and he smiles, his voice normal like my son’s voice. I don’t know what I expected. “Meet the members of Indecent Exposure,” he says. “I’m Tack, this is Freeze, and that’s Jebs.” I reach out my hand for a handshake, notice the skull ring on Tack’s middle finger. I wonder how I would feel if Sophia brought one of these boys home for dinner.

“When do you go on?” I ask.

“Around 9:00 p.m. Right after Maniax, they’re awesome,” Tack says. I imagine myself in this parking lot for the next three hours. Then imagine myself going inside to see the band, which is way worse.

“Do you know if there is a place I can get a bite to eat while my daughter’s in there?”

“Subway, four shops down,” Freeze says, his tall grasshopper-thin legs straight and endless.

“You brought your daughter,” Tack, says. “Where from?”

“About an hour from here” I say.

“That’s cool.”

“Can I take your photo?” I ask.

Sophia would kill me. “Sure,” Tack says. I snap a photo with my phone and wonder what Tack’s mother said about the eye tattoo. What was she thinking, letting him do that to his great face? I laugh at myself and the way I fantasize that a mother has that much control over her teenage kid.

“Good luck tonight,” I say, “I’ll pop my head in at 9:00 p.m. to watch.”

“Hey thanks,” Freeze says, turning to go inside.

In the car, I feel a little reassured after talking with the band. They were nice boys, kind of regular. Still, I wonder how Sophia, my 96-pound metal head, got into this crowd. The way she ventures as far from me as possible, and the way I still think I have some control over her.

“All good?” I text Sophia. No response from my rebellious little black sheep, who is no doubt inside projecting her tough image, despite her small figure, beautiful green eyes, and long dark hair that shines like seal skin.

The music is so loud it vibrates my car, quickens my heart rate. I eat my 6-inch turkey sandwich and text the photo of Tack, Freeze and Jebs to my brother Tom. “Here is what I’m up to” I text. Ironically he is at the One Direction concert in Chicago, a bubble-gum pop band, with my niece, who’s the same age as Sophia. “You’re a better person than me, LOL” Tom texts back. He knows I have struggled with Sophia ever since she was born over a 38-hour time frame. Ever since she became my self-declared vegetarian at age seven, and later my budding Buddhist, then my ball of rebellion once she hit high school this year.

And because of the choices she’s made, and the boulders we’ve hit head on, I toggle through the guilt that falls somewhere between my feeling like the worst mother ever and feeling that she is a difficult teenager. Even when she was a toddler, she danced her own way (in spirals), ate her own way (chopsticks), and talked her own way (“I prefer not to”). But the truth is I loved her early show of independence when she was little, as much as it frustrated me, and I often admire her ability now to jump into situations, unthinking, yet confident.

It’s after 9:00 p.m. Sophia has not replied to my texts. I have to go in. Sophia sits on a ripped leather couch to the side of the stage, rocking gently, smiling, happy in her little spot, a girl with a shaved head sitting next to her. Perhaps she has been looking for a place to fit in and she has found it, in the midst of loud music and other kids who orbit differently – though not necessarily in a bad way.

She sees me as I move toward the five or so other parents who have braved the onslaught of sound and are standing against the wall by the foosball tables. Sophia seems unmoved by my presence. She doesn’t care that I am here and I admire that, knowing if my mother showed up at a concert when I was 15 I would have been mortified. Sophia accepts me, and I need to do the same for her I think.

In the center of the room, dozens of kids let their long hair fly, or their spiked hair redirect, drumming their heads against imaginary posts. Tangible teenage angst, the same as I felt as a teen when I rocked to The Who’s Teenage Wasteland. In that moment, I see myself at all those rock concerts in my past, not quite fitting in until the music started and we were all bound together by sound and lyrics.

On stage, Tack, Freeze, and Jebs have summoned movie star personas. They’re more than a little scary under the black and blue stage lights screaming violent lyrics over the sound of amped guitars.

Two songs in and I’m caught on the periphery of a mosh pit. Something Sophia mentioned once. A dozen boys and a few bold girls form a square on the perimeter of the stage floor then start to run toward each other, meeting in the middle, slamming their bodies into each other with some force, picking each other up if one falls. Please God don’t let Sophia get off that couch I think. Tack has jumped off the stage and fallen. But a mob of people help him up.

Sophia walks over to me. “Moshing, Mom?” she screams in my ear as the crowd disperses back into a stance facing the band, the moshing seamlessly ended. This scene has put some fear in me now; my stomach is trembling. I’ve had enough.

“We have to go,” I say. “This is nuts.” She tells me she is having fun, then pleads, “Just one more band, Mom. Oath of Insanity is next. It’s all good.” She turns toward the restroom. I don’t follow her in. I decide she can stay, or did she make the decision by walking away?

“Come out when it’s over. Immediately when it’s over,” I say, giving her my stern look and voice, which I know mean nothing.

I return to my spot by the wall and she eventually comes out of the bathroom and begins to dance, by herself in the crowd, her friends off playing ping pong now. A boy with a blue-haired crew cut and gauged ears dances in time with her. I sense the future, all the potential dangers as I let her go on being herself. As she dances, her long hair sails. She is raw and unadorned. She is my daughter, though not the daughter I expected.

She is way better.

Author’s Note:  Some months after this concert, I took Sophia to see The Who. “They’re really old,” she said.

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This entry was written by Marcelle Soviero

About the author: Marcelle Soviero is Editor-in-Chief of Brain, Child and the author of An Iridescent Life: Essays on Motherhood and Stepmotherhood.

Marcelle Soviero

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