I’d like to ask, just for a moment, for you to put yourself in my shoes. I’m standing in line, waiting to order food, when I overhear two girls having a conversation about a thing that they’re a fan of. I, myself, similarly really like this thing — almost a little too much. That’s how I caught their casual reference at all. But the thing about the nature of this thing — and it is quite the thing — is that I would never, ever admit or bring up casually that I’m a fan of it. Hard cut to me, standing in line at Chick-fil-A, feeling like the innermost crevice of my soul has just been pantsed, simultaneously judging them for being so forward with their fangirling, and at the same time achingly wishing I had the guts to be as secure in my interests as they are.
What do you do when you see or hear a reference to a thing that you’re ashamed to be a fan of? I can’t mention that I recognize this incredibly niche and specific allusion to an obscure, only-stans-would-know reference without similarly revealing my embarrassingly encyclopedic knowledge of and subsequent investment in said fandom. Even worse, what if the reference was unintentional, and I was just reading too much into it? Then, when I ask, I’ve basically just bared my soul to this stranger in the wild hopes of making a human connection with them over our shared guilty indulgence in this medium, only to find that I’ve basically just admitted to them my greatest vice only to receive not a single shred of reciprocative fangirling.
While your minds may be hyper-analyzing me trying to figure it out, I’ll be the first to admit — it’s really not that deep. I’m talking about fandoms. Entertainment, movies, TV, music, comics, that we love even though we know there’s a degree of shame surrounding them. Even though many would vehemently deny it, I believe that everyone has one of these Achilles’ heel interests — something they genuinely love but would never admit to anyone that they do. For me, it’s a terrible affinity for K-pop, picked up on a late-night Youtube binge during a weird stage of homesickness for Korea. If you don’t think you have one, you’re lying to yourself.
They can take a range of mediums — from loving “Riverdale” a little too much in spite of how bad you know it is, and the sheer number of those “Riverdale” having bad writing for five minutes” compilations you’ve watched on Youtube, or indulging in a good shonen anime simply because you think the fight scenes look cool, or you wish volleyball was really as fun as they make it seem. There are the people who were probably a little too excited for the Jonas Brothers reunion, or those who could probably tell you an absurd number of facts about Ariana Grande. You are one of us, and in the case you need the validation, I support you.
Whether it be some stigma, association, or in the case of K-pop, reputation of its more archetypical fanbase — tween-aged girls who are really too young to be on Twitter, mostly, and a very specific subset of slightly unsettling older men. Versus me — college-aged girl desperately trying to get it together and be cool — there are a plethora of reasons that I believe the simple act of admission is the crux of it all. Wouldn’t we all be a little less embarrassed about these things if we were all more okay with talking about them? Yes, I objectively know that the concept of K-pop itself is ridiculous, and zero of those twenty-one random singing and dancing metrosexual dudes will ever know I exist. It would be so much easier if I was okay enough with myself to be forward about this interest. But I’ll be the first to admit that I am terribly self-righteous, and think that I have the decency to be ashamed of my K-pop habit, but I am really just not brave enough to speak my truth. Even writing this article I cringe at the thought of being recognized for it.
I have had all these thoughts, tragically, while still frozen in line in the Pav, and am so shaken by the whole ordeal that’s it’s too late to say anything even if I could gather up the mental resilience to do so. So I return, defeated, to the little niche I’ve carved out for myself on stan Twitter instead of venturing into the real world, and wait again for the next opportunity for me to peer out of my shell, observe what’s going on around me and decide to stay put.
Gabriella Chu is Humor Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.