This is the summer I lost my voice. In a six-week span, I saw Harry Styles perform six times in four different cities. My real-life friends are confused. I leave home for a week at a time, flying to some random city halfway across the country. What’s in Nashville? I return with another venue wristband stacked on my wrist, circles under my eyes, and legs stiff from dancing. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.
If I take a step back, I know my obsession with Harry Styles is curious. It’s not that liking him makes me an outsider. Harry’s voice is the real deal — fans and veteran rock critics like Cameron Crowe and Rob Sheffield all vouch for his talent. Harry is politically active, he donates portions of his tour merch sales to local charities, and has charisma for days. The man is easy to like.
But the kind of fervor with which I love Harry Styles is more unusual, at least among my real-life peers. I’ve always liked One Direction, but I will admit that my passion for Harry Styles has ramped up a bit in the last couple of months. One ticket to the Nashville show multiplied into six, balcony seats were sold for the pit. I’m embarrassed to let my parents borrow my phone to take a photo of me in my graduation gown because the last eleven pictures in my camera roll are Harry memes.
There’s also the inescapable fact that this kind of fandom is often seen as a pathology. It’s hard to avoid applying this kind of logic to myself, especially when I have people telling me that it “makes sense” for me to “turn to Harry right now.” For the first time in my life, I’m not in school. Career-wise, I don’t have anything long-term lined up. I’ve got Love, Simon-levels of anxiety and angst, even though I should have figured all of this out by now. Whenever I try and analyze why I have this much affection for Harry, I always settle on the same thing: Something’s got to be wrong with me if I love something this much.
But what if I’m not wrong? In the temporary community of the pit, surrounded by my friends who are doctors and lawyers and journalists and mothers and healthy queer adults — and, yeah, high school students — all of us screaming along to Harry’s lyrics and sweating and pouring our hearts out to him, I’ve never felt more free. Toward the beginning of every show, Harry tells the crowd to “feel free to be whoever it is you want to be in this room tonight.” With the house lights off, it doesn’t matter what we look like or who we were before we got to the venue. Harry has the microphone, but we’re louder. Every time we open our mouths to scream, the ground quakes.