I won Harry Styles at the Tricky Tray

mom loves harry

I have a confession to make. I love One Direction. Mostly for their music, which I know is not considered good by anyone with any musical taste, but I don’t care. Their songs, “Steal My Girl,” “Kiss You,” and “One Thing” put me in a good mood when nothing else will, and on those mornings when my kids will not put their shoes on or stop beating the crap out of each other, One Direction saves me.

Beyond their music, One Direction ain’t bad to look at, especially the one named Harry Styles. Harry is 20 but somehow this doesn’t register with my 43-year-old brain. He is without question the most beautiful human walking the earth right now, and has this unmistakable Mike Jagger/Jim Morrison thing going on that makes everything else in my life meaningless.

I’ve been here before, obsessing over a member of a British boy band. I was a more appropriate 15. The band was Duran Duran, and even though I was truly in love with the bassist, John Taylor, my friend claimed him first so I had to choose the next best which was really hard, but I had to pick, and so I chose keyboardist Nick Rhodes. Never mind that he was super feminine and wore more makeup than my Mom, he was perfect. And he was mine.

To deal with the emotional turmoil of loving someone I didn’t know and couldn’t have, I retreated into fantasy and wrote elaborate stories of us being romantically involved until my mother confiscated most of them. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was writing what’s now called “fan fiction” or “fanfic” and today it flourishes on the Internet. The most popular fanfic website, fanfiction.net, has more than two million registered users who write about their favorite characters from books, television, film, or music in all sorts of combinations and situations. Most fan fiction is absolutely dreadful, but some of it is so dirty entertaining that it is actually discovered and developed by Hollywood. In fact, the wildly popular book 50 Shades of Grey that drove many a suburban Mom into a tizzy back in 2012 began as a piece of fanfic someone imagined between Twilight characters Edward Cullen and Bella Swan.

So, I had this idea to write some fan fiction of my own but from the perspective of a 43-year-old married mother of three who must conduct herself properly, especially in front of her 11 year old daughter. I call it, “I won Harry Styles at the Tricky Tray.”


“Sorry I’m late girls, I burned dinner again.”

“Oh my god, you better hurry up. They are collecting the baskets now.”

“What? What time did it start? I thought it started at 7!”

“No, 6. It’s OK, just dump all your tickets in the mystery basket and get yourself a drink.”

For the love of Pete, I can’t believe this is happening. I studied the basket list for three days straight with a highlighter and had a bulletproof strategy for winning something really good this time. Ugh. Oh well. There’s always next year, unless the fundraising committee arbitrarily decides never to have Tricky Tray again and instead has Bingo but that would be so stupid I’m sure it’ll never happen.

I frantically tore each individual ticket at the perforation and dumped all of them into the mystery basket bag while apologizing to the committee member who patiently stood over me. We all had a nice dinner and then the drawing began. I applauded for but secretly loathed that one Mom who kept leaping to her feet triumphantly waving a matching ticket for what seemed like every basket. OMG, I am never that Mom! When is it going to be my turn? *sigh* I need more wine that stuff the committee is trying to pass off as wine.

“Congratulations again to Jenny Sue! How many baskets is that, Jenny? 12? You must have the magic touch.” Laughter. Wine.

“OK everyone, the moment you have been waiting for is finally here! It’s time for the mystery basket! For maximum drama, we are going to announce the winner first and then we’ll tell you what’s in the basket. Are you ready? Here’s the number: 19683753.”

“196..837..53? Wait a second…196…837…53? Oh My God! It’s me! Yay! What did I win?”

A hush fell over the crowd. “Gina Randall, you are never going to believe this, but you and a guest have won a VIP dinner in New York City tomorrow night with Harry Styles of One Direction!”

There were a few groans from around the room, but I could have fainted I was so excited. Everyone crowded around me, people were taking pictures, it was like a dream come true. Who’s got the magic touch now, Jenny Sue? Bow to me, all of you, and I will tell you my Tricky Tray secrets.

The next day was filled with excitement as I interacted with dozens of One Direction staffers and shopped for something new to wear–something that didn’t scream, “Mom who studies the basket list in advance of a Tricky Tray” without going anywhere near “Cougar,” “Puma,” or God forbid, “Jaguar.” A car came to take me and my daughter to a small, unassuming restaurant in SoHo. We waited a good 45 minutes and then, he arrived. All 5 feet 11 glorious inches of him. Like Carly Rae Jepsen, I could hardly look at him and the words I couldn’t seem to find were falling out of my mouth anyway one after another until they were piled on the floor like laundry that needed to be folded. In contrast, my daughter, who at 11 was supposed to be nothing if not awkward, was extremely poised and in control.

I don’t really remember much from our dinner. I’m sure there was food. I remember him asking my daughter a lot of thoughtful questions, and her answers were absolutely adorable. I was so proud of her. There were a few paparazzi and one of them promised to send me a shot via email. When it came time to leave, we hugged goodbye, and he slipped me his cell phone number complemented me on raising such a wonderful kid. I wanted so badly to just follow him out of the restaurant and spend the rest of my life trying to look right at him baby, but I had to settle for a single night out in SoHo. Or did I?????