A Story about a 1D Concert
Some things in this world just have to be experienced rather than enjoyed.
Even though I love being outdoors, I can also admit that a long day of climbing can be rough. Especially if it is raining. But rough days both build and reveal our character.
And often the reward for your trouble is something so unexpectedly beautiful that you quickly forget all the scrapes and bruises you acquired on the way. Like an incredible view after a hard climb, a hard wrought moment of joy after a trial can make you love life all over again.
Hard days usually show up without invitation, but sometimes we shell out inordinate amounts of money for the pleasure of having our character tested, like when we pay to enter theme parks or buy tickets to sit on long haul airplane rides.
Or go to boy band concerts.
Last week I stood in a crowd of 64000 screaming girls to see One Direction, a privilege I paid real money for in the form of a Christmas gift to our daughter.
The day began much like many other travel journeys, hopping a bus and then a train to Edinburgh.
Standing room only train journeys are great for testing your patience and stamina, and I felt I was up to the challenge. A bit tired from flying in the night before, I was determined to have a great attitude and adventurous spirit about this long anticipated day. Eye rolls and sighs from my teenage daughter would not deter me from being ‘fun mom’ today, even as I cringed against being grouped with all the other forty something mothers on the train trying to look hip/young/cool enough to be on our way to a teeny bopper concert. The fact that we were all wearing converse ‘trainers’ made it hard to maintain the illusion that I was different from them even if I wasn’t sporting 1D face paint on my cheeks.
I closed my eyes and used my ten square inches of space to breathe in,
This is me.
And breathe out,
I am a forty-year old mother of teenagers.
I embrace who I am.
I am grateful for my journey.
The long ride ended with an announcement from Mary Polly that she wanted to go straight to the venue to get in line, a plan we had both previously rejected as ridiculous. But now that she had seen how crowded the train was, she would not be deterred from going straight to the stadium to get in line. It was 1:30pm.
I let her go on and I joined her in line a bit later. At 5pm, they opened the doors and we shuffled along with the record breaking crowd of screaming (mostly) girls to enter Murrayfield, Edinburgh’s rugby stadium that has opened its pitch to concerts a few times in the past to the likes of The Rolling Stones and Madonna.
We quickly claimed our spot in the blue standing section, and for the next five hours we waged a war to hold on to our few inches of space on the ground.
Mary Polly was in front of me and not really up for chatting (or even pretending that she knew who I was) so I had these precious hours all to myself to stand and wonder at the spectacle around me.
The first three hours of standing passed before the concert actually began. Less than an hour in, I am sorry to say that the darkness of my heart was winning out over my endurance. A low point was when I started passing the time by coming up with a list of things I would bring with me in the unlikely event that I ever paid money to be tortured in this way again. And I am only a little ashamed to say that the list was dominated by items useful for quiet revenge on the several girls who shoved their way through and threatened to separate me from my daughter.
I wished for a bottle of something sticky to pour into backpacks being used as leverage to get past me.
Also, chewing gum. These girls had worked hard to look their best for Harry and the boys, and the way they flipped their hair had me overwhelmed. Could I have helped it if pieces of chewing gum semi-randomly moved from my mouth to the ponytail that slapped me in the face for the tenth time?
I am happy to report that I moved past revenge fantasies to despairing over the state of our society and popular music in general. For our ‘entertainment’ several pop music videos were looping on the screen to add fodder to the arguments in my head that my teenage daughter has a long battle ahead of her to keep from comparing herself to the soft porn images of the likes of Little Mix. It must be difficult to become a brilliant scientist when all the world wants is a Troublemaker?
Thankfully, the opening act, Five Seconds of Summer, came on and sang the three songs for which we had already seen the videos, presumably so we would know the words. It was mildly distracting from my ongoing endurance test but quickly it was over, only to be followed by more waiting, more showing of the same videos and more standing our ground in the pack of frenzied ‘directioners.’
I watched with jealousy as those with reserved seats ambled in at 8 pm and sat down. They paid less for their tickets and so they were not treated to the extra four to eight hours of standing. It seemed like they had so much room all around them. Look how they could wave their arms or spin in a circle.
I considered leaving Mary Polly and heading to the back of the section, where I could draw a breath that someone else had not just exhaled, but a stubbornness inside me made me stay. I wanted to have this experience with her even if she wasn’t exactly all ‘Concert Selfie with my Awesome Mama!’ Later we would compare leg cramps and injuries, and she would be horrified that I would ever consider putting gum in someone’s hair.
I wouldn’t really, I told her, though I know that in the moment I was probably capable of worse.
And so I stayed. And around 9pm, One Direction took the stage and began to sing.
Well sort of. Mostly the crowd sang. Harry had a cold (poor lamb) and so while the other guys filled in, he flirted with the crowd. I think that’s what he was doing. I was not particularly undone by his rubbing water bottles on his skin and then throwing them out in the crowd for girls to dive after, but if the desired response is to get young concert goers to toss thousand-dollar cell phones on stage, then it was definitely working.
Niall, the Chino House favorite, mostly because he hails from Ireland, was all earnest expressions of gratitude and heart-warming performance, which almost made up for the fact that Zayn said it was great to be in Manchester.
Louis and Liam also helped sing Harry’s parts and attempted to match Niall’s energy, but none of it really mattered. It didn’t take much for the crowd to go ‘crazy, crazy, crazy!’
The screams were deafening.
23 songs later it all ended with fireworks and explosions of streamers, and with everyone wishing they could dance all night to the best song ever.
Was it the mountain vista after the long day of climbing or the moment of euphoria and clarity after a hard journey?
Well, you’ll have to ask Mary Polly.
But maybe wait ten years.
Because my guess is that this experience won’t even figure into the story of her life.