This is taken from my own experience at Lollapalooza ’94. I was sixteen and drifting away from my only two friends in high school. They had no idea what happened to me. I resented the fact that they went to so many parties while I had a 9pm weekends-only curfew. They teased me because I couldn’t hold my liquor like they could. They knew I regularly saw older dudes behind my parents’ back. At the time, I believe they were both virgins. I once heard someone say that in a group of three girls, there’s always the nice one, the smart one, and the slutty one. I was number three.
Anyway, we got into an argument while we were waiting in line. I still don’t remember what it was all about. It was bad enough that once we got to the gates, I told them to fuck off and walked away. Something I’ve been wanting to do for months. Unfortunately, they were also my ride home, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to have fun without feeling so lonely amongst my friends.
Doing stupid yet liberating things was one of my talents. You could say I was ruled by impulse. By the act of running away. It was such a precious, fleeting thing to me.
Lollapalooza ’94 came to town during one of the hottest days of the summer. By the Green Day came on, my arms and face and scalp were already burnt. My throat ached for water while it seeped from my pores. But that didn’t matter. I was drunk on the smell of sweat and smoke and booze. Only a few people in the crowd knew me. And they probably wouldn’t be able to find me. Alone, I instantly lost ten pounds and walked taller. I told myself that if I was going meet a guy, he had to be my age and attractive. No skinny yet flabby creeps in his their twenties with way too many gray hairs. Surely I could do better than that on a day like this. It was the most self-assured I felt for months.
Until L7 came on.
They opened their set with “Deathwish,” which was fitting. The band was exactly how I imagined them to be. Beautiful and raucous. Larger than life on the tall, barricaded stage. After everything that happened to me, the desire to be up there one day was still alive. But being front and center was just as good. I danced and sang along and didn’t give a fuck.
A few songs in, I felt a presence behind me. Whoever it was made my shoulders tight. Made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. When I turned around, the first thing I saw was my two reflections in a pair of mirrored Oakley sunglasses. The rest of him was slightly taller than me. Long brown hair and a receding hairline. Skin tanned so deeply it looked like leather. I turned back around. Sought comfort in L7. Tried to pretend there wasn’t some creepy guy behind me, but he got hard to ignore once he started rubbing himself against me. I stopped screaming and thrashing around. When I looked down, I saw his hands slipping into the front of my tank top while he humped me from behind. Security, who was right in front of me, didn’t do anything. Everyone around me magically faced forward. Pretended this wasn’t happening during L7. They’re the ones who organized Rock For Choice and inspired many girls to start bands, but here I was, too much of a dead girl to stop someone from molesting me in public.
That was when I realized I shouldn’t have ditched my friends.
At one point, Donita Sparks looked in my direction and yelled, “Leave her alone! She just wants to rock!”
But he didn’t leave me alone. And repulsed as I was, I still hung out with him after the show. When I really think about it, the first thing that comes to mind is that I was powerless when he was sexually harassing me, and I somehow thought I could get it back by hanging out with him.
His name was Bob. He claimed to be 25 and from Fullerton, which was half an hour away. His shorts were too short and I don’t know why he even wore moccasins in a mosh pit. But he told me that I was hot and beautiful and pretty. I told him my name was Jennifer and I was 17. That I really missed my boyfriend, who was in jail for attempted murder. He had his sunglasses on the whole time. Probably knew I was bullshitting him, but wanted to fuck me, anyway.
I asked him if he was going to rape me. His answer? Yes.
Luckily we were sitting in the field and surrounded by people, so he could never do it. In the distance, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played songs that were out of place on such a sunny day. They were the kind of dark, romantic songs you listened to with your lover. Not some gross guy named Bob.
So I told him I was into tying up men and beating them. I loved using whips and chains, but only on other people. What about a wooden paddle, Bob? Or a black leather paddle with lots of metal spikes? And yes, Bob, I would love to piss and shit all over you.
He seemed to take it all in stride. Showed me yellowing teeth every time he smiled. But then, he looked at his watch and told me he had to go find some of his friends. I remained sitting on the field after he got up and left. Watched the rest of Nick Cave’s set alone.
I didn’t see him the rest of the day. But after him, I was in no mood to meet any more guys. So I spent my time singing and moshing and crowd-surfing as best as I could. Anything to make me feel like my old self again.
I ran into my estranged friends in the parking lot later that night. They told me to get into the car. We drove back in silence. Once school started, I knew we wouldn’t be talking anymore. We wouldn’t until a decade later, when we were twenty-seven and decided to put it all behind us.
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