OPINION: These were no woody cool-storage apples. They had not ripened slowly, left on some shelf. They were picked fresh. As if that morning. Dewy and wet. They had long, long hair. And wore short, short shorts. Their shoes were flat. Sporty. They were breathy and over-excited. They had hips and breasts and satin thighs. They were women until you saw their baby faces.
A bouncing press of 14-year-old girls and mostly they were all the same. There were slightly younger versions, too, chaperones glued to their side. And several little boys. Eight or nine years old. One wore ear plugs and danced up a storm. Another stood staunchly, arm around his father, oblivious to his dad's violent nervous tic. Most curious, though, was the middle-aged couple who didn't exchange a word. Never cracked a smile. Fatty and skinny.
Baldy and hairy. They were plainly dressed, badly dressed. They clung to their bags, grim-faced and extraordinarily determined.
And then there was us. My friend and me. Mothers. Fortyish. Dressed for a concert in leather and bare legs. Hopefully more lamb than mutton. Our husbands told us we were hot. We could only take their word for it.
That morning I'd made mushroom paté and crostini to take to my step-uncle's wake. The celebrant spoke of a man who loved coffee, red wine, music and, above all, his partner my aunt, his daughter and his grandchildren. We wept and sang a Neil Young song. There was tea and club sandwiches and sausage rolls and biscuits afterwards.
And later, back at my aunt's house, where there was wine and chicken nibbles and my mushroom pate, disappointing everyone who scooped it up expecting caviar, my husband announced to my disbelieving extended family that we had to get home because I was going to Justin Bieber.
"Is she taking the kids," they asked.
"No," he said. "They're just a couple of cougars." "Worse than that," said my cousin, "more like mums. He could be your son!" And they laughed and laughed. Afterwards, as I was rushing to get ready, my son said, "Actually, you'll be like a couple of grandmas!"
And he rolled around the floor and laughed and laughed.
A year ago my son asked me to search for a song called 'Boyfriend' on YouTube. We played it five times that afternoon, dancing madly around the lounge. Soon I found myself listening to it by myself.
As a teenager I was never one of those fangirls. Not like some of my friends who wallpapered their rooms with posters of Wham and Bros, Duran Duran and Bon Jovi. So my crush on the 19-year-old Canadian was unexpected and not entirely welcome. Like some weird regression. My husband was amused. Told a friend, a seasoned musician with impeccable taste.
I awaited his derision. Amazingly he said I had nothing to be ashamed of, that Bieber had the most pitch-perfect voice of his generation. Validated, I confessed my Belieber-status to a group of girlfriends. That night I got a text. Don't tell anyone, it read, but I've bought two tickets to JB and I've been waiting to see who came out of the woodwork. Wanna go?
And so it was that two Saturdays ago I found myself at Vector Arena. Queuing at the merchandise stand. Breathy and over-excited. Our seats were no more than three metres from the stage. "Oh hurry up, Cody," said the tiny girl with red hair next to me. Cody Simpson was the opening act. We had never heard of him. Are you actually here for Cody, I asked. "No," she said, "I just want to get him out of the way so Justin can come on." And then the blonde Australian (16! We googled his age halfway through the set, flummoxed by his callow confidence) came out and the red-head, along with every other girl in our row, bounded over the seats, heading straight for the stage, undeterred by security, screaming all the way.
They screamed all through the opening act, and all through the hour-long wait in between acts. And when a counter came up on the screen, showing just 10 minutes to go, they screamed even louder.
How will they sustain it, I wondered. But they did.
Justin milked their ardour. He was masterful. His clothes were couture. He was muscular, yet slender as a whip.
His heavy tattoos contradicted his perfect hair. He danced and sang and crooned and grabbed his crotch compulsively. When he spoke it sounded like he was on helium. His ego felt as destructive as an atomic bomb. He wiped his sweat with a black hand towel and threw it to some shrieking girl.
"I love you, Justin," they cried. And when I saw the ones who were sobbing, shaking, their bodies wracked, I thought, well, just maybe they did.
"Oh my God," said one. "Oh my God, he's getting his guitar out. Oh my God!" They took endless selfies. Turning their backs to him momentarily so they could capture themselves with him in the background. They knew all the words and we marveled at their confidence.
They threw big padded bras at him.
They cooed at the old home movies of him as a toddler. And when he picked out one girl from the thousands, a pretty girl, but just a girl in shorts, a crop top and a pair of jandals, and took her up on stage and wound his arms around her, it felt like we were standing in a sea of breaking hearts. We danced and danced and we screamed and screamed.
- Sunday Star Times
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