Yesterday was my first day back at work. As with every other teacher inservice day, the agenda was filled with meeting after meeting. One meeting involved us getting into small groups and sharing the path each of us took to become a teacher. One of the specific questions involved childhood and our experiences as kids. Interestingly enough, before yesterday, I had been thinking about my childhood and how that fits who I am now specifically in regards to my Duran fandom.
As I told my colleagues yesterday, I spent my formative years in two very different places. I was born on the south side of Chicago and spent the first half of my childhood in the south suburbs. Most of my classmates were African-Americans who like my family were part of the lower middle class. Like many of you reading, during this time, I witnessed the explosion of MTV and found myself falling for five British guys with catchy pop tunes and fascinating, beautiful storyline-filled videos. Despite it being the early 80s, Duran Duran was not popular in my neighborhood or in my school. Michael Jackson was the be all and end all to most of my peers. (For the record, I liked Michael but not like I loved Duran!)
I remember sitting at the cafeteria next to my friend, who was the only other Duranie I knew, across from very serious Michael Jackson fans. We debated everything (or so it seemed from an elementary school position). I can recall talking about the differences in videos from Michael’s Billie Jean to Duran’s Hungry like the Wolf. Billie Jean was better, according to my classmates, because Michael “danced”. While I couldn’t disagree with that fact, I focused on the more intense storyline and the exotic location of HLTW. These (mostly male) classmates could care less about the storyline. To them, Michael’s commercial success combined with awards received proved he was better. I tried, unsuccessfully, to show that Duran was more compassionate by being on Band-Aid, months before Michael joined with others to do We Are the World.
Part of me loved these debates as it was thrilling to demonstrate my passion. I also felt confident that I had enough information to really argue my point. In reality, I desperately wanted to prove why Duran was better. Looking back, I know that part of this desperation was that I believed I was judged by my likes. If my friends didn’t like Duran and didn’t think they were cool, then would they still like me, I wondered insecurely. I also really liked the idea that I could be SO convincing to increase Duran’s fan base all by my little self. I wanted to feel powerful and to be looked up to. I’m sure some of that feeling comes from being the youngest of three children and having brilliant older siblings that I never felt I could live up to. Overall, though, the goal was to keep or make friends, something that never has come easy for me.
The lunchtime debate didn’t not last much past the release of the videos for Thriller and Wild Boys as I moved about 70 miles away to a small town. Before I even stepped foot into my new bedroom, I already despised the town. MTV was not available and there was no Top 40 radio. My family moved into our new house on a hot August day with the idea being that my room would be all set before I would enter one of the town’s elementary schools. As the movers pulled away from the curb, a girl about my age stopped her bike in my driveway, introducing herself. Having hope for the first time that the town might not be as bad as I feared, I greeted her and began to ask about what liked. My hope was dashed quickly as I found out that not only wasn’t she a Duran fan, she had never even heard of the band! I was outraged!
Needless to say, I spent a few years feeling pretty alone. Initially, I tried to engage in debates similar to the ones I had in the suburbs. For whatever reason, these heated discussions turned negative and personal very quickly. Soon enough, Duran was used to make fun of me. The year was 1985 and I was all about John Taylor’s Power Station look. I wore a lot of black and red as well as those black jelly bracelets that he sported at the time. Unfortunately, kids in that town did not appreciate my fashion style and frankly dismissed Duran as a “bunch of homos”.
Now, I find myself still responding as I did as a kid. On one hand, part of me wants to openly share my fandom and my love for Duran. I want to prove them and my love of them worthy to everyone I can. Part of the reason is because of the passion I feel for the band. The other part has to do with me protecting myself and feeling good about myself. If I can convince others that what I like is great, then they will be with me. They will be an ally. This would also make me feel really good and cool and who doesn’t like that? They will want to be friends, perhaps. The protective side knows that even if they don’t want to be friends, they at least won’t make fun of me. It is hard to make fun of someone who shares your interests, right? Strangely, adult Amanda still worries about this kind of thing, which is a big part of the reason that I seem so private. The less people know, the less people can make fun of me for, the less I can be rejected for.
Sometimes, the fear is so strong that I just hide my interests including this fandom or elements of my fandom. I’ll give an example that once again circles back to work. Today, we are going on a community scavenger hunt. The directions include a statement about wearing something comfortable. My initial thought about what is comfortable is a Duran t-shirt. The kids are not there yet. I don’t need to look “professional”. Lots of people, including my boss, know that I am a big fan. Other colleagues wear t-shirts advertising their interests. Yet, I struggled to put the t-shirt advertising my interest on today but I did it. I wore the shirt.
It is funny how a simple discussion at work brought up a lot of realizations on my part. Moving forward, I would like to be able to embrace my fandom–not to increase my coolness factor or to protect myself from attack but because it is a part of who I am. I want to be authentic and confident enough about what I like and who I am.