This was no ordinary Tuesday afternoon. Indoor soccer games were skipped and piano lessons forsaken. Megan Foard of Forest Hill apologized in advance to her pony, A.J., for bowing out of their regular after-school ride.
"He was cool with it, though," the 13-year-old said.
And why wouldn't he be? Megan and her friends had to-die-for concert tickets - for Hannah Montana, who played at the 1st Mariner Arena last night before a sold-out crowd of screaming tweens. Thousands of lucky girls, and not a few boys, scampered home from school to prepare for the arrival of the 15-year-old singer-cum-actress, whose real name is Miley Cyrus, and who holds the youthful audience in the palm of her pretty hand.
But for Foard and her pals, the weeks of anticipation, antsiness and outfit-planning leading up to the concert were perhaps the sweetest part of all. Getting ready in the hours just before the 7 p.m. show, the girls were a little like Miley herself, who - on her top-rated Disney Channel sitcom - plays an ordinary kid with a secret career as a rock star. The Harford County middle-schoolers, too, were students by day and glamour girls by night - or by afternoon, as was technically the case.
And at 2:45 p.m., it was time to decide, for real, what to wear.
Megan, 13-year-old Alexi Spector, and 13-year-old Leah Litwak stared at four jean miniskirts laid out on Alexi's bed. The skirts were virtually identical, differing just slightly in denim wash and fray pattern.
"This is hard," said Alexi, whose mother, Lori, was hosting a preconcert party at her Forest Hill home.
"Really hard," Leah said.
Weeks of planning
The three had strategized about this moment for weeks, and especially over the weekend when they designed Hannah Montana posters to wave at the concert. They'd pondered it in class, even as they tried to hide from their classmates their excitement about getting the coveted Montana tickets, which vanished almost as soon as they went on sale in the fall. Alexi and her sister, 12-year-old Courtney, received several for bat mitzvah gifts and shared them with Leah and Megan. Megan's mother and Lori Spector would chaperone them at the show.
After about 20 minutes of earnest debate, the girls all resolved to wear jean skirts, dark tights, brown Ugg boots and white camisoles. Alexi and Leah picked green shirts; daringly, Megan chose blue.
Then it was time for hair. Hannah Montana wears hers long and straight, as shiny as a sheet of ice; her fans were determined to achieve the same effect. Courtney, Leah and Alexi had all skipped swimming class at North Harford Middle School in order to preserve their locks; immediately, Alexi - adept at straightening hair and sending text messages at the same time - fired up the flat iron and went to work on Megan.
"Tell me if I'm hurting you," Alexi said, tugging away.
"No, I have brothers," Megan stoically replied.
Soon Taylor Stofko, 11, and Amy Bednarek, 12, arrived as well. They had scored seats through a Miley Cyrus fan club and were having pizza and cake at the Spectors' before the show. At one point, four flat irons were smoldering simultaneously. Six heads of hair were straightened, strand by strand.
"I can't believe this is happening," said Leah, as she swiped at her eye with a mascara wand. "I'm so excited that my hands are shaking."
"Don't forget the Hannah CDs!"
Several girls rushed back into the Spector house to retrieve the precious discs; the rest piled into two SUVs, Megan, Alexi, and Leah all in the way back of Megan's mother's Suburban. Zooming down Interstate 95, the girls trilled Hannah songs, practiced their "signature dance moves" and launched several weighty discussions. Had Miley Cyrus really dated one of the Jonas brothers? Why are boys so extremely weird?
As the Baltimore skyline soared into view, "Oh, my God, we're in the same city as Hannah Montana!" Alexi cried.
"I hope she does that cool thing with the microphone," Megan said.
Then abruptly, on I-395, traffic slowed to a crawl. In the back seat the girls began to fidget. They lost sight of the car holding Taylor, Courtney, Amy and several other friends. A long, white limo idled in the next lane; was it Hannah's? No way, they decided after a moment: Hannah was far too cool for traffic. She would opt for a helicopter. The girls anxiously scanned the skies.
They had felt like rock stars, but now they saw that the highway was choked with Suburbans that were stuffed with girls just like them. As they inched closer to the arena, some of these other Hannah fans were even being let out with their chaperones on the side of the road, which made the gridlock even worse. The lucky ones streamed past in sequined outfits, some gripping their mothers' hands, others streaking ahead.
"The traffic is holding us back!" Leah wailed.
After what seemed like an eternity, the Suburban pulled into a parking space at the arena, and the girls - having reunited with their friends - stormed the elevators, startling several men in business suits. They bore down upon the entrance.
But before running in, they noticed a parking lot full of 18-wheelers and what looked like fancy tour buses. The girls were transfixed. Perhaps their idol had to take the long way, just like them.
The concert was everything the girls had dreamed of - "waywaywaywayway better" than Hilary Duff, Alexi declared midway through the show. Hannah sang "Nobody's Perfect" and "I Got Nerve" and everyone clapped and sang and screamed along.
Even the moms enjoyed themselves, though the tweens were shrieking as only tweens can.
"At first I though I might need ear plugs," said Tracie Stofko of Churchville, Taylor's mother. "But everyone's having a blast.
Besides, the car ride home would probably be a quiet one. Before the show ended some of the girls were losing their voices. Back in middle school today, they may not even be able to tell of their adventures. But such are the perils of rock stardom, and, you know, they're cool with it.