As fathers marched past each other, we nodded in appreciation, acknowledging the mutual sacrifice. We were doing it for our families, to make their world a better place.
We were off to a One Direction concert.
Cynics may consider the sacrifice a superficial one. We were not climbing muddy trenches to face machine gun fire. But those cynics have never suffered thousands of girls screaming each time Harry Styles touched his hair. And he touched his hair a lot.
There were at least 30,000 packed into the Singapore National Stadium and I made up one of the brave men and women who had laid down their eardrums in the name of prepubescent celebrity worship.
The kids came as One Direction devotees and waved banners at their heroes. We came as parental chaperones and played Farm Heroes.
Textbooks may claim that true parenthood is about being there to pick them up when they fall down; to wipe away those tears of pain; to celebrate life’s triumphs and downplay its cruel failures.
True parenthood is waving your hands in the air like you just don’t care and shouting: “You don’t know you’re beautiful, oh oh. That’s what makes you beautiful.”
The other stuff comes with the territory. Riding bikes, playing sports, doing homework, preparing meals and organizing day trips are all noble acts, but they’re already in the small print when you sign up for parenthood. They are long established terms and conditions for any diligent Daddy.
Boy bands are not in the small print. When informed of my One Direction concert plans, the reaction was usually, “ah, your daughter must be big a fan?”
To which I replied: “What are you talking about? I was one of the original One Directioners. Their fourth album rocks.”
Of course I didn’t really. With a rueful nod of the head, I gratefully accepted their fulsome praise for taking paternal responsibilities to the limit.
And I really was. Had I been offered a choice between accompanying my daughter to a One Direction gig or taking her to a nearby field to work on her softball batting technique using my reproductive organs for target practice, I’d gladly hand her the softball bat.
But there was no choice. It’s what she wanted. So I shuffled along with the other grumbling dads, taking turns to moan about the ticket prices, the snack stall prices and the sense of emasculation that comes with the price of admission.
And then, One Direction appeared on stage and … every … single … girl … started screaming. I kept touching my ears to make sure they hadn’t melted.
But I knew all the words. My daughter had surreptitiously brainwashed me.
Every household musical device had been tuned in to one group for more than a year and a boyband’s lyrics were now buried deep within my easily seduced soul.
My daughter’s internal jukebox was sneakily replacing my own. I suspected many years ago that many of the Britpop anthems of my youth were being deleted in favour of Doc McStuffins and Hi-5 tunes. Now One Direction was wiping out much of my Beatles back catalogue.
To my horror, I could belt out every lyric of Best Song Ever, Story of my Life, That’s What Makes You Beautiful and Night Changes, but I couldn’t recall the track listing of The Beatles’ Abbey Road, Rubber Soul or Revolver.
The soundtracks of our lives are now increasingly entwined. I gave her The Beatles and Oasis. She gave me One Direction and Hi-5. Life is so unfair.
Harry Styles didn’t help this dramatic realization either.
The impossibly, good-looking cherub flicked back his hair (cue scream), shouted “hello, Singapore” (cue easy scream) and then thanked the mums and dads who had kindly brought along their kids for the concert (cue midlife crisis).
Thanks for that, Harry. With my Dad jeans, Beatles t-shirt and greying hair, I felt about as cool as Jeremy Clarkson.
But my daughter loved the acknowledgement.
“Harry thanked you, Daddy,” she cried.
“Well, not exactly.”
“He did, you know. He said… Wait, it’s Midnight Memories. This is my favourite One Direction song ever.”
And she was off. She danced. She screamed. She applauded with her arms above her head because she had seen the other, older girls doing it. She waved at the specks on stage in the distance. And she belted out every line as if her life depended on it.
I had never seen her happier. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
During the encore of Best Song Ever, the euphoria became overwhelming. The screaming got louder and the dancing turned manic. It all got a bit frenzied.
I promised my little girl I wouldn’t embarrass her next time.
About the Author: Neil Humphreys is one of Singapore’s best-selling authors. His works include Notes from an Even Smaller Island (2001), Scribbles from the Same Island (2003), and Final Notes from a Great Island (2006). Be My Baby (2008) chronicled his journey to parenthood and was his first international best-seller. His most recent Singapore book, Return to a Sexy Island (2012), was a No.1 best-seller and turned into a TV series. His illustrated book series – Abbie Rose and the Magic Suitcase – is proving popular with children all over the world and is currently being adapted into an animated TV series. Humphreys has written extensively for The Straits Times, TODAY, The New Paper, Esquire, Men’s Health, FourFourTwo and Young Parents. He currently lives in Bedok with his family and hopes his daughter will learn conversational Mandarin so she can teach her Dad.