Pat Benatar Saved My Life

It was the summer before I entered the 6th grade for the second time. Donna and I were at our dads house, we were watching America Bandstand on TV, Dick Clark introduced a new singer, Pat Benatar. She sang Heartbreaker and I was mesmerized. I wanted to be her.  I wanted to dress like her, sing like her, wear my hair like her, be as cool as her.

Most teenage girls have their obsessions, their "Idols" I know my obsession was nothing out of the ordinary. Her music was my escape and escape is not a bad thing when you're a kid and your life sucks. I had been sexually abused by a man my mother married briefly. I had failed the 6th grade, only saw my dad once or twice a year, we were poor and I didn't have cool clothes. I had the most horrid mouth full of crooked teeth, a nose that ran all the time and stinky feet from wearing the same socks for more then one day out of necessity. But I could sing and music was my happy place. It was my escape from my childhood and then my adolescence, it made life bearable, it gave me an outlet, it made me happy.

And now I would learn to sing all of Pat Benatar's songs.

I remember when I received my first Pat Benatar Cassette, I was 14 and my friend Kelly gave it to me for Christmas. It was the "Crimes of Passion" album. Kelly's mom owned a record store so she gave everyone music that Christmas. I couldn't afford to buy music myself so I was excited to now have a real Pat Benatar cassette. Kelly even gave me a Pat Benatar sticker! I put it on the huge boom box that my dad had gotten me. I felt so cool.

Everyday after school I would spend hours in my room listening to Pat. I should have been doing homework, but instead I would stand in front of my full length mirror singing into a hair brush. I sang and dreamed and worked on my stage presence. Boy alone in my room, in front of that mirror, I had great moves.

I wanted to look like Pat too, but since I didn't have money to shop, I'd steal bandana's from the local western store and tie them around one ankle or one wrist.  One afternoon I gave myself a Pat Benatar hair cut. My mother had to take me and get it shaped up at a real hair salon but I didn't do that bad of a job on it really.

Sometime she would wear mismatched earrings, a big dangley one and a small one. I didn't have my ears pierced, and again, couldn't afford to go get them pierced, so I got some ice and safety pins and pierced them myself. I didn't even have earrings so the safety pins were still in my ears the next morning when I walked out into the kitchen for breakfast.

"What the Hell, Carole Sue?!" My mother shrieked when she saw safety pins dangling from my ears.

"I pierced my ears."

"You don't even have earrings!" She screamed and stormed off to finish getting ready for work.

I wore my safety pins to school that day. I felt cool and ridiculous at the same time.

Of course mom had to buy me some earrings now.

10th grade saw the pinnacle of my Pat Benatar obsession. I entered a lot of talent competitions and I usually sang a Pat Benatar song. One time at a football game I heard guys behind me singing "fire and Ice" and several other Pat songs like they were trying to annoy me or make fun of me but I was flattered and loved that they thought I looked like her.

I watched Fast Times at Ridgemont High and saw the "Pat Benatar Girls" and I couldn't believe they had stolen my idea! How dare they copy me for a movie and not give me credit. Certainly there weren't Pat Benatar wannabes anywhere else, I was the one and only! The original!

The summer after my 10th grade year I was to give away my crown, I had been Miss Firecracker 1984, but now it was time to crown a new queen to take her place on the throne (AKA riding atop a Corvette Convertible in the 4th of July Parade) and I was asked to perform one last time as Miss Firecracker. I chose to sing "It's a Little Too Late". As the announcer introduced me she said "And this ones for Jimmy." (my ex-boyfriend)  I strutted onto the stage, holding the mic down by my side, turned my back to the crowd..

"Bap-a-pa-bap-a" went the drum intro..
I turned around, pointed to the crowd and belted out, "I heard you had a good offer down on third avenue..." I sang with all the intensity of a 15 year old beauty pageant queen bitten by love and stung by rejection.

It was theatrical, everything was bigger and more dramatic than it actually was but in that moment, it was perfect. Jimmy had been properly called out, I had nailed the song and the crowd loved it. Just like a scene from a movie.

I'd like to tell you that I didn't stray from Pat but that would be a lie. By the time I was 17 I had thrown away all of my Pat Benatar music for Jesus. I had been convinced that she and all her kind were "of the devil" so I had to repent of her music, her place in my world had to be replaced with "Christian" music. I was intense and sincere in my repentance of all "secular" music but then I'd go into a record store and a twinge of regret would come over me, "What have I done!? Why did I throw those cassettes away? I miss Pat!" Then I'd feel guilty again.

As I aged out of my teens and into my 20's I would occasionally go buy more Pat Benatar music and then feel guilty and go throw them away again.

It was a vicious cycle.

How could Pat be "of the devil" when her music had helped me so much?

I couldn't ponder that question for long, it was simple, she wasn't singing about Jesus. That was it right?

Finally one day, Ammye and I were shopping and she saw me eying one of Pat's cassettes in the record store, "Don't buy that and then a month from now feel guilty and throw it away!" She told me sternly.

I walked to the cashier, payed for the cassette, went out to the car, stuck it in the tape deck and never looked back again.

Pat wasn't "of the devil" she was my escape vessel for a sad girl. Her music brought me joy, peace, strength and dreams.

And for several years she had saved my life.

This bloody road remains a mystery
This sudden darkness fills the air
What are we waiting for?
Won't anybody help us?
What are we waiting for?

We can't afford to be innocent
Stand up and face the enemy
It's a do or die situation
We will be invincible


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