Saturday, November 29, 2008
That Time I Felt This Thing
What was my first act of fandom? Anecdotal evidence says that it was singing along with Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" video, an act of which film footage exists. But I think I was simply imitating my parents' Madonna fandom, not making a statement about my own. I was four, after all, and I liked the way my parents smiled at my hesitant lip-syncing as much as I liked the song itself. "Papa Don't Preach" always seemed sad to me, anyway, especially the shot of Madonna cowering on her bed with her stuffed animals.
No, it's more likely that my first statement of pop culture adoration - my first step towards being the person who wrote in an early draft of a Statement of Purpose for Ph.D. applications that "I have a lifelong devotion to and preoccupation with pop culture icons," (a phrase that was excised after my father's incredulous once-over) - took place on the April 1996 day when I came home from seeing the remake of Flipper. I was eleven years old. I've never been much of a journaler, but that day I opened up a new blank book I'd received for Christmas and wrote on the first page: "I saw Flipper today. Now I have a crush on Elijah Wood."
My crush on Wood didn't last long - when I unearthed the diary a few years ago I was surprised to reread those words. It didn't have the legs of the more epic crushes that would come later, starting later that very year when I saw Brassed Off! on the smallest screen at our local movie theater and developed a prurient interest in Ewan McGregor. During that crush, I didn't have any set behaviors to follow. I printed out images of McGregor from the internet until my color cartridges ran dry and read up on his childhood in Crieff, Scotland. "It's a haggis and heather town," I told my mom, as if I knew what that meant.
It wasn't until my next big celebrity crush, the ur-text of my crushes, that I would establish a template of the half-embarrassed, half-enthusiastic maneuvers that I perform sheepishly to this day. In the meanwhile - sixth and seventh grades - I had crush after crush on boys my own age, classmates in school and in the afterschool Catholic classes I attended. I was the type of bookish girl who cements her unpopularity through brief, fierce interests in things like Wicca. I pined after these boys, dreamt of the day they would ask me to get a hot dog or go to the movies. Finally one did, and for a month I had a "boyfriend" with whom I would hold hands but not kiss, even when our friends locked us in the bathroom together for forty-five minutes. I wanted to kiss a boy, I wanted a boyfriend, but when it was all in front of me I couldn't move.
Then, during the summer before eighth grade, I heard the song "To Sheila" from the Smashing Pumpkins' 1998 album Adore, and fell down the rabbit's hole of emotional entanglement with people who could be at best icons and at worst unfulfilling addictions to me. I've never shaken the habit of falling strangely in love with celebrities. It's a big part of why I started this blog; because I stubbornly believe that there's something interesting about the fact that I, a generally educated and intelligent person, fall against my best wishes in a sort of hopeless lust with strangers.
If there's anyone out there, who did you have a crush on? And why do you think you did?