Happy Nickmas!

8 Jun

Yes, that’s me in 1986. (What? I suppose you looked like a supermodel at 13? Shut up.)

If you can, ignore my “no pictures please” drama* and have a gander at my bedroom. If you were born after 1980, you may not recognize the men smoldering across every possible inch of wall space. They’re Duran Duran, and in this photo, you are actually looking at my “Nick Wall.” Yes, I devoted an entire wall of my bedroom to pictures of Nick Rhodes, D2 keyboardist, a complete stranger ten years my senior.

Looking back, I have two thoughts:
1. Wow! My original hair color! I haven’t seen that since 1990!
2. Obsessive much? That’s just fucking creepy.

The fact of the matter is, there is nothing creepy about me,** and I was not alone in my obsession. Not even close. In fact, if you were a girl born 1968-1974-ish there’s a good chance you had a similar decorating scheme. Your fave D2 member might have been different, but virtually every one of my girl friends had the Duran Duran DIY wallpaper, and we were competitive about it. The photos and posters I pulled from teen mags not only covered my walls, but also the mirrors, doors and furniture. Nonetheless, my friend Jenny SO had me beat. She managed to cover her ceiling. (No fair. I was -am- short.)

Obsessing about Duran Duran didn’t feel creepy at the time. In fact, I’d say it felt sort of liberating. My preoccupation with this band certainly weirded my parents out a bit, but Duran Duran were kind of like friends to me. I wasn’t crazy; I perfectly understood these real people were strangers whose lives would never actually intersect with mine. But I spent so much time listening to their music, watching their videos (moment of silence for the MTV of yesteryear), reading interviews and unauthorized biographies and news releases that I began to feel like I knew them. My friends and I devoted so much energy to our fandom that at some point, these men stopped being real people whose personalities we could only guess at, and became more like fictional characters we could manipulate. What I didn’t know about Duran Duran, I made up.

Enter fan fiction.

The aforementioned Jenny and I began whiling away our time by making up stories involving Duran Duran. Let me repeat, before you start to squirm, we were actually 12 at the time, and pretty innocent 12’s at that. Our most salacious thoughts were positively cute. We invented our own Mary Sue personas ages before I even knew what a Mary Sue was. (I was a 21-year-old singer in a girl band, tall and slender, with long, flowing, strawberry blonde hair and enormous blue-green eyes and long sooty lashes. Of course.) The internet was still just a tickle in Al Gore’s head then, so we had no idea other fans might be making these stories up too. It embarrassed us, and we kept it secret.

Before long, the stories kept coming to me even when Jenny wasn’t around, so I started writing them down. Thus, I wrote my first novel at 13 – a work of Duran Duran fan fiction. (Yes I still have it. Good GOD no, you can’t see it.) I also wrote dozens of short stories, most of which have not survived, and that is okay. Very okay.

Soon enough I learned writing is the absolute best method of escapism. Other kids had weed; I had Duran Duran. When the real world was a drag, I’d shut my bedroom door and slip into my other world – the one where I was older, cuter, more confident, and already had my braces off. Problems at home? Write a story. Socially awkward? Write a story. Fight with friends? Write a story. Bored? Write a story. Sad? Write a story… I wrote a lot. I was a teenager. No doubt it looked kind of freaky from the outside, but on the inside it felt familiar and comforting and steady. When the real people in my life let me down, I’d spend time with the boys, and before long, those characters began to feel mighty real and mighty important to me.

Nick's in the middle.

This peaked on June 8, 1986: Nick Rhodes’s 24th birthday. To celebrate, I christened the day “Nickmas,” and handed out Starburst candies (get it? STAR-bursts?) in the hallway at school. This may have been the absolute apex of my horrifying nerdiness, but somehow I doubt it. I’ve probably repressed the rest. Of course I got teased, but here’s the kicker, I didn’t care. I just didn’t. Being a Nick Rhodes fan gave me a sense of purpose and identity that nothing else really did. He was more than just a guy on a poster. He inspired me.

Fast forward three years, and I’d lovingly pulled down my Duran Duran posters and replaced them with Poison. And three years later it was The Cure. (Sensing a theme?) And then … and then … and then… ad infinitum. I usually *wink* don’t write fan fiction anymore, but I do occasionally find an actor or a band or a movie or an author that really resonates with me, and for a few months I go a little bananas. I plunder the internet, consuming every tiny piece of related info I can find until the fixation passes and I’m on to something new.

All this comes off as pretty flaky until you think of it in terms of gender. (You knew I’d get there eventually.) Female fans make us uncomfortable. Their passions are laughable because they so often turn towards the romantic/sexual. And yet, do you know any men whose knowledge of sports trivia is jaw-droppingly vast? How many guys have seen Star Wars Parts IV-VI so many times they can recite all the words straight through? (I’ve seen it done, more than once.) I knew a guy with over fifty Grateful Dead bootleg cassettes – all of which he’d gotten at concerts. We may laugh at these guys for being a bit goofy, but no one calls them obsessed.

When the Twilight phenomenon reached its deafening crescendo a couple of years ago, criticism of its young fans ranged from amused condescension to hostile cruelty. They were derided as obsessed, stupid, and delusional. Few things are as threatening as a sexually aware young woman, and stories of girls throwing aside their actual boyfriends flourished, revealing what really scared guys about Twilight fans: “If she likes a fictional character so much, she won’t like me,” as if these girls couldn’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality. Evidently young girls shouldn’t have sexual fantasies, and if they do, they definitely shouldn’t fantasize about “perfect” men. They should fantasize about pimply, awkward boys, just as teen guys fantasize about pimply, awkward girls, right? When a guy gets caught up on a female celebrity and papers his bedroom with Maxim covers, no one laughs because we know what he’s doing in there with all those sultry Megan Foxes pouting down at him and we’re okay with that. Better there than in the living room. But girls don’t DO that, do they?

Yep. They do.

And sometimes they do it with guys who sparkle, or wear eyeliner, or dance well or sing falsetto. Get over it. The entertainment industry sells escapism and women are just as likely to buy into that as men, if not more so. If fan culture seems more omnipresent now, we can thank the Internet. It was there all along, and honestly, fandom isn’t any more threatening now than it was in 1986, just easier to find.

So, Happy Birthday, Nick! You’re still beautiful and I no longer have braces! Call me. My very real husband says it’s okay.

(I swear I had no hand in this: The Temple of Saint Nicholas!)
……

*I still feel more or less the same about having my picture taken.

**Although, once someone called me an “evil and sneaky” waitress, but that’s another story – a stinking funny one. Buy me a margarita and I’ll do my “evil and sneaky waitress” impression for you.

My lovely friend Libby. Man, I wish I still had that Smurfs bedspread.

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7 Responses to “Happy Nickmas!”

  1. The Professor June 8, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    I was a John Taylor girl, myself. Im just enough older (late hs for me) that I escaped the full on immersion but I still remember the way I felt every time I saw his photo. Thanks for the insight and nostalgia.

  2. TTinside June 9, 2011 at 5:22 am #

    AMAZING

  3. Jaime M. June 9, 2011 at 7:49 am #

    I love everything about this post. And I haven’t seen my natural hair color since 1990, either! This brought back wonderful memories of my days as a movie theater concession stand girl–I had a co-worker who would draw pictures of Duran Duran on napkins with me. She loved Nick too; I was into Simon. :-)

  4. Darlene June 9, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Jenny was a Simon girl and Pauline was a John girl and together we were quite the posse. A little fearsome, maybe. :) And you know, Jaime, you bring up something else I think is kind of awesome about fandoms — the art. I mean, sure, your co-worker might have just been being silly, but sometimes some really amazing tribute art comes from fans.

  5. Djinnjer June 18, 2011 at 7:01 pm #

    Poster wallpaper! Oh, I miss that. My wallpaper was never quite so thematic though, unless the theme were “things that are awesome.”

    I spent so much time writing below the edge of my desk in High School. It WAS comforting. I love that the Internet now allows me to connect with similarly obsessed people, writers and fans. I am, however, glad the Internet involved a phone-cradle modem and subscription when I was wee, so that my earliest forays into fiction are NOT archived outside of spiral notebooks.

    (Have you seen Sady Doyle’s defense of Twilight fans in Girls just wanna have fangs? Seems apropos.)

  6. Darlene June 20, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Thank you for that link, Djinnjer! I love Sady Doyle, and that piece captures my point exactly.

  7. Danielle S. August 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    So brave of you, Darlene and thanks for sharing. It reminded me that I used to stay up late with my sister and create stories where we ran off with the boys in NKOTB. I truly didn’t like the band that much but I thought the boys were cute. But we’d been doing this since we were much younger girls playing Pretend. We would pretend to be girls in Star Wars, GI Joe, etc and as the older sister she would get to pick which character she would be paired up with. So she got Luke Skywalker and I was “stuck” with Han Solo (Score!). She would end up married to/ kissing Bo Duke and I would end up with crummy Luke Duke (so not as cute.)

    The first novel I tried to write and failed to at 12 was The Stones of Olissia. Yeah I still have those first 25 pages and my notes and drawings…and I’m so not sharing. Way too much like bad Tolkien fanfiction with a fiesty redhead named Serena!

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