I found more glitter on my face today. It’s been a week since The Concert, but its effects are still to be felt both inside me and out.
In the weeks before the concert, I felt like a groom before his wedding. People would stop me on the street and ask me if I was excited. People who barely knew me were wishing me a good night. Friends, who I know for a fact don’t like One Direction, were texting me and sending me Facebook messages wishing me a good time. It was amazing, and a clear sign that I have successfully married the Connor brand with the One Direction brand in the public mind.
I didn’t manage to find a boyfriend to go to the concert with, so I asked my friend. Let’s call her Zsa Zsa. She was delighted to come. She’s likes One Direction. Not like I like One Direction, but she likes them.
Zsa Zsa was the perfect person to go with and she entered into the spirit of it entirely. We met the night before the concert for Concert Preparations. We watched the One Direction movie again on DVD, and had lots of FEELINGS. Or at least I had lots of FEELINGS, and Zsa Zsa had some feelings. We also made posters. I had bought coloured poster paper and glue and glitter and thick black markers.
A note on shipping
“Shipping”, simply defined, means that you want two people to be in a relationship. For example, many viewers of Friends “shipped” Ross and Rachel, but I presume there were also some freaks who shipped Joey and Rachel. Shipping is also a big part of Twilight Fandom, where the majority of fans inexplicably want Bella to end up with that skinny, wimpy, elderly vampire and anyone with any sense wants her to go for the Chiselled Werewolf God that Taylor Lautner so solidly and toplessly plays.
One of the most famous aspects of One Direction fandom is the frantic shipping of the fans. Most famously, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson are good friends who moved into the same flat in the early days of the band. Together, they are referred to as “Larry Stylinson” or simply “Larry”, and thousands of young women ship Larry. In the One Direction Fan Fiction, most of which is written by teenage girls, graphic man-on-man sex scenes between Harry and Louis abound. Some Larry shippers just want Louis and Harry to be best friends and others want them to be in a sexual relationship. I don’t know of a comparable phenomenon from my teenage years. Larry shippers are quite intense, but every possible combination of One Direction boys is shipped somewhere in One Direction fandom. My two favourite One Direction members are Zayn and Liam, so most of the Tumblr blogs I follow are focused on either Zayn or Liam. Some are Ziam shippers, and frequently post pictures of the two boys looking at each other, or they post quotes from interviews where one says something nice about the other, or they post stories about them having athletic sex with each other, or post photoshopped images of them writhing on top of each other. Of course, not every fan’s tumblr is like this. Many of them just reblog picture after picture. As well as Zayn and Liam Tumblrs, I also follow some generic One Direction Tumblrs, and some Niall and Harry Tumblrs. I never necessarily decided to follow any Niall or Harry Tumblrs, but when Zayn announced his engagement last year, a lot of Zayn girls became Harry girls or Niall girls, so their Tumblrs changed too. As a result, I’ve found myself the witness to more shippers of Niam, Narry or Lirry, as well as all the Ziam girls and the inescapable Larry shippers.
I don’t ship Larry. Or Ziam. I ship Zonnor, Zayn and Connor.
So when my friend Zsa Zsa and myself sat down to make posters, I wanted to make one about how much I love Zayn, and so, of course, I wrote a poster that said “Zayn + Connor = Zonnor”. Zsa Zsa made one that said “I just came with Connor”. My poster was a glorious mess, absolutely covered in glitter and with every letter a different size. I was genuinely proud I’d produced something legible. Zsa Zsa’s looked like it had been professionally made. It was like she’d been to some Great Academy of Poster Calligraphy.
We decided to make a second poster. Zsa Zsa’s one said “I’m not a chaperone – I’m a cougar”, which cracked us both up. I couldn’t think of what to say, but the day before we met, all the students had left Hall, so I had a thousand spare rooms. My second poster said “Hi Boys! I have lots of spare rooms if you need somewhere to stay in Dublin 6.”
I left Zsa Zsa’s house with my DVD and the posters, leaving her living room covered in glitter.
The next day, I started my preparations. I shaved and sprinkled some glitter on my hair and face. Please, dear reader, if you take nothing else from this, then just learn this lesson: freshly-shaved skin and glitter do not mix. It hurt to bejayzus. I smeared on lots of moisturiser and threw on a bit more glitter. In no time at all, my skin was approximately 47% glitter.
I also did a little shaving and tidying up down below. Just in case Zayn called me back stage. Because you never know.
I put on my “No Zayn No Gain” t-shirt that I had made for me last autumn and about half of my One Direction badges. And I was ready.
I met Zsa Zsa in town and it was raining, so we both had on rain-gear over our concert outfits. She had done her hair specially, but didn’t have any branded clothing. Unlike everyone else around us. I am a connoisseur of Claire’s Accessories’ entire One Direction merchandise selection, and of everything One Direction-related available on Amazon, but I have never seen anything like the array of One Direction bags, One Direction t-shirts, One Direction scarves, One Direction tights, One Direction leggings, and One Direction shoes that I could see all around.
On the way to the concert we both bought some wearable tat. I got a ridiculously cheap-looking One Direction love heart to wear around my neck and a One Direction baseball cap with a three-year-old photo of the band from long long ago. Zsa Zsa had planned what she wanted to wear and she found a flashing red polka-dot bow to wear atop her head like Minnie Mouse.
As we walked to Croke Park, the age profile of the concert-goers was obvious. We were walking through the rain and everyone in front of us was eight years old and wearing waterproof ponchos. It was like we’d joined a March of Munchkins in Giant Condoms.
It was cute, but I was a little worried that the age profile would make the concert difficult to enjoy. However, we forgot all this as we went through security. A woman asked to search Zsa Zsa’s bag, which contained our posters. To our disbelief, she decided that she would have to confiscate Zsa Zsa’s “Not a chaperone – I’m a cougar” poster and my “Hi boys! I have lots of spare rooms if you’d like somewhere to stay in Dublin 6” poster. We were apparently a threat to public decency. The nice woman who was confiscating our posters let us pose for photos with the posters before she took them away. My mind boggled. I have to admit that I didn’t see my poster offering spare rooms as dirty at all, and I didn’t know what to think, especially as she let us keep the “Zonnor” poster, which to my mind was a lot more suggestive than the one that was confiscated. She also tried to take away the poster that my friend had made saying “I just came with Connor”, on the grounds that “came” was a bad word, but that was just too ridiculous and we managed to keep that one after a few words.
After this, we were lucky enough to find another One Direction merchandise stand where I bought a 1D head scarf.
Luckily, the rain stopped as soon as we arrived at the stadium, and we entered the pitch. It was actually very nice. There were absolutely no drunk people, which makes for a much improved concert atmosphere. All the under-16s were kept off the pitch, so it didn’t feel too awfully childish, though it was still the first concert I was ever at where I didn’t have to worry about not being able to see, because at 5 foot 8, I was the tallest person there. There were a few parents around, but mainly we were surrounded by 16-20-year-old girls.
And it felt like a homecoming. I am a Directioner, and it was so lovely to look around and recognise what was around me. If a girl was wearing a shirt that said “Crazy Mofos”, you know she’s a Niall girl; if she had a picture of a carrot, she was a Louis girl; if her shirt said “Vas happenin?” or “Cool Kids Don’t Dance” or “Zap”, she was, like me, a Zayn girl. I felt a little bit like someone who’d been abroad for a long time and was finally in an English-speaking country for the first time in years. The internet is an amazing forum for building communities.
I enjoyed the support act, 5 Seconds of Summer. Even though I only know one of their songs, it’s bloody brilliant one.
At about 8:20, One Direction came on stage. And there were fireworks and 80,000 people screaming and singing along and it was amazing. I enjoyed the first two songs. The third song was “Kiss You”, one of my favourite songs ever and probably my most watched YouTube video of all time. In fact, a large canvas print of an image from that video that I had commissioned last year (and I have no idea what to do with when I move house) hangs above my sofa. I love the song, and I associate it with some difficult times in my life, but it’s not a sad song. While singing it, One Direction came to the front 0f the stage i.e. they came nearer me.
At this stage, I completely panicked. The internet had come to life in front of me. These five boys are real. They are made of actual flesh and blood. And they were in the same place as me. I had a MOMENT. And what a moment. Zsa Zsa said she thought I was going to faint.
For three years, I have lived for the chance to see these guys in the flesh, but the reality of them is terrifying. I’ve sat and watched them on YouTube, and when they’re pretending to surf in the Kiss You video, I like to think I’m there with them, pretending to surf too. When they’re being interviewed and they all mock Niall, I imagine I’m there mocking Niall too. In their era-defining masterpiece, the Live While We’re Young video, I imagine I’m glamping with them. I’m part of the gang. I’ve spent more time with these guys than with anyone else in the last three years and I don’t want this to end. And if they’re real, then it might end. They might tell me to get away and stop being a creepy fat old pervert and reject me. I have a gift for losing friends. I am chronically awkward and terrible for keeping in touch with people and I say the wrong thing and I offend people or I disappoint people or they move country or we move on, or whatever, but I lose an awful lot of friends. And One Direction weren’t like that. They were on the internet. They couldn’t reject me. But standing there on stage they were real and they could reject me and it was terrifying.
Unbelievably, I was delighted I didn’t end up getting invited backstage.
The concert continued to be awesome. I love those songs, and singing them with 80,000 people is downright religious. And it was funny. The boys’ relationship with each other is adorable to watch, and their interactions after songs made me feel warm deep inside. And the band all clearly saw it as Niall’s special day, as he is from Ireland, and this was their last Irish concert on the tour. The stadium erupted in frantic and sustained girlish cheers every single time Niall had a solo. He was clearly a little overcome by this. Especially when he had to do one of the deep and serious bits in Little Things and all you could hear were screams. I tried to balance it out by screaming louder for Zayn, who had quite a low-key night. But part of Zayn’s charm is that he’s dark and brooding and mysterious and silent, so of course he had a low-key night. Harry’s charm was undeniable all night, but in many ways, besides Niall, who’s basically the lead singer when the band play Ireland, it was a Liam night. He looked great, he sang well and his jokes landed.
There was an interval period, during which the band took pre-recorded fan questions. It was gloriously ramshackle. They were exactly as you’d expect a gang of young lads on stage to be. They didn’t listen to the questions properly, they got confused, they didn’t know what order they were speaking in. Considering this is one the biggest musical acts of all time, it was beautifully and unexpectedly amateur, a bit like George W Bush’s paintings.
The concert was visually impressive, with four different sets of fireworks, cannon shots of giant glitter over the crowd, amazing audio visual displays and a stage that lifted the boys up right in the middle of Croke Park. The “big” songs were perfectly spaced out, so you never felt you were going to drown in an ocean of album tracks, although there were plenty of 12-year-old girls who knew every single word of every single B-side.
It was a wonderful night. My friend Zsa Zsa loved it too, and she had a moment as well, though there was less danger of her fainting. We got a taxi home and I’ve been singing Best Song Ever ever since. It was the perfect ending to the academic year and I can’t wait till I see them again.