Sunday, January 22, 2012

A shrine to several eras of weirdness

My college dorm room is absolutely filled with tchotchkes. My walls alone hold eight posters, 38 postcards, six brochures and one ticket stub. My desk shelf plays host to figurines and stuffed animals, porcelain piggy banks and a hat made to look like it might have belonged to Magritte.

So what am I trying to say with all of this?

This is not my Alcoholics Anonymous-esque declaration of fault. I am not a hoarder or a packrat necessarily (though other habits of mine may say differently, see: keeping programs and ticket stubs from plays I've seen), but the plethora of decorations lining the otherwise barren white-painted brick walls of my itty bitty living space speak to a greater aspect of my character: my tendency to be a fanatic.

It began at age three when I started dressing up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I can barely remember a time when I didn't own a pair of red-sequined flats and a basket with a scruffy stuffed terrier. Numerous viewings of Judy Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" led to my own repetitive rendition of the song, belting "Why, oh why can't I?" while sitting in the car as my mom filled up her tank with gas. I assumed no one heard me, but cars aren't that sound-proof.

Dressing up as Esmeralda
By four, I was singing a different tune, "God Help the Outcasts" from Disney's 1996 animated film, The Hunchback of Notre Dame. For all intents and purposes, I considered myself baby Esmeralda. I ran around with my naturally dark and curly (but actually matted mess of) hair wearing her white and purple peasant dress and her skimpy red ensemble interchangeably, banging a tambourine and dancing to "Topsy Turvy."

For the next 15 years, there were many stages in my flip-calendar of fandom. For clarity's sake, I will list them in order with minimal exclusions:

five years old: Hercules / six years old: Spice Girls & Britney Spears / eight years old: Aaron Carter / nine years old: Lizzie McGuire / 12 years old: Green Day / 13 years old: Gilmore Girls / 14 years old: The Jonas Brothers / 17 years old: John Keats

It is because of these trends of fascination that I come to label my life in a series of periods beginning with the Disney era, progressing to the Bubblegum Pop era, arriving at the Brooding Pre-teen era, and culminating in the Other-Worldly Girly Girl era.

Each period signifies a distinctive, but also incredibly formative part of my life. None of them have completely faded, yet all of them have fallen into the past, despite cropping up in their own ways these 19 years. In fact, each of the eras has their place in my current life, a connection between "then" and "now."

Disney Era

Then: The Disney era, most prevalent from ages two until five, but extending to around age nine at a slightly lesser level, consisted of thousands of trips to Disneyland, even more viewings of Disney films and recurring karaoke sessions in which I butchered the lyrics to some of my favorite songs in the backseat of the car.

Now: Once I reached middle school, I started rediscovering my love for Disneyland after a short-lived hiatus. My expired Disney pass gave way to a few years of absence from the park, but eventually my desire to renew would replenish the whole world of Disney to my life. Now, I often annoy friends and acquaintances by quoting the films, mentioning the rides, singing the songs and practicing my "Disney Princess walk."

Bubblegum Pop Era

Then: My fascination with the film Spice World, was only half of this wonderful period in my life. From ages six to about eleven, I spent all of my time listening to the vocal stylings of such musical geniuses as Aaron Carter, Hilary Duff, The A*Teens and Britney Spears, practicing my awkward version of the "Oops...I Did it Again!" dance and trying to become a teeny bopper rapper like my dear A.C.

Now: Though I've grown tired of this style of music as my singular genre of interest, it would be a gross factual error to say that I have become completely alienated from the world of bubblegum pop. By age 14, I was back into the Radio Disney phase of my life, listening to the Jonas Brothers on a daily basis. And even now, I am not uncommonly found YouTubing N*Sync or S Club 7 in my free time.

Brooding Pre-teen Era

Then: By age 12, I was trying to find my niche in a world I didn't believe I belonged to anymore. I felt out of place in school, a chubby little middle schooler with glasses and braces who had tried to watch TRL after school, but grown tired of it. I needed an outlet for the mild angst I felt. I found Green Day. In October 2005, I waited (along with my dad) for 18 hours to stand in the pit at one of their American Idiot tour dates. I read The Catcher in the Rye because it was Billie Joe Armstrong's favorite book, I visited San Francisco because the band is from the Bay Area and soon declared that I would attend UC Berkeley.

Now: I no longer listen exclusively to Green Day, but to this day I can sing most of the lyrics to their music, tell you which album a particular song is off and proudly declare that their best work was during the "Nimrod-Warning" era. As for Holden Caulfield, he is still a character I identify with and appreciate, despite being acutely aware of his sometimes immature cynicism. While the angst that made me believe everyone in the world to be phonies is gone, my appreciation for this point in my life is not lost.

Other-Worldly Girly Girl Era

Then: After a year of obsession with Green Day, my psyche had had enough of Billie Joe's frequently indeterminate sexuality and the expletive-filled rants that were most of their songs. While I still loved the music, I had rediscovered two points of interest: intellectualism and effeminacy. In eighth grade, I started watching Gilmore Girls which, at the time, was still on the air with older episodes being played each afternoon on ABC Family. I watched every episode of the show like it was my religion and forced my dad into watching as well (though he eventually became equally obsessed). By 2007, during my freshman year in high school, Gilmore Girls came to an end, but the fascination with the Ivy League-level intelligence of Rory and her prudish daintiness would follow me throughout high school.

Following the Gilmore phenomenon came a new fascination for me that was actually a hark back to my old bubblegum pop phase. I became enamored with the Jonas Brothers, a pop-rock band heavily featured on Radio Disney whom I would eventually see in concert [omitted number, more than 10 but less than 50, for reputation's sake] times.

Sitting with a statue of John Keats at King's College London
In 2009, after watching the film Bright Star, my jB love would be eclipsed by a new romance with the poet John Keats. With an already fully-bloomed love of British culture due to a spike in my long-lived Harry Potter obsession at age 14, I was fully ready to take on a new crush in the form of the deceased poet. I proceeded to read his letters and poetry, carrying a book of his collected works around my high school with me, proudly displaying it as a trophy of my love.

Now: More than any other set of interests, save Disney, Gilmore Girls, the Jonas Brothers and John Keats have lived on. Gilmore Girls continues to be my favorite television show, I still rank the Jonas Brothers among my favorite bands (weird as that may be for a nearly 20 year old) and I regularly read Keats whether on a warm day by the lake or in my room when I'm feeling lonely. So, as far as is evident to me, I am still the ethereal oddball that I was at age 13. Perhaps a little more aware of where I fit into the intellectual structure of society, and even more aware of my place between the roles of effeminate female and feminist.

Through the years, I've learned a lot about myself through my various bouts of fandom. I've allowed myself to grow in and out of trends, never necessarily conforming to the zeitgeist that inspired my peers, but also not standing so far outside of what was considered mainstream. I went in and out of different versions of myself, from the little girl who only wore dresses to the troubled youth back to the feminine fairy-like weirdo.

Now, almost twenty and more than a decade past my Disney-filled childhood of dolls and frilly posters, I am still not so far from any of my personas. My walls pay homage to impressionist art, Doctor Who, Harry Potter, John Keats and Disneyland. I have figurines of two of The Doctors, Prince Eric and a stuffed bear dressed as Peter Pan.

Each stage has painted my life, decorating the walls of my room with my history. But my history is actually just as much of my present as it is my past. Fanaticism is not a word which most people consider pleasant or positive, but for me it has determined the many characteristics of my personality, flawed or not. And my walls, however a shrine they may appear to be, are the idols of my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment