That single fangirl friend talks fandom and relationships (or a lack thereof)
“I cancelled drinks with this guy because SHINee’s music video is coming out tonight.”
A friend of mine, something of a K-pop youngblood with a year of fangirling under her belt, told me this the other week. At the time, it didn’t strike me as anything outside the realm of normalities for the typical twenty-something. After all, I can’t even count the number of people in my social circles who would call off a date in a heartbeat for a new episode of Game of Thrones or an NBA game.
Although in retrospect, it left me thinking. My friend’s casual confession made me think about my own situation relative to dating and relationships (or lack thereof). I’m the poster child for being happy and single, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t understand why raised eyebrows greet my no-boyfriend-since-forever confessions. My romance track record is about as smooth and spotless as a baby’s ass, punctuated only by the brave few who’ve confessed and been turned down. I realize that pursuit of a relationship was never really a prospect I paid any mind to.
Upon closer inspection, I think my being a K-pop fangirl since childhood has contributed to that in one way or another.
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I know it might sound a little ridiculous, but the more I thought about my life’s dating-fangirling proportionality, the more it made sense. In high school, I didn’t care about prom or who I was going with; I cared about the album my favorite group would be releasing the next month. While pretty much all my friends in college dated around, I was busy catching up with variety show appearances and picking up the basics of a language. Fast forward to the present, what has changed? I’ve got single friends. I’ve got married friends. And me? I’m the friend wrapped in a special snowflake blanket of singularity since birth.
This thought led me to wonder, are people the same? There are countless boys and girls who dedicate the same time, funds and effort into supporting the artists they like. How has K-pop affected this aspect of their life?
I took to the fandom Twitterverse (stan Twitter, if you’re feeling technical) for answers.
“Being in a fandom has made it harder to find physically attractive
people who measure up to what I’d like.”
A little context: when it comes to the world of Korean entertainment, celebrities are expected to present their best selves. Attractive, talented and well-mannered, the boys and girls of K-pop are called idols for a reason. They’re trained to be looked up to and when you’re neck-deep in a world so saturated with beautiful people, it’s hard not to want some of that in real life—even with the knowledge that what we see is but the tip of the iceberg.
Hear me out. I’ve been on the receiving end of snide comments about my high standards for so long, but it’s not like I’m expecting the potential love of my life to actually have big eyes, deep dimples, exceptional leadership skills and a sponge cake for a heart. I won’t deny that there are fans whose longing for celebrities borders on parasocial, but a large fraction of us cannot and will not identify with that. Our checklists might be longer, but like everybody with a type, ideals are aspirations rather than deal-breakers.
“Isn’t it unfair that if your girlfriend is a huge fan of something and collects it,
it’s a good hobby. But when she likes K-pop, there’s suddenly a stigma?”
I was on the way to a photo shoot with a few colleagues last year. One of them asked another how he’d feel if his girlfriend loved K-pop unabashedly (read: staying up to catch their midnight album releases, lining up for good seats at their shows, flying out of town for their concerts, etc.). Let’s just say the answer didn’t stray from what I expected.
The aforementioned checklist of ideals isn’t one-sided.
“People say it’s about growing up, like once you grow up, you’ll leave K-pop behind and embrace the prospect of dating,” shares another respondent. “Me liking K-pop doesn’t mean I’m less of an adult.”
There are varying perspectives from the outside looking in, and it’s safe to say that not many of them put fangirling over boys who dye their hair and pierce their ears, who are branded as effeminate, who speak a different language, in a positive light. Perhaps it’s a valid preference, in the same way some people refuse to date younger men or taller women. Perhaps it translates into what they see as the fangirl’s perplexing undateability.
“Would you say K-pop fills some sort of void for you?”
“I would say it used to just be K-pop, but right now
it’s the fandom [as a whole].”
We converse over chat, but when I ask one of my biggest fangirl friends whether she still finds herself attracted to “real” men despite her heightened standards, I can almost hear her respond, laughter light and easy. “Like finding a guy hot? Of course, I always think about dating,” she admits. “But I never feel inclined to put in effort and make a move.”
As I neared my twenties, I took longer strides and deeper dives into the taped-up territory of fandom. Maybe that’s why I never found myself searching for love. At the time when my friends thought I’d open my eyes to relationships, at the age my mother began to date my father, I formed unshakeable bonds with people who shared the same interests. It’s become a little less about the boys I love and a little more about the people they led me to find.
So where does that leave us? Has K-pop made me undateable? It’s not the only reason, but with ten years of it so deeply embedded into my person, it’s definitely contributed to the way I am, the way I perceive people, prospects and possible relationships. In fact, undateable might not even be the word for it. Emotionally unavailable for the time being is more I like it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got concert footage to catch up on.
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Art Cara Gamo
Images via vogue, zing ying li, thanhh truc