How fandoms helped me adjust to new places
The girl from the North East beside me rises with a start. She sits up in the bed and rubs her face with her hands. It is dark, only the street light streams in through the half-open window. She turns her head to me, her name is Cat (that’s what I call her), she asks me in a trembling voice to hug her please. Straining on the please. She calls me Anna. Like her best friend she left behind in Shillong. I am awake. I wasn’t able to go to sleep. Strange ways my mind works where I can sleep at the drop of a hat when I want but for some reason I was awake that night. I was awake and able to rise and hug her and stay up with her for an hour to comfort her. We finally went to bed at two on the morning…
This small incident that happened, took me back to about a year ago. I had just shifted from living with my mother in my aunt’s house, to living in a hostel run by nuns. This worked because the hostel was right behind the college. It had a lot of rules but I didn’t think they’d actually be troublesome. For instance, all Catholics had to go to mass every morning at six, and there would be prayers at 7:40 before dinner that all the girls had to attend. They were new and thus didn’t have an internet facility and therefore promised to put one in. A lot was said. Everything was settled. My mother was happy. I was happy. Mom and my aunt scoured the hostel thoroughly. They went ahead and checked out the room, the bathrooms and everything. It definitely got my aunt’s approval. She liked the place and she made sure she was heard. She kept telling me that I wouldn’t find a place like it. She was right.
Cat is very different from me. She finds her place in the PG easily. She made friends with so many people so fast. She’s just a nice person to be around. On the first day of college I wore a Star Wars tee-shirt to the orientation. Desperately hoping that I’d attract the attention of like-minded people and in turn make some cool friends. In retrospect, I should have worn my Deathly Hallows tee shirt instead. There are so many more Harry Potter fans than Darth Vader fans in college… I made some friends though. Perhaps not on the first day. There was Steff. She was and still is the nicest one I’ve met so far. She is sweet and so understanding, ready to help always. But her I had met at the interview itself. On the first day I wasn’t exactly the one who made friends.
I did make a friend later though. Anjenny, as we now call her was coming down the stairs after my mom had dropped me off to college and told me class had been cancelled. This was theology class and the first hour of the day so we were pretty happy. We went down the stairs talking and I introduced her to mom whom I had asked to stand outside and wait in case we didn’t have class. She had worn a fandom tee. I remember it was a silhouette of the 11th Doctor and the T.A.R.D.I.S. Blue print on black. I excitedly told my mom about it. I felt like a child among all the other college students. I felt like they all looked down on me for not having the decorum and sophistication.
All the kids were taller, smarter, prettier, better dressed than I was. They fit in college. I looked like some weird school-reject potato in my home-made fandom tees and my not styled, wild hair. I was the most unglamorous and stuck out like a sore thumb among the glamorous. In a way I still do there are days in which I cannot bring myself to even wear eyeliner to look like I put some effort into my upkeep. But I learnt that none of that mattered. Because in the end there was so much more in college. College is a melting pot of culture. It’s a place for varied backgrounds and people with different thoughts and opinions. I am lucky to have not been harassed or ragged. Perhaps this is because I am a stronger person. There was one really mean guy whom I’ve blocked out of my memory who came up to me one day and asked me why I looked like an obese Harry Potter. I had been feeling so happy that day. I was laughing and having a good time. The minute I heard him say that my mood overturned. I suppose I won’t hold it against him. I don’t know what made him go to a complete stranger and say that but he did. Anyway. In the end I appreciated being seen a bit like my hero Harry. Even if it meant I was fat.
The day my mom left me in the hostel I was a bit low. I had Anjenny with me then, she was the only one I knew. The two of us walked far. The hostel curfew was 6:00pm. I wanted to stay out for as long as I could. We found a park and sat in it for so long. Finally going back when there were just a few minutes’ left for curfew time. I found my solace in the only Harry Potter book I was able to keep with me. My bed was too high; I didn’t know a single person apart from Anjenny who would go to sleep early. I was alone. But the book was my escape. That and my music. For the longest time I’ve found my refuge in the songs I listen to. You can’t ask me what genre I like because it’s so varied and there exists within it complete polar opposites. But My Chemical Romance has always been a standstill for me.
I had my place in the study room. I kept my things there. It was close to a single plug point that I would use to either charge my phone or my laptop. I needed it because my phone would run out of charge so often. And I needed my phone for the internet. Yes, I sound like a spoiled brat but quite frankly the net was the dark hole I needed to crawl into when I was alone. I made friends slowly. I still charged my phone. It was my link. The only link I had to people who were fanpeople like me. This became all the more important as life in my hostel (soon to be called ‘hostile’ by my friend Nayn) became all the more unbearable. I delved into the notoriously addictive T.V. show Supernatural. When the warden of the Hostile would do something to annoy us all I’d go back to my laptop, in my place beside the window, and I would watch. I would binge episodes at a stretch. And this didn’t seem to hamper my studies much because I got pretty good marks throughout. One more thing that becoming part of the Supernatural fandom has done for me is that it has given me a fandom family.
I’ve been in the Harry Potter fandom for a really long time. And after that I was a Whovian and then a Merlinian. I became part of the Supernatural fandom most recently. However, it is only in the Supernatural fandom that I felt the togetherness that could call us a family. The Supernatural fandom is huge. It has often been described as a cult and a lot of people are even scared of it. They have power. At the same time, these people are one of the nicest bunch I have ever had the pleasure of interacting with. I was accepted into a group on Facebook called Supernatural Shippers, but the group goes so far beyond shipping. (Shipping by the way is the act of pairing two characters together mostly romantically in this context.) I know that the days I was having problems in this new setting all it took was one post in that group telling them I was low and asking for help when my notifications were flooded with loving comments and helpful bits of advice. Even nice pictures! And I’m not the only one. There are so many others who ask and they too get the help they need. Often, I feel that the people on that group are more helpful to me than the people who are not on the internet.
It is true however that there is a lot of unnecessary hate among fandoms. There is always the people who are at odds with each other. There are always the ones who – for reasons unknown to me – like to start wars. But the helpful outnumber these. When fandoms take up arms and rise against something it is scary. Because they do have the power to hurt and they do have the power to make great things happen. That many people, all over the world, united for one cause. They can make things happen. As a majority they can influence others.
I brought up my friend Cat for a specific reason. Cat and I became friends through fandom. When Cat first came she was mostly quiet. We didn’t really talk much. But then she asked me about the many Gerard Way quotes that I had stuck around the room, asking me if I loved the man or the band. I told her I liked both. She stayed quiet sneakily and then the next night she pulled on a My Chemical Romance tee-shirt to wear to bed making me gasp when I came out of the bathroom. She grinned at me and I asked her if she was a fan, and if that was why she asked me about the quotes… After that it was like an unbreakable bond had been formed between us. We stayed up till late at night singing songs (mostly My Chemical Romance songs), watching musicals, or just simply talking, but it wouldn’t have happened that way if it wasn’t for MCR.
The number of times fandoms have helped me adjust is uncountable. In some ways I depend on fandom to make friends. It’s become the shield I take out with me every day when I go to face the world. Merchandise is expensive, so I make my own. I base so much of my work off fandom references. I am the Fangirl.