Sometimes there are experiences that are just not easy to talk about. It’s a man thing. You can’t confide in friends because you know they will use the information against you. Oh the humiliation if your “secret” were known.
I am referring to a condition that afflicts fathers of teenage girls – particularly aged 13 to 16. Yes, I admit it. I am a Directioner’s dad.
I can name each member of the band – Harry, Niall, Liam, Louis and Zayn (who I insist on calling Zach to annoy my 13-year-old daughter). I have been quizzed to death on the story of their lives.
Niall is from Mullingar, Zayn is marrying a girl from Little Mix (‘No daddy, not Pick ‘n Mix). Louis from Doncaster plays football (badly). Liam had kidney problems as a child. Harry sang “Isn’t She Lovely” at his X-Factor audition.
I am not alone. Countless dads out there have been forced this past week to listen to tracks from One Direction’s new album – released day by day in a slick marketing ploy to build anticipation. We have, of course, been prevailed upon to pre-order the “Deluxe Version”
When “Four” was released on Monday, we had already been forced to detail the relative merits of “Ready to Run” and “Girl Almighty”.
During a car journey on Saturday, I was forced to listen repeatedly to “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”. I noted that 1D appeared to be grappling with some of the underpinning obsessions of existentialism.
But it didn’t open a discussion on Sartre or Kierkegaard as I’d hoped. She just turned the volume to full blast. As a result the mawkish words have been imprinted on my mind.
“Now I’m searching every lonely place
Every corner calling out your name
Trying to find you but I just don’t know
Where do broken hearts go?”
There are various orders of One Directioner Dads – those with the highest rank have accompanied their girls to a 1D concert. This is courage over and above the call of duty. Taking teenage girls to One Direction concerts is what mothers are for.
Google “One Direction Dads” and you will come across a photo essay by Angelina Castillo – Sad Dads at One Direction Concerts. Share our pain.
My initiation came in March last year – Mothers’ Day at the Odyssey – womankind in all its variety, from babes in arms to grannies; a five-piece boy band of negligible musical abilities (though I am assured Harry plays the triangle), and a handful of embarrassed looking fathers, kindred spirits. (Thankfully there are no photos.)
I noticed just one guy in his teens – there to impress his girlfriend. But his eyes were downcast, and he was constantly arranging his fringe as a way of covering his face.
My daughter was happy when I told her I planned to sit quietly and read my Kindle. She got visibly distressed when I threatened to don a 1D T-shirt (do they make them in XXL?) and sing “Up All Night” at the top of my voice. In truth, the only reason she wanted me there was to pay for the merchandise.
One Direction has changed our lives in other ways too. We now share our house with life-sized cardboard cut-outs of the boys.
When my daughter’s room was being redecorated recently, they took up residence around the house. It’s quite a shock to be greeted by a grinning Harry Styles as you stagger out of the bathroom, or have Zayn Malik peering at you as you struggle with the crossword.
When we go on holiday, I plan to post them at the windows to scare off the burglars – though there is a good chance the house will be done over instead by a crazed Directioner who believes the lads have moved into the neighbourhood.
I have spent a fortune on rubbish – even allowing myself to be talked into a round trip to Leeds when a 1D pop-up shop opened. That’s when Niall entered our lives. Getting his life-sized cut-out home was both embarrassing and complicated.
I drew the line when my little angel demanded a T-shirt with “The Next Mrs Niall Horan” emblazoned across the front in glitter. She is not quite ready to be walking down the aisle to the tune of “What Makes You Beautiful”.
What next? I have already been tipped off a UK tour is planned for next year. Last time I told friends I was going to a contemporary music event. I must think up another euphemism.
This column first appeared in The Irish News, November 18 2014