“I am still every age that I have been. Because I was once a child, I am always a child. Because I was once a searching adolescent, given to moods and ecstasies, these are still part of me, and always will be…” – Madeleine L’Engle
Last weekend, my daughter and I took a road trip up to Charlotte, NC, to see Amelia’s favorite band, One Direction, at the PNC Pavilion. To be clear, “favorite band” is a massive understatement. It’s like calling the San Francisco Giants my husband’s “favorite baseball team.” In both cases, we’re not talking about mere favor or even strong preference – we’re talking about fanatical devotion… and, in the case of my daughter, something akin to romantic love. One Direction is the closest thing my 13-year-old has – or ever has had – to a boyfriend. Five boy friends, actually: Harry, Liam, Zayn, Louis and Niall, each more adorable than the last, right down to their charming British accents. Swoon.
To be honest, I’d been dreading this trip since the moment we planned it back in July. Amelia talked me into using her grandmother’s birthday money to buy us two lawn seats and one night in a Charlotte hotel. I said “yes” to the plan in a moment of weakness and affection; Amelia was ecstatic and I knew I wouldn’t have to deal with it for a while. Seemed like a win-win at the time.
But then the weekend was upon us. Yikes! Nothing about it appealed to me, starting with the whole idea of One Direction. A British boy band manufactured by Simon Cowell? Ew. (That was my uneducated, uninitiated opinion. I’ve now seen the light.) Also, I don’t like driving on the Interstate, don’t like navigating city traffic, don’t like the general hassle of travel. Whether on the road or in the air, the details fluster me – I’m quite high strung – which is why I typically pawn them off on my very capable husband. But this was a Girls’ Road Trip – “it’s the perfect mother/daughter show” Amelia had said, melting my heart – and Jeff wasn’t invited. So into the hassle I plunged.
And it wasn’t too bad. Jeff had written out meticulous directions to our every destination – he knows how I am – and I didn’t get lost once, though my heart thrummed a few times, when an exit snuck up on me or a lane suddenly disappeared from beneath my car. Check-in at the hotel went off without a hitch – that can be fluster-some, too – and before we knew it, there we were, sitting in our lawn chairs under a gorgeous, pink-streaked sky, waiting for the opening band to appear.
We were surrounded by mothers and daughters – and the occasional trooper of a father – but most of the girls had friends with them. They were in groups. The basic scene broke down like this: clusters of young girls dancing and squealing near clusters of middle-aged moms sitting and drinking. (Giant beers were available for only $11!) But Amelia and I were on our own. Just a mom and a daughter. Together. Alone.
This worried me at first. Not for myself – I was perfectly content in my lawn chair with my giant beer – but for Amelia. She seemed awkward and embarrassed and unsure of what to do. She had nobody to dance with. Nobody to squeal with. Compounding the problem was the fact that she didn’t know the first band, 5 Seconds of Summer, or their music very well… so she wasn’t propelled from teenage self-consciousness into blissful abandon when they took the stage. (Some girls were. Oh, were they ever!) But as the sun went down, she seemed to grow looser and more comfortable – darkness will do that – and by the end of the 5SOS set, her head was bobbing with the best of ‘em. I stopped my fretting and bobbed along. The giant beer helped.
Intermission between bands was excruciating – almost an hour long, but it felt like five. Every time a new song blared from the loudspeaker, a collective groan went up as thousands of girls, near rabid with anticipation, realized it wasn’t One Direction. Again.
But then, finally – blessedly – it was. The crunchy chords of “Midnight Memories” split the darkness, lights came up, and suddenly, on a huge screen behind the stage, there was Harry Styles, dreaminess personified, larger than life. Much larger. (It’s amazing what they can do with live video at concerts now. No matter how far back you sit, you’re right there.) My daughter – morose and whiny mere seconds earlier – leapt to her feet screaming. And then she screamed some more. In fact, a cacophony of girl screams filled the brisk night air. And you know what? I screamed, too. I am still a girl, after all, and those 1D boys are CUTE; their charisma’s off the charts. Think Beatles, circa 1964.
(You scoff, but the British-born One Direction is currently the #1 band in the world, having sold 45 million albums. Everywhere they go, stadiums overflow with screaming, weeping, fainting girls. The comparison is not far-fetched. And by the way, the Beatles never looked this good.)
Most of all, and maybe most important, One Direction is romantic. Where else can a young girl find romance in our crass, porn-ified pop culture? The culture has changed since the Beatles first appeared on the scene, but girls haven’t. Not much. If you ask me, this is the secret to 1D’s success.
The rest of the night is a big, beautiful blur. Some thoughts, impressions and advice . . .
- Smart phones have completely changed the way kids (and probably many adults) experience concerts. Not only were all the girls holding up phones and iPads, recording video and taking pictures throughout the show – but half the time, they were watching their tiny screens instead of the stage, and futzing around with their equipment. “If you don’t record it, it didn’t really happen” seems to be the underlying philosophy. This can’t be good. When you’re working so hard to capture the moment, you’re not really living the moment, are you? Eventually, Amelia’s phone died, and after a brief panic, she put it in her back pocket . . . and that’s when she really gave herself over to the thrill of the show. (A mother notices these things.)
- If you decide to take your child to a concert, spend some time beforehand listening to the band’s music. It’s a nice thing to do for your kid, and it will enhance your own experience ten-fold. By the time we got to Charlotte last weekend, I was so familiar with 1D’s oeuvre, I knew almost every song they performed. And I actually liked them. These are classic pop songs with catchy hooks and melodies that stick with you; and some of the ballads are pretty enough to make you cry.
- If you’re a crier, go for it. I did . . . with my daughter. What a rare gift. Amelia does not take after me in the emotions department; while I’m a weeper, she’s a stoic. But Saturday night, she wept. Several times. During the beautiful love song “Little Things,” she turned to me and said, “Oh, Mom,” as tears poured down her face. I had been standing behind her – a ways back, to give her space – but now she backed into my arms and let me hold her, and we both cried over the sweetness of the song, the wonder of the night, and our heart-piercing proximity to her beloveds. I’m not sure if she was my little girl or my best friend in that moment. Both, I think.
- Dance if you feel like it. I did. If I’m going to give up my weekend, drive four hours each way, deal with city traffic, listen to a bunch of pop songs all the way there (and for weeks beforehand), and spend a whole lot of money… I’m going all in, baby. And that means dancing. Was Amelia embarrassed? Of course. But, again, I stood behind her. She was not fully aware of just how “all in” I went – and by the end of the concert, she was too overwrought and over-the-moon to care. As we slowly moved en masse toward the parking lot – where we would spend the next hour stuck, but too happy to mind – a woman I didn’t recognize said to Amelia, “I think you have a really cool Mom.”
“Why would she say that?” I wondered aloud.
“Duh, Mom…” said Amelia, sounding blissed-out and spent. “You were singing every song and totally dancing.”
“Oh. So, you’re saying that makes me a cool mom?”
“I didn’t say that,” she laughed, taking my hand and leading me toward our car. “I didn’t say that at all.”