In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

OMG, noooooooooooo!!!!!

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Yes, it’s tragic. I can tell by the frequent wailing and gnashing of teeth around here. Zayn is leaving. My daughters are heartbroken.

When all the eye rolling is done, I have to ask myself if this phenomenon, the three, four, has it been nearly five (?) year love affair my children have had with this boy band (now man band), is something to deride. Perhaps the resistant nod to the importance of this group on my part comes from the force feeding I have endured over the years, trapped in a car with screaming teens and pre-teens, windows rolled down as they shouted along with the blaring music,”You don’t know you’re beautiful!!”, at passersby, laughing, arm-waving and car-seat dancing.

While I have maintained the appropriate role of music critic, one of many as a mother, explaining to my daughters with aplomb that cuteness is not one of the criteria for musicianship, I must confess to knowing most of the lyrics to at least two of the albums and have been caught singing a 1-D song while cooking dinner in the kitchen a time or two…or five. The truth is, I like the band, and my daughters have been warning me that this day was coming, the breakup of the band.

They would know as they follow every word ever uttered by mouth or in print on Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, text or telephone from fellow fans befriended while waiting in line for tickets, movies, and concerts, or at fan sightings and school about these adored entertainers. My 16 year old has told me during more than one car ride to school or a friend’s house with grave admonition and dread that their five-year contract, made when the band members were her age, is almost up and it is doubtful they will re-up given their rigorous touring schedule lo these many years. She suspected burnout all along.

And now it is slowly unfolding, the story of Zayn’s quitting–or was he fired? My 19 year old gave me the lowdown this morning about how it may actually be a firing from the slave master, corporate, money-grubbing, greedy-bastard managers (her characterization, my words), when he dared to walk off a tour after publicity of Zayn’s cheating on his fiancee, or so it was made to appear by the evil media. She explained that Zayn was the more sensitive one and just got sick of the twisting of his life with all the fan-dom gossip and media lies.

So says she, who somehow coaxed me on more than one occasion several years ago to drive all over Los Angeles chasing these boys for a possible sighting. One time, I flipped out on her and her friends after a six-hour chase that made me question my sanity–truly. There is a limit to a parent’s indulgence of teenage fantasy addiction, and I had exceeded that limit by legions.

The truth is, I will miss these boy-men should this signal the beginning of the end. All those car rides–and there have been many–with four or five girls screaming in my car every word to every song, windows down, wind whipping through us, and even my steering wheel banging car seat dance in full swing, have been fun and meaningful, girls having fun in music fantasy, me witnessing. My younger still insists only half ironically that she will marry Harry, so there is no need for any other boys in her life.

These singer-musician cuties have played an important role in our lives, in theirs particularly, and not only as an obsession or a place holder until something bigger and better and realer comes along. Their devotion, waiting for hours to glimpse them, purchase tickets, see them in concert, find the latest about their lives, has been not only the commitment of love-sick, crazy teens with no reality that can compete with the fantasy of them, but of the true commitment of fans, caring fans who love something bigger than themselves, something to hang their hopes on for a future relationship with someone truly special, someone with greatness, ambition, good looks, talent and caring for an adoring heart.

For me, these guys have given me opportunity a’plenty to not only serve as taxi driver, crazy mom, and sage adviser about everything from music to love to addiction, but also as friend and adoring fan to these girls, all beautiful in their youth, purity and zealous affection and enthusiasm in their devotion to a lovely even if sometimes embattled over the rights to the story world, something that could be a lot worse than wholesome 1-D. If they have to be addicted, I am okay with it being a handful of benign cutie patooties.

And quite honestly, it has been interesting to watch these boys grow, musically and personally, amazingly in sync with my daughters’ growth in the same fashion. The music is less bubble gum, evolved, adding a layer or two of musical and lyrical depth and diversity. Similarly, both girls have developed diverse musical tastes over the years that I deem mature and sophisticated, even as I question the talent of some of their selections.

My car rides are now infected with a wild array of cynical, political songwriter-singers, not so fresh and innocent as 1-D, more so overly whiny, sardonic and anti everything socially accepted, like the Front bottoms–their rebellion phase, kind of like their mom’s Dylan, Doors and Led Zeppelin phase decades ago. But despite their clear evolving musical tastes way beyond the pop pablum of groups like 1-D, or their predecessor Justin Bieber oh so many moons ago (comparably “my” David Cassidy in the 70s), they hold Harry and the boys near and dear, laughing at themselves while seriously loving them too.

But we all move on, even 1-D dudes. Zayn is right to quit. Why not end at the top? Why not try to regain the semblance of a sane life at the ripe young age of 22? It will take another five or more years to get over the post-traumatic effects of rising and sinking so far and wide as unknown to super-star to used-to-be. Although, I somehow doubt the residue, the fractured band, as Brad Nelson of the Guardian dubbed them, “four goofy white guys shouting”, will make it and not only due to the dent in the multi-textured sound that Zayn contributed to creating.

The fans may not be so forgiving of the Simon Legree (or is that Simon Cowell?) managers they may see responsible for the breakup or may not be able to let go of what was–the perfect quintet of dreaminess. A beloved will always be missing.

In any event, there will be the press stories and the fan stories, the truths of which may not coincide. The best part of the band for most fans is not even the music but the constant back story and just the story making itself, constantly winding in and around the social lives of imaginative teens and pre-teens flexing their minds and hearts into the vast landscape of love, music and social media. What else is there, after all?

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