A little fewer than 2 million girls were born in the United States in 2000, and every last one of them was screaming in my ears. OK, not all of them, but at least 20,000 of them, more than enough to cause hearing loss.
Last week I took my daughter and her friend to an arena to see the British band called One Direction, a quintet of skinny mop tops who, not quite like the Beatles 50 years before them, have taken the states by storm. And if my girl ever reads that sentence just now, she will have my head for calling them skinny.
Grace got the tickets at Christmas, and we’ve been on countdown ever since; for eight months she’s been crossing the days off the calendar. At any given moment she could tell you exactly how much longer until the concert. As the days approached, she was so excited about the show she could barely speak.
Now, finally, we were there. As we waited for the band to come onstage, commercials for 1D products appeared on giant screens, and every time Niall or Liam or Harry appeared on screen, the crowd exploded into shrieks of anticipation. I leaned toward the woman sitting next to me and yelled into her ear.
“If it’s this loud for the commercial, we’re doomed when the real thing arrives.” She handed me a Kleenex, which I wadded into earplugs.
The lights went out, the laser show began and then the five lads stepped onto stage. The 20,000 girls screamed and I felt the rattle start at my feet and move through my bones and into my head, where it would stay for three days. As I write this, I am just now getting rid of the head rattle.
Grace and her friend spent the concert on their feet, holding hands and alternately crying and singing. Grace would try to scream something to me, but I couldn’t hear. I think she was saying she couldn’t believe she was really there in the same room with Harry and Liam, her dreamboat favs. For her, it would have been enough to be within 80 feet of the band, but then they came closer.
Halfway through the show, a narrow platform was lowered to the stage and the band stepped aboard. And then, standing on their moving stage suspended from the rafters, the band swept along above the crowd, waving at the fans beneath them. As they approached us, Grace reached up, her hands trembling. They were just four feet above us. And then it happened.
Liam bent forward from on high, locked eyes with Grace, and pointed at her. I wouldn’t have believed it, but I was right there.
Grace collapsed into joy. She could never look at anything with those eyes again.
And then he was gone. As the stage moved over our heads and past us, Liam tipped the water bottle he was holding and poured a little of it into the crowd. The 14-year-olds reached up to grab at the water, never to wash those hands again.
The U.S. Census says Emily and Madison and Emma were the most common names given baby girls in 2000. That night, I was bobbing in a sea of Emilys and Maddies – and probably a couple dozen Graces – all of them 14ish.
You know 14. Fourteen is when you believe that star just might step down off the stage and carry you away. At 14, it’s what you dream about.
And to have that man of your dreams actually see you – and point, even – well that’s almost as good.
Beth Dolinar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.