What happens when a fangirl grows up (Or the bits you get to keep).

Sunday, 12 November 2017

"How can you say young girls don't get it? They're our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans — they don't lie. If they like you, they're there. They don't act 'too cool.' They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick." - Harry Styles

Confession time: I was a teenage fangirl (You're all like "Mate, we know. That's not a confession). Through loving a band (they were called V. If you've heard of them you're definitely of a certain time) I met some of my best friends, saw places I otherwise wouldn't have (Bradford, Birmingham, Swindon... all the classics), and learned that there was so much more available to me than drinking in Peckham parks and being loudly raging when the frankly terrifying boys from the school next door shouted oi at you as you walked past. (It was a real problem. Eventually our school had to get it's own London bus so they couldn't get us).

I had posters of Gareth Gates covering not only every wall but most of the ceiling too (I have no idea how I coped, thriving as I do on spaces that are light. I must have loved him that much). I wore a red ribbon on my wrist to concerts and TV recordings, the internationally recognised symbol (no but literally) of Gareth devotees everywhere, and used to dance to Westlife in my tiny bedroom, the track skipping if I moved too vigorously and jogged the CD player. It was part of me. The making of, in some ways. 

But what happens when a fangirl grows up? Which parts stick? Does it change you forever, or do you look at the Harry Styles fans in the front row and think they're losers? (Spoiler alert, no you don't).

That world could not feel further away to me now, almost 15 years on from the height of the boyband thing, but there are definitely parts of me that exist because I spent my teenage years using my fake ID to get in to Top of the Pops rather than Wetherspoons. These are some.

You basically become a qualified detective.
The reason I can find out what your Tinder date does for a living, how long his last relationship was and who with, and what he did last night with just five minutes and a first name? All of that was born of this time. (Alright maybe not all. Maybe some of it comes from the alternative life that's definitely within me where I was a criminal lawyer. Anyway). Teenage fangirls want to know things. Be that who their idol is dating or just where they'll be tomorrow night, the tips and tricks you pick up stay with you, I've found. The fangirls of today have it easier; they can analyse an Insta story, identify the tv studio, and be there in an hour, I'm sure. In our day it was a lot more picking up of subtle hints, teasing stories out of someone who knew someone, and pooling resources with the rest of the teen detectives to make sure everyone got their selfie. Or just going to CD:UK all the time and hoping for the best.  Life skills, I'm sure you'll agree. 

It instills a fearlessness in you.
So what, you were banned from Riverside Studios for trying to leave in the middle of a recording (it got well boring after whoever you'd come to see had performed) and had written your (obviously fake) name in their book so they knew not to give you tickets ever again. That never stopped any of us from re-joining the queue the next week in the hope our sins had been forgotten, which they almost always had. The lesson? You keep on showing up. Do what you need to, as long as it isn't hurting anyone, and trust that if you do it with enough confidence, everyone will assume you belong there. (See also the time we fit 8 people in to about 4 seats at Wembley Arena just by dancing enough that they couldn't work out who was sitting where). 

It makes you honest. 
As Harry Styles says above, if a teenage girl likes you, she tells you. That never really left me. I live louder because in my teens that's how everyone I knew lived. We had, as one of the Boybanders put it to me many years later, a lot of feelings, and we weren't scared to express them at all. I like to think I've reigned it in ever so slightly in the 15 years since, but I'm still not afraid of putting my love out there, and honestly, I think so many of the best things in my life have come to me because of that. (I owe a lot of my writing style to that principal too, I'm sure). 

Got a problem? I'll solve it.
It's occurred to me only in this moment that I think you need a certain intelligence to be a fangirl in the way that we were; a sharpness they don't teach you in school. Whether that grows from the hours outside the BBC in the cold or is the thing that makes you think spending Friday night having a laugh on a pavement in White City is a good idea in the first place I'm not quite sure, but I definitely think it's a gift. You learn to think on your feet ("I'm just opening this door to see if I can get phone signal, definitely not to let loads of my friends in the side"), change plans, direction, and sometimes even city at the drop of a hat, and always have a chewing gum handy (to stick backstage wristbands back together when passing them off between each other. It's disgusting, I know). The creative solutions we came up with using only text messages and a £2 travel card were, in retrospect, pretty impressive. 

The world expands.
The fangirl years were, really, the first time I was taken out of my immediate circle. It was like someone had dropped water on my friendship group, and like paint on paper it expanded quickly and vastly. My best friends suddenly lived all over London (eventually all over the country) rather than in the square mile around my school, and it felt for the first time like getting to choose your people. It wasn't circumstantial anymore. We were (we are) all so different, but a common love overrides that when you're 15, doesn't it, and then you realise that different is fine; that different is the best thing. These friendships weren't based on mutual-love-of-a-thing for long; it quickly became about mutual love of each other. Even the people you barely knew back then; the ones you just saw around sometimes; added on Facebook; hardly ever spoke to, become part of the story, and the legacy. We all look out for each other, still. They're the only ones who really get it, and that's a specific kind of magic. A knowingness you can't fake. Those teenagers became 20-somethings who were first to know about all my firsts. The girls with an abundance of love to give became women, and that abundance didn’t diminish, and now we give it to each other’s families too, and each other’s children, and still (always) each other. They’ll be at my wedding. Some of them will be in my wedding. The best bit you get to keep, so long after it all ends, is the people. 

So would I do any of it again? Hell no. Am I a little bit jealous of the Harry Styles fans, living out their glory days in the front row? Surprisingly not. 

Was it formative, though? And important? And worth it? Well, yeah. Duh. Obviously. 

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