I am swiping my index finger through a tiny pot of glitter and delicately applying it to my eyelids. The room is a force field of estrogen and Wet n Wild cosmetics; buzzing around me are three girlfriends in a tangle of feather boas, fastidiously selecting faux tattoos. It’s a scene reminiscent of my preteen dance recitals or, later, getting ready to sneak into Limelight via the Long Island Rail Road – except that I am a newly 40-year-old woman now. I am here, in gold sequined pants, with three 40-something kindred spirits at a casino in Connecticut to scream, groove and probably shed tears of pure ecstasy at a Harry Styles concert. Never mind our husbands, day jobs, and combined eight children.
“I have never gone, nor will I ever go, as a chaperone,” declares Liberty, 43, a treasured member of my Styles-adoring foursome, of her attendance at his Love on Tour, which is currently crescendoing in a 15-night residency at New York’s Madison Square Garden. “I am there purely for my own selfish indulgence and for the company of my like-minded 40-year-old lady friends.”
Many Styles stans – also known as Harries – are the 28-year-old showman’s contemporaries, invested since his One Direction ascendancy. But there is another, elder sliver of the fandom – some long-standing (my 65-year-old mother was an early Directioner) and others, like me, for whom Styles is somewhat newly alluring, at least since his solo, sailor-pant era. For women in and around their 40s and beyond, Styles is not just a pop star or a burgeoning style icon or a nontoxic male earnestly preaching kindness: He’s an experience, a naughty hobby, an opportunity to tap into the wild and lustful parts of ourselves that can get buried with age, responsibility and inevitable caretaking.
“I had the best time of my life in my 20s, and he takes me back there,” another newish Harry fan, Michelle, 44, tells me. She was first lured by “Watermelon Sugar”, not yet knowing who the singer was but blasting it as she drove her two children around suburban Long Island. Soon, she found herself furiously texting friends about Styles’s rhinestone-cowboy cosplay; dissecting the trailer for his forthcoming Stepford Wives-adjacent film, Don’t Worry Darling; and plotting what wide-leg pants she’d wear to an upcoming MSG show, which she’ll attend with a girlfriend.
“Being married, having children, you get lost in the grind… in others,” Michelle says. “You forget how to keep your soul alive. Harry has been feeding that much-rested part of who I was – who I still am, I guess.” That being: someone for whom a 20,000-person dance party on a Thursday night in New York isn’t out of the question. Nora Lee, 38, owner of the Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, home-decor boutique House of Cardoon, experienced the “dazzling spectacle” of a Styles show herself while six months pregnant with twins last year. “How often are people saying they had the time of their life pregnant at a concert?” she muses.