I Think About This a Lot is a series dedicated to private memes: images, videos, and other random trivia we are doomed to play forever on loop in our minds.
When One Direction attended the American Music Awards in November 2014, they were living on borrowed time. In four months, Zayn would leave the band in order to “be a normal 22-year-old” (put out an R&B album). Five months after that, sources confirmed the band would be taking an “extended hiatus” (breaking up). So when late-stage One Direction appeared on the 2014 AMAs red carpet, cracks were starting to show — and by cracks, I mean any signs of individuality at all.
Boy bands, as we know by now, are less “musical acts” and more “packs of hot young men genetically engineered in a lab by Simon Cowell.” Members are marketed as broad archetypes, all the better for young girls to project feelings onto: the serious one, the bro-y one, the cute one, and so on. But four years into One Direction, it was becoming clear that Harry did, in fact, have a real personality — and that he was, in fact, a total freak. He wasn’t yet fully the Harry that would wear a white floral suit to the 2015 AMAs — bravely answering the question, “what if a couch fucked?” — but he was getting there. In this case, while all the other boys wore conventional dark suit jackets and T-shirts, Harry wore a low cut blouse and a top hat.
During their walk into the theater, the band made several mind-numbing stops on the red carpet. During one, an interviewer read a fan-submitted Twitter question from some sort of … video embedded in a Coke vending machine (capitalism is a nightmare). The question: “how long does it take for all the One Direction boys to get ready? are they high maintenance? lol.”
Liam (the boring one) immediately answered, “We’re not really, actually, we’re okay.” Niall, almost proving the opposite point, added, “It’s about ten minutes each of hair.” Harry, quietly, off camera, says: “We’re the worst kind. We’re high maintenance, but we think we’re low maintenance.”
And in that moment, I realized: Harry Styles has seen When Harry Met Sally. Harry Styles has seen When Harry Met Sally enough times that he can quote the scene where Billy Crystal roasts Meg Ryan for being high maintenance. That means there’s a statistically significant chance Harry Styles has seen and enjoyed You’ve Got Mail!
It is not an exaggeration to say that when I saw this video for the first time, I had to get up and walk around my apartment to cool down. It was my first clue to something that has been central to my appreciation of Harry Styles: Harry’s documented love of romantic comedies. I have since learned that Harry once told a teen magazine that his favorite movie is Love Actually and that , while writing his 2017 debut solo album, Harry and his band would watch rom-coms every night, always circling back to The Notebook (even though, bless his heart, that’s a drama). I’ve learned that Harry calls Nicholas Sparks “Nicky Spee.” I mean, Christ: one of the songs on Harry’s album starts with a man saying, “Should we just search romantic comedies on Netflix and then see what we find?”
That Harry, a man who is Hot To Me, does not shy away from things that are typically associated with women, is thrilling. Harry was raised by women! He is down to experience emotions! As he told fellow gentle crusader in post-patriarchal maleness Timothée Chalamet in an interview for i-D, “I think there’s so much masculinity in being vulnerable and allowing yourself to be feminine.” This is the kind of thing that makes the wise 2019 version of me very hornèd.
Of course, I knew well before November 2014 that Harry was the best member of One Direction. He’s the cutest (he looks exactly like me). He had the best clothes (at the time this meant mainly nice shoes, and has since evolved to not only deranged prints but also T-shirts that say “women are smarter”). He had a positive attitude and a beautiful voice (so beautiful it once inspired by mom to text me, late at night, “Who sings lead vocal on ‘Story of My Life?’”). But Harry quoting Nora Ephron, outing himself as a lover of romantic comedies, cemented it. It also gives me hope for a better future: one in which men are allowed to feel their feelings. One in which men are encouraged to watch and quote movies where people just talk and kiss and no one gets punched by a superhero. One in which Harry, finally, confirms that he has seen and enjoyed You’ve Got Mail.