There Is Only One Direction
May 12, 2015 8:15 a.m.
One Direction has sold out Gillette Stadium. That’s 70,000 people in the New England Patriots’ home arena. A generous tally would have a hundred males in attendance. Most of these men are fathers checking sports scores on their devices, ignoring their daughter’s hysterical antics. There are no boys at 1D shows except the boys. The boyfriends stayed away, as did 1D’s gay fans despite the lush homoeroticism of Harry, Zayn, Liam, Niall, and Louis strutting onstage in tight jeans. This is Girl Land.
In the five years since Simon Cowell plucked five teenagers from a slush pile of U.K. talent-show losers and squashed them into a boy band, 1D has become a massive weather system traveling the globe, chasing summer nights. One world tour ends in the States as the next starts up in Australia and every night that they perform, no matter the continent, a temporary city of girls appears. I love it here. I love girls, my three girls in particular. But I also love the hormonal girls who fill the ranks of 1D’s fans, Directioners. They are unembarrassed by their extreme passions. They are honestly mad for love or whatever chemistry the band is brewing in their bodies. The documentary film Crazy About One Direction records one fan admitting she got braces put on her teeth not because she needed them but because Niall had braces. Another girl says that if the boys asked her to chop off her arm, she would. A third confesses she’d kill a cat, no, a goat, in order to meet the boys. These girls build galaxies out of whole cloth. They’d fight any battle for their seigneurs.
Tonight the mass of girls before me in the arena, swarming like insects, raises a question of economy. How many waitressing shifts, humid summer jobs, and hours babysitting does it take to hold these five boys aloft, to lard the fiefdom? How better might these girls’ energies be spent in humanitarian projects and education? And how best to understand their mania without dismissing it as a fault of their youth or gender?
It’s this last question that interests me most, because I, too, am here, willingly, happily, and I am not a girl. I’m a trespasser disguised as a “mum.” In truth, I’ve logged hundreds of hours listening to 1D without my kids. I consume 1D in huge, voracious doses as one might a bag of Cheetos. Sometimes I feel sick afterward but most often not. Most often 1D makes me feel light and lifted and full of gladness. Even as I write this piece, it is all I can do to not watch the video for “Steal My Girl” on a loop, as, you know, research. I love One Direction….