Last week, Rhonda posted a blog about why she became a fan, which you can read here. In that blog, she discussed how she felt like a bit of a misfit in school and didn’t really feel connected to other kids her age. Being a Duran fan meant that she was included for the first time. Interestingly enough, a few of our friends responded to that blog stating similar stories. Words like “misfit” or “outsider” seem to fit many Duranie stories of when and why they became fans.
This got me thinking. I wonder how many Duranies who became fans as kids felt like they belonged before becoming fans. How many Duranies were popular as kids? Or is being a misfit or an outsider a common experience for Duran Duran fans?
Like Rhonda and other friends of ours, I never felt like I fit in as a kid. I have very distinct memories of kindergarten, for example. For some reason, I was banished from the jungle gym. I didn’t know why (and still don’t). That said, I had a friend in that class that vouched for me, who convinced the others to let me climb on. That person became my childhood best friend. In fact, when I think of my early childhood (ages 5-12), she is the only friend who comes to mind. While I know that there were other kids who came over or who I played with, for me, my friendship with Beth was so much more.
By the end of 1st grade, we no longer attended the same elementary school as our school closed and we were split. That didn’t stop us as our parents were willing and able to arrange for us to get together. Beth and I did everything together. We hung out every weekend, playing in our made up store or playing with her dog, Wendy. Together, we discovered the pop culture trends of the early 80s. B-96, Chicago’s Top 40 radio station played in the back ground often on while we hung out. This allowed us the opportunity to learn about what music was cool. I’m sure this is how we heard Duran Duran for the first time.
I’m not sure who decided that they liked Duran Duran first. Although, if I had to guess, it was probably Beth. While I might have been thinking that, I was (and am) pretty shy about what I like. After having been shunned from classmates and having been made fun of more than once by older siblings about my likes, I learned to keep a lot to myself. Yet, once we declared our love for the band, we definitely reinforced each other.
From there, of course, our fandom was expressed in much of the same way as all other Duranies of the 80s. We listened to the radio and became glued to the TV once both of us got MTV. When Beth’s family got their VCR before my family did, we spent many hours watching and rewatching videos and Sing Blue Silver in her family room. Our bedrooms became wallpapered with Duran posters. Interestingly enough, both of us decided that John was our favorite and we were okay with that. For me, I always felt that it meant that I had good taste and that my choice would not only be accepted but supported.
Sounds like my childhood was great, right? Outside of school, it often was. I had great parents and a close family as well as an awesome best friend. At school, though, I was never accepted. It seemed that every grade brought new opportunities to be teased at school. When I tried to be creative or clever at school, I found myself being made fun of. It didn’t help that I was a good student. In fact, in early elementary school, I knew that I was one of the best students with older siblings who definitely held reputations of being beyond bright.
At times, I really struggled with the isolation of school and the fear of being teased. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t try to blend. I didn’t try to hide or fit in. One reason is that I thought no matter what I did or said, I would never fit in so why try? Instead, I tried to embrace my strong academic skills and I proudly declared my Duranie status. In some way subtle ways, I’m sure that I dared my classmates to keep coming after me. Looking back, I think I felt that my friendship with Beth and my intelligence shielded me or would save me.
Of course, this means that I spent a lot of time and energy trying to keep up my friendship and my good grades. I put a lot of pressure on myself, academically, and constantly worried about my friendship lasting instead of just enjoying it. I strongly believed that if we always had Duran Duran between us, then our friendship would last. Duran Duran took a great friendship and bonded us for life, I believed.
Unfortunately, both of us moved away from our little suburb. Beth moved north and I moved west. For awhile, we kept in touch and tried to get together for weekends. Duran remained a constant fixture for awhile. Then, one day, Beth told me that she took her posters down and was moving on from the band. (You all can imagine when this was–probably 1987, if I remember correctly.) Panic gripped me. Would our friendship last? Would I be strong enough without the fandom shield to face the even worse harassment of my new town?
To make a long story short, Beth and I eventually lost touch as friends who move away from each other often do. The bullying of the new town increased and became pretty unbearable. While I was a misfit in my Chicago suburb, I was the devil to the small town. Needless to say, there were a number of really tough years. I do remember trying to hold onto my Duran fandom but recognizing that it wasn’t going to bring me the friend(s) that I desperately wanted. I’m sure that it won’t surprise many of you that I then turned a little or a lot darker in both my musical tastes and my look for a few years after that.
In thinking back to my story, to Rhonda’s story, to stories shared by friends, it seems to me that many Duranies who became fans as kids felt like they were misfits. Becoming Duranies often brought or kept friendships that are so important for all kids, but especially for kids who don’t fit in. Again, I have to wonder if all Duranies had similar experiences. Other questions, then, come to mind. Did we all become Duran fans because there was something about them that spoke to us as misfits? Was there something we recognized in them as misfits or was it is simply a situation of right time, right place? Did we all become Duranies because we all needed something and they happened to be popular then?
Clearly, I have a lot more to think about and a lot more to figure out. What do the rest of you think? Were you all outsiders as kids? Do you think you became a fan simply because of the band being so popular or is there something that attracts misfits to them?