The story of my first tattoo has audio visual elements and so if you aren't ready for that journey, I suggest Xing out now. If you are intrigued as to why a 31 year old woman who has always been ambivalent about tattoos when not judgmental about them decided to get one, watch and read on.
So One Direction released a documentary called This Is Us in 2013, it was a huge success in theaters for a music documentary and I saw it alone on Coney Island Avenue and loved every moment. In one scene, the boys go camping and consider their future legacies. Louis Tomlinson explains how he hopes they are remembered:
It is an ongoing and well-known joke that the members of One DIrection did not especially like to dance and were not especially good at synchronized dancing as had so often been a mainstay of their earlier boy band counterparts. Yet their songs are full of references to dancing, and none more so than "Best Song Ever", the anthemic pop banger where they report dancing all night to the best song ever, having since forgot the words but never forgetting the girl or the dancing:
I wrote of one of their concerts I attended in Complex, "The audience was reliably dense with young girls, most traveling in packs of three to five and several accompanied by parent and grandparent chaperones. They danced without inhibitions in a way I suspect they might not if boys were present. These adults knew that their age did not exempt them from the rules and dutifully sang along with their whole bodies, often with more skill than their charges." I danced as one ought to in such circumstances, which is however the body feels called by the music and the moment to move. And the music and the moment called me to move in a clumsy, ecstatic joy because that's what the best pop does to the body and mind: the euphoria it momentarily dissolves your knowledge or care of the well-traveled lie that dancing is meant to look cool rather than feel fun.
It was my friend Allyson Gross who made the connection between the two moments: Louis' hope to be remembered as regular guys but terrible dancers and the "Best Song Ever" hope that we too always remember how we danced, followed my an intentionally ridiculous dance sequence meant to make people laugh, to have the same good time that the boys seemed to be having there. I met Allyson on Twitter after she found an essay I wrote on Racked about the importance of One Direction to a culture that so often punishes boys for being soft and loving toward girls as One Direction were. She was born three days before Harry Styles (which means long before me) but our love of One Direction, not just the boys in it but the things their existence stood for, made it not unreasonable to make the promise to remember how they danced. It was terribly, yes, but always alongside us and seemingly on our behalf.
So this week, Allyson got this tattoo:
And two days later, I got this one:
We were not together getting these tattoos because we live in different cities and rarely see each other, which was a bummer at first. But remembering that part of the magic of being a One Direction fan is sharing the same joy from far distances, from seeing and hearing the same songs and videos and images and stories and having them absorbed into the body and memory differently but no less brilliantly.
It may seem ill-advised to get a tattoo of defunct boy band whose legacy we can't yet discern. I do not hold out much hope that One Direction will unite in glory or with the same life-giving verve. But tattoos are not about what's to come, but about remembering what was. And I for one look forward to remembering forever how we danced.