Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Fangirl at 71

My granddaughter was here for a visit last week. At 14, Annie is devoted to her favorite teen idols. She spends hours listening to their music, watching YouTube videos, and catching up on concerts and other news. She writes fangirl fiction and posts it on Tumblr under a different name.

During the same week I received a Facebook friend request from the man who had been my favorite teen idol when I was about Annie’s age. He is still famous and still performing. A thousand women respond when he posts.

The friend request looked real. I went to his fan page, a page I was already following, and saw the same profile photo that had been sent to me. Could it be? I knew better, but the past came rushing back to me, sweet and irresistible.

As a girl in West Virginia I rushed home when my teen idol was scheduled to sing on American Bandstand. My heart would race with love and excitement, tempered by a cold fear that I would be interrupted during those precious minutes he was on TV. Please, I prayed: no phone ringing; no Mom coming in from the kitchen; and, most of all, no failure of the picture tube in our black-and-white set. I would pull the vinyl-covered ottoman close to the screen, sit down, and make sure the volume was just right. How I loved that boy’s moves, his hair, his twinkly eyes, his voice, and the way I could hear his smile in the music.

I’ve kept the record albums I bought and memorized. I’ve seen my idol in concert twice. The first time I was a screaming teen-ager thrilled to be present for Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars at the Charleston Civic Center. I was too young to drive, so Dad chauffeured my friend Mary Jo, my little brother, and me to the show. When we sat down, Dad stood out in his gabardine topcoat among the squirming, screaming kids. The second time I saw Bobby Rydell I was a senior citizen, still thrilled and screaming like it was 1959.

I deleted the fake friend request and decided to do what I would do for anyone I thought was hacked. I sent a PM (personal message) from his fan page.

He responded, advising me not to accept: “I do not send requests.” A second message came the next day thanking me for the heads-up.

“Your grandma had a teen-age idol too,” I said to Annie. “I still do, and guess what? He’s writing to me on Facebook!”

“Grandma, that’s really exciting!” You said it, Sister.

He posted a SCAM alert. On the private side, I wished him luck and got a “thumb up” in return. I thought that was it, but we had another couple of exchanges about the fake account.

Was he really writing all these notes? It was fun speculating with Annie about whether the messages were real or had been generated by someone hired for the job of keeping up the star’s social media presence.

I then noticed "he" was one of my 83 personal page followers. What? A follower is someone who chooses to follow another’s public posts. Was it possible? After all, we had corresponded--if all of that was real. I compared photos, and the “follower” looked as real as the “friend” had--but no. It was not possible my teen idol was following my Facebook posts. I decided to write again to let him know the fake account had turned up on my page. I thought that would be the end of it.

“I think it’s over,” I said to Annie. “My messaging romance is over.”

To my surprise, he replied again with a lovely note. I was suspicious, though. How could he take that much time to write to me?

I asked Annie’s dad, “Do you think it’s him?” and showed my son the string of messages. He studied the latest one while Annie and I waited.

Greg said, “I think it’s him.”

I have other idols. I’ve been introduced to a few. Fabulous performers, some are also known to be aloof or demanding. Surely they grow weary of the attention from time to time. One star’s stage makeup failed to cover his five-o’clock shadow before scruffy beards were fashionable. Another performer shook my hand and gave me a photo signed “Love.” Honey, I thought, if you love me, put an expression on your face. When we learn to expect and excuse giant egos in exchange for entertainment, kindness is a surprise.

After his last message, ending with “It is a pleasure,” I found myself love-struck again, the way I’d been at 15. I could think of nothing else. Messaging with my idol had provided more than a memory; I was once again immersed in the experience of fan love. I figured I was on the brink of becoming a pest by then, so I sent a final message and mentally signed off.

My buoyant feeling persisted the next day as I listened to oldies on XM radio while driving to a local mall in the spring sunshine. I was filled with a sense of well-being. I knew exactly what emotions had prompted those love songs.

At age 71 I was floating on a fangirl cloud like the one I remembered—one like Annie’s. It was fun and wonderful. I got a “thumb up” to my last private message, a perfect ending to my week of fan love. And was that really B. R.? I say yes.