That's What Makes You Beautiful: Insights from a One Direction Concert

As part of my character development process for my novel, How to Fly With Rocks in Your Pocket (due out Sept., 2014...gotta start the shameless promotion early), I've been reading a lot of psychology books.  I'll spare you the details of my introspection, but I'm not a huge fan of it, even if I'm making awesome discoveries about how my mind works.

I just moved into a new "flat" (I still feel weird using British lingo) that has no wifi (I'm currently using a dodgy hotspot, risk of identity theft be damned) and devouring books about childhood trauma.  An adventure was in order.  Enter the One Direction concert at Wembley.  I'll just list memories (of which, as I later told Marie, we made plenty, though it was not midnight).  The twenty-something who came expressly for the opening band Five Seconds of Summer, had an impressive vibrato scream that he employed many a time, and sang and danced along to every one of their songs with considerable aplomb.  When the band thanked One Direction for the opportunity to open for them, he yelled, "Fuck One Direction! They're Fascists!"  So much fun.  The mom who had brought her two tween daughters who sang along to every song, word for word, while her daughters stood with crossed arms and scowls, poor dears.  The girls who sat in the standing area. Sidenote: the first real concert that I went to was Flogging Molly, and I specifically remember blood being drawn from a man in a kilt in the standing area (mosh pit) there.  You don't sit in the standing area.  The girl in front of me who would jump up and down every time one of the band came near where we were standing...I am seriously jealous of the air she was getting...we're talking a foot and a half off the ground consistently over a span of several hours.  Niall/Louis beginning to sing Nelly's immortal classic, "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes," and Harry Styles adding, "But taking off your clothes would be inappropriate," all in song.  Harry saying he could spot Simon Cowell, who was apparently there, by the sight of his gleaming white teeth.  Pyrotechnics.  Tweens crying.  I loved every minute.

Not that I need a reason, but generally when people are all like, "Really, One Direction?" my response is that when N*Sync was popular, though I had the album, I was literally writing editorials about how the high school in my town should be rebuilt.  You see, as a child, I had no time for childhood fripperies, no time for boy bands.  I was all business.  I'm making up for lost time.  It also doesn't hurt that all of them are quite pretty and charming and their songs don't reference genitalia.  Like, if I wanted a running commentary of someone having sex, I'd watch porn, not listen to pop music.  But, today, after some thought, I realized that this experience had much more to teach me than the fact that it's never too late to indulge one's inner child.  In writing my book, I have realized that all the characters represent different components of myself, and perhaps are evidence of me compartmentalizing my personality into sizes small enough to digest.  I saw the same thing last night at the concert.  There is part of me in the man yelling incendiary politicized statements that don't exactly make sense.  There is part of me in the mom, who, while probably inflicting embarrassment on her daughters, is allowing herself to act like a silly teenager at age forty.  There is part of me in the crying tweens, unafraid to exhibit their emotions.  There is part of me thinking about the greater impact of seemingly innocuous behavioral cues, like dear Harry Styles.  There is part of me who scowls at the girl who is unafraid to lose herself and have a little fun.  There is part of me that does lose myself and forget what is proper and sit in a standing area or hold up a flag that obscures other people's views (ahem, girl in front of me).

So, you can bitch about how One Direction isn't real music all you want, or hate on boy bands, or whatever helps you sleep at night.  But, here's some real talk.  Life is better when we embrace all of ourselves, not just the character that happens to be convenient or not painful at a particular moment.  And, being in Wembley Stadium with 80,000 other people, united by a love for upbeat songs and cheeky grins, reminded me that I'm not bound to be a scowler all the time, nor can I expect my entire life to be a thrilling combination of fireworks and Liam Payne winking.  And I can't control when the ups and downs will come, when I'll be pissed that the opening act is too short, and when I'll be overcome with happy tears just at the sight of someone.  But a complete novel, and a complete life, require every feeling, every moment, to be acknowledged and felt, rather than suppressed or brushed under the carpet.  As the boys sing, That's What Makes You Beautiful.