The Confessions of a Fangirl in Quarantine
Malvika Thirani, Copywriter, writes on embracing our lost innocence
When the man in the bank side-eyed my phone wallpaper — a picture of two Norwegian actors I’m currently smitten with — I might’ve looked like a reckless cliche; a doting dreamgirl who drums up fantasies before falling asleep. Well, truth be known, that I still do. Because at 21, the sun hasn’t quite set on my fangirl shenanigans. They began in 2014, when I was first run down with One Direction fever. Soon enough, an alarming set of symptoms started rearing its ugly head — squeamish passwords, make-believe conversations, thirst tweets. School excursions to the museum or that theme park saw Directioners gurgle with belly laughs and uncontained songs.
While my t-shirt displaying five British boys became a testimonial of unstinting love, there were many other t-shirts in the world, narrating many other stories. Case in point, a friend’s Manchester United jersey that he often shuffled into, with the battiness of a 6-year-old. He said he dreamed of being perched at a pub in Manchester, downing beer with others of his ilk and swaying his arms upon every goal. I would shake him out of his reverie and tell him mine: whimsically running into One Direction at an airport. Why, it’s a small world.
With such mawkish plotlines came parents who squirmed and called me crazy. “It’s just a phase,” they laughed. And I drew a point-blank inference: there is something unsettling that adults find in rooting for strangers. It’s seen as banal, and at best, notoriously naive. As if this love — that sits front row or cheers from the sidelines — isn’t what has incubated art and bred new artists. As if the ones who swoon and scream can’t make stadiums throb and arenas pulse. As if their fluttering hearts and teary gaze don’t pay someone’s bills.
They are meek lovers, as the adult roundtable maintains, who are often met with a tacit “grow up” hollered their way, and so I did. The band broke up and I moved on. The posters tapered off, and the fantasies fizzled out. But things changed in 2020.
By the turn of September, 6 of 8 family members had tested positive for Covid, including myself. Courting a new normal and mental overtime, we migrated deep into our rooms, only to emerge out, masked and insulated, for food.
One evening, as I pecked away at the laptop, YouTube bumped up a 7-year-old music video under “Recommended For You”. One Direction — Live While We’re Young, it read; a welcome departure from the beep and trill of oximeters. But it also elicited something new — a sudden flare of skin-prickling familiarity. The kind you feel when a scent, old and long-forgotten, floats up unannounced and stops you dead in your tracks. From then on, the algorithm kept feeding me pixel-bound nostalgia, and I indulged, complaint-free.
A slideshow of frayed memories flitted before me — Pranav saving his Coldplay concert ticket stubs, Anis scribbling “CR 7” on the classroom door, a friend who used the self-affirming alias “Radhika Styles” on social media, Meghna changing her wifi name to “Valar Morghulis”. That’s the thing about being a fan — you’re always so full of abandon. And I was too, once again, belting out Best Song Ever and puncturing the stale silence indoors. Anchored in a new-found belief that recovery would soon come pounding on our doors.
So when my aunt’s lungs seized up and oxygen cylinders were being wheeled in, my siblings and I, confined to the same room, did many things for a well-deserved distraction. My sister started listening to Black Pink, while I was shackled to Timothee Chalamet edits and SKAM, a Norwegian web series. I wondered what I would talk about if I ever met these people. Maybe on an arbitrary street corner, or a fanfare-buzzed film festival.
Visceral revelry mutated into rebellion; a patently promising coping mechanism. I architected dream sequences where everything, from how I meet them to what I wear to what I say, was exact and cautiously calibrated, to piece back a semblance of lost control. Where only I owned the puppet show, tugged at the chords, and beamed at the helm. Because it’s easy, for a fleeting second, to forget about the virus in your lungs when you’re already neck-deep in fantasies.
My aunt was hospitalized in October, and our tongues were set wagging like a broken record on loop: it’ll get better. I retreated behind my escapist tendencies, for how do you live in the moment, when living itself is scarce?
I thought about the patrons who go through life, alternating lockscreens, as I do. Or the mavericks who keep an autograph book handy at the airport, just in case. How, of late, frenzied adults populated virtual spaces with homecoming hymns for a certain footballer. How none of this is a phase or the folly of youth, it’s just human; a tic that attests to our conviction for hope. The way 2 girls, when left stranded in the Atlantic Ocean for 15 hours, started singing Taylor Swift songs to brave the nippy ordeal. How, when my family was locked in a death grip, we too hitched a ride to a figment of our imagination.
There is a certain sense of allure, just as there is conceit, to youthful daydreaming. Imaginary meet-cutes with our favourite celebrities gesture not only at our self-choreography but most importantly, at a feeble inner voice: let’s dwell on our free-floating dreams and manifest the improbable. Because despite the eye-rolls and disapproving shrugs, sometimes, this is how we promise ourselves a future — one in which, my sister weasels herself into a Black Pink concert; my friend gets squished at Old Trafford as Manchester United racks up the winning goal; I run into Timothee Chalamet on the streets of New York and tell him I like the way he says things. He laughs.
These are stories I’ve earmarked for a future that’s ludicrously normal and maskless; where everything goes according to plan. A future I’ve routinely played out before falling asleep, and in it, we’re all alive.