I unabashedly admit that I am a fangirl, always was, always will be. I thought I was done being a fangirl when I was fifteen and was seeing dreams set in the Harry Potter universe and trying to convince my parents that it was a healthy obsession as they watched me cry through movies, beg them for first-day, first show tickets and dragged them unwillingly through this journey with me.
I can honestly say that I believed those days were behind me. When college came around my obsessions were mere memories that held no power over me. My Pottermore account fell dormant, my fanfiction account became inactive and just like that, I transitioned from teen to adult, almost like shedding old skin.
My obsessions defined me to a point where it became impossible to separate me from them. They were a part of me, organically, like an arm or a leg. But this year a phenomenon took over me like a surge of current. It has a name – BTS. Well, it just happened. I began listening to K-Pop years ago in my late teens. I was always a low-key fan of all of it but this year when everybody realised the beauty of this one boy band I felt my obsession found validation.
For the past six months, this is all my best friend and I have talked about. I think it’s the timing. K-Pop, anime, Harry Potter all came at a time when I had no hope left in me. They restored my faith in myself. I know I have obsessive tendencies, so I try to stay away from things that I might never get out of. But sometimes I indulge myself and when I do I go all in.
Yesterday their movie had a limited release in India, and my best friend and I went to watch it with a hundred other girls, some younger and some older. The tickets sold out the day they released, luckily I was following all the websites like a hawk and booked two tickets as quickly as I could when they came out. I don’t regret it one bit.
I felt fifteen again. I felt that tingle like when I was inside the Platform Nine and Three-Quarters shop at King’s Cross station in London. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of belongingness. Fandoms look out for each other. You can become friends with strangers just like that if you belong to the same fandoms. It’s instant bonding.
I sound crazy, but I think we all need reminders of who we are. It’s not about the bands, or the books or the fandoms. I am a fangirl for completely selfish reasons, it brings out a different person in me. A person who has the utmost confidence. It helps me realise that fear means nothing. Everything I am scared of becomes easy to deal with.
Perhaps it’s silly, my family thinks I need to grow up, be an adult. I am thinking of jobs, independence, the future, and at the same time gushing over bands and books like they’re my family. I don’t understand why these two things have to be separate. They can’t exist together in one person according to other adults.
I mean if men at the age of fifty are obsessed with a Football team or Basketball team or a Cricket team it’s justified. But me being obsessed with a band or a book suddenly becomes childish. In fact, sports fans are crazier (I speak as one myself), from a young age kids grow up rooting for a team, they paint flags across their faces and will pay a crazy amount of money for tickets to matches. They get the jerseys, make their favourite players their wallpapers, put up posters and even make them their display pictures. They will not miss a single game. How come nobody judges them as much? Suddenly because I win a free t-shirt because I answered a quiz on the band and won, I am “crazy”.
My sister is a certified adult with a house, a job, marriage, she’s done all that but she too gave into her fan instinct and framed the map of Gondor (she’s a fan of Lord of the Rings) she got in New Zealand which she coloured all on her own. It’s now hung on her dining room wall. I think it’s amazing! I am just saying, we all have things we like, things that others may not get and as long as you enjoy it nobody can tell you it’s wrong unless it’s destructive.
It’s perfectly normal. People have told me K-Pop is alright, but what’s the big deal? Why is it so important to me? The big deal is that while friends and family need to work to figure out how to make me happy or get me out of a slump, the band only needs to exist to make me happy. I relate to them because they’re in the same age bracket, I followed their struggle while I was dealing with mine and they produce music that I can’t help but jam to.
I am not forcing anyone to enjoy it and don’t judge if they don’t like it as much as I do. Like I said, it’s not other artists because of the timing, my fandoms are pure coincidence just like being born into my family. There’s no answer to – why that fandom, will you ask me why my family name is Palanganda? Why was it my parents who got me for a daughter? It doesn’t matter I love them nonetheless. So yes for me it’s Harry Potter, or BTS, not because other fandoms are not as good or because I picked them, they connected with me that’s all.
In my last year of college I remember writing this somewhere in one of my diaries – “Why do I feel incomplete? People talk about Harry Potter to me, friends have gifted me Harry Potter merchandise….but it doesn’t feel the same. I still love Harry Potter but it’s not the same. What happened? Was it really a “phase”? Were Ma and Pa right? So now will I watch obsessed fans and not get why they are obsessed? Am I not a fangirl anymore because I have responsibilities? Or is it because I don’t need Harry Potter to make me happy anymore now that I have friends? Will I tire of watching the movies? No more online arguments and crying when Dobby dies? Who am I?”
I can say now that I am a fan-woman, I’m making that a thing. There is no age limit to obsessions. I remember telling my sister that I was afraid I’d be a forty-year-old woman still gushing over a fandom. But now it doesn’t matter to me. I still get goosebumps when I watch Harry Potter even though the movies aren’t as good as the books. I still cry when Dobby dies and I still get into online arguments.
But now I am more mature about it and my arguments are well thought out. Now when I cry, I make sure I have a tissue and when I watch the movies I can do it without my parent’s permission. It’s better to be a fan-woman because there’s no more parental control, it’s actually easier.