Three things are true right at this moment:
1. I am watching three different baseball games on TV because I have money riding on a fantasy game.
2. I am live streaming the red carpet arrivals at the Met Gala on the internet because it is one of the most high-profile and awesome fashion events of the year.
3. I just recently returned from a road trip in which I drove 8 hours to see my favorite band play live.
Now, there are a lot of people who would have a big problem with these things (especially number 3), namely my parents, countless ex-boyfriends, and some former friends. Many people seem to think that the only people who are allowed to do these types of activities are Fangirls and Fanbois. They are typically very young, and they look a bit like this:
There is a lot of criticism of various fans of things. I’m not talking about fan rivalries like the One Directioners vs. the Swifties. I’m talking about people who just think fans are stupid. My father, for example, who is adamantly not a fan of anything at all, looks at all fans of all things as immature, unemployed, vapid, unintelligent, and at their very worst, a danger to everyone else. He doesn’t care what these people are supporting. He believes that anyone who devotes any time to learning about anything pop-culture-related is unbalanced and destined to fail at life. My mother is not much better. Although she likes certain things, she believes she is too old to be a fan. Fandom is for bratty tweenyboppers.
I became a fan at a very early age. The Beach Boys were my first love, followed by the cast of Kids Incorporated, followed by Ferris Bueller (well, Matthew Broderick as Ferris Bueller). When I was a little kiddo, it was not uncommon to find me either singing and dancing in front of the TV (with a rockin’ hairbrush mic of course) or trapped in my room with headphones blaring at an unsafe volume. I also sometimes recruited my friends to act out scenes in movies and/or perform as backing vocals. Performance art was a way of life in my world, and most of my friends very willingly played along.
I never lost my love for music. As I grew up, music is the one thing that remained constant. My taste changed over time (although I still adore The Beach Boys), but I always found such comfort in the poetry combined with the melodies. Self-expression never came easily to me, so I felt relieved whenever I would find a song that mirrored how I was feeling.
All hell broke loose when my mom won tickets in a radio contest to an Oasis concert when I was 15. I couldn’t say that I was an Oasis “fan” at the time, but I liked their music well enough. I was allowed to go to the show with a family friend, and I can honestly say that I felt my life changing during the two hours of that show. Something about the sheer volume of the music combined with the lights and the energy of the crowd just spoke directly to my soul. It was as if a hole was being filled that I didn’t even know was there. I wasn’t allowed to stay for the whole show (curfew), and I didn’t even get to hear my favorite song of theirs. It didn’t matter. The bug bit me, and things would never be the same.
Over the years, I’ve latched on to quite a few different bands and the sheer joy of seeing them play live. When I was in high school, my parents didn’t mind my fascination with concerts because they saw it as a very teenager-ey thing. They even allowed me to take off with a group of my friends and follow Phish up and down the east coast for two weeks. I was a good kid: I never did drugs (or anything else illegal) while at any of the shows. I simply was getting high on the experience and felt more and more whole with every show. My parents truly believed the whole thing was a phase and that I would grow out of it as I was faced with becoming adult and dealing with real-world responsibilities.
Instead, I was faced with real-life obstacles that most people don’t have to endure, namely devastating illness. I’ve waged huge health battles more than once in my life, and I find that music tends to make the rough times seem a little more positive. In some of my darkest moments, I’ve reached out to some of the musicians who have moved me the most just to let them know how deeply appreciated their work is. Some have responded, and I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of these people and thank them in person for what they’ve created. I’m not “obsessed” or “in love,” rather just very moved and very grateful.
I’ve become a fan of non-music things as well. I enjoy the intricacies of baseball and loved watching it with my grandfather when I was a kid. He was a professional ball player and would always talk to me about the subtleties of the game. I didn’t fully absorb all of the information until I became an adult, but now I’m hooked. I love watching it live (there’s just something about being part of an energetic crowd that really spins my wheels), but I also love analyzing it on TV and putting together fantasy teams.
I have become acutely aware of the world of fashion lately. It’s weird and totally un-like me, but hey, it is what it is. I want to know what people are wearing, and I want to know how I can design outfits to look and feel my best. It may be silly to some, but it puts a big old smile on my face.
I’m aware that some of these interests cost a lot of money. These days, concerts in particular are astronomically expensive. I am trying like hell to get out of debt, so I have to be quite careful and pay serious attention to what I can afford. That said, I’d rather eat ramen for a week if it means I get to check out of reality for a few hours and watch my favorite band do what they were born to do. It may not be the priority everyone would have, but it works for me and has for a long time.
I’ve tried to write about this many different times, and each time I put words to paper (or screen, as the case may be), I feel like they fall flat and fail to truly capture the emotion I’m trying to convey. I feel like I’m just sort of shooting words into the universe that are being received with a heavy dose of “so what?” I guess the difference this time is that I’m ok with it. I don’t feel the need to defend being a fan. I love it and can’t imagine being any other way. Anyone who shares the same enthusiasm for things is more than welcome to join me.
This is what being a fan looks like to me. I’m out in that crowd somewhere experiencing joy and more joy. I can’t get back to that place soon enough.