Wednesday, January 8, 2014


My mother and I have always loved Shania Twain. We blast her songs in the car and manage to scream over Shania's wails. We've done it my whole life. Shania has something of a mythic status in my family. I never learned the lyrics to her songs. They're in my blood, it feels like. Which is why I helped organize--and pay for--a trip to Las Vegas to see her for my mom's birthday. I just knew that it would be one of the best concerts of my life. And I wasn't disappointed. 

But this isn't a concert review. This is a story. A story about passion and nerdiness and how purely, unabashedly loving something can pay off sometimes.

It begins with a little bit of backstory, or, rather context. You see, my parents are strange people who spend money on strange things. They won't pay their bills on time for months, but they'll buy a new speedboat. They'll go on weeks long vacations, but be too cheap to buy paper towel. And they'll almost always pay for concerts. As a result, I've seen a lot of them, Great Big Sea in particular, a band with such amazing fans and such joyous, lively concerts. People jump and dance and clap and scream and it is always so much freaking fun. Some concerts I go to, however, are…more demure. More strange. One Martina McBride concert, in particular, stands out. My dad and I go expecting an excited crowd, but instead, Happy Girl comes and all it gets is a polite applause. Like really, people? It's Happy Girl! And why did you come all this way, why did you pay for these tickets, why are you spending time here if you don't love Happy Girl?!?!? 

Going into the Shania concert, I wasn't sure what to anticipate from the crowd. Given that this was a Caesar's Palace show, I figured there would be some people who had just come because that's what you do in Vegas. I figured most hadn't come from as far as Toronto, certainly. So, I knew the crowd wouldn't fall on the Great Big Sea end of the crowd passion spectrum. But I thought that, since the tickets were pretty expensive, the crowd reaction would be closer to GBS than Martina McBride. And I was soon realized I was wrong. And then I decided I didn't care. And I danced and screamed and cheered as loud as I could anyways. Because I had come all this way and I had listened to these songs for so long. And yeah, I was self conscious for a bit, but, soon, I didn't care. I was proud of my passion. Because it's whole lot more fun to passionate and excited and out of control in love with something than it is to respectfully clap every once and a while. So, as Shania sang I'm Gonna Getcha Good and Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under and the crowd around me sat stone faced, I threw myself into the music. These were not just songs I listened to, after all. They flowed through my veins. 

This being Caesar's Palace, even $150 dollars each only bought us fairly nosebleed seats, but really, I didn't care. I was just so happy to hear Shania. Seeing her up close was an afterthought entirely. I was over the moon, even if I was a million miles away. I had been waiting for this my whole life. I wasn't going to waste a second of it. 

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. The usher lady wanted to speak to me in the hall. I was freaked out, but I figured I had broken some rule. Standing too much. Cheering too much. I had the wrong seats. Whatever. Being a fairly loud, socially awkward person, this happens in my life. Mostly, I was annoyed that I had to miss part of Don't Impress Me Much. But then the usher explained that I had seemed so into to the show and that there were some empty seats down on the first level and would I like them? The answer in my head was instantly yes. And yes, I had that terrible person moment, considering if I could go down without my mother. But when I explained I was with someone, she didn't blink an eye. Of course, in retrospect, I guess they wouldn't just offer one seat. Most people go to concerts with another person. But in the moment, it all felt so unreal that logic had kind of left the building. In all the concerts I've been to in my life, nothing like this has ever happened to me. Being a short person, I've long resigned myself to not being able to see the actual musicians on stage at all, a problem which is made much worse when some person near the front of the crowd decides to hold up a Newfoundland flag for the entire show, because, apparently the band doesn't know where they're from and, bonus, this person has freakish upper body strength. That is the type of thing that happens to me. Not the "hey, you want a seat upgrade?" thing. Not ever. 

So, of course, I said yes, and ran back to get my mom. Of course, I had to check to see what song she had just started. Thankfully, it was only a really good one and not a great one. Still, I had to resist the urge to run down to the first level. As I forced myself to walk, I ran the lyrics in my head. There was no way I was missing more than one song. Especially since there was no knowing what the next one would be. 

They forced us to wait outside until a song break, which was deadly. I decided to take the moment to go to the bathroom, though that nearly killed. I literally sprinted to the bathroom and back. I was not missing more than one song. Over my dead body. When I made it back (in time!), everyone was staring at some guy at the other first level entrance. Shania's husband, apparently. Which was a little weird. 

Anyways, I was thinking they were going to put us somewhere near the back of the first level. Still a significant distance from the stage. But when the usher girl FINALLY let us back in, she placed in the first section! The back of the first section but still. Those are still freaking $500 seats. That people had bought and not bothered to show up for! And besides, it turned out to be great positioning, because Shania actually walked up and down the aisles. Meaning, at one point, she was less than a foot away from me! She was shaking people's hands, and I had even worked up the courage to offer her mine, but she turned her back to me just as she passed. But, dear god, who cares? Shania freaking Twain was less than a foot from me! And I was the first section at her concert! Nothing else in the whole world mattered in that moment. 

And yeah, the concert went off from there. They dropped confetti, which, on the first level, I could actually catch. And I could see everything. And my mom and I both enjoyed it so much. It was absolutely amazing. Way more than we ever dreamed of. All because of passion and a lack of self-consciousness. It was a great experience. And it was also so great that being passionate about something, without any shame or holding back, could actually be validated. Rewarded. In the best way I could imagine. In one of the best nights ever. 

So often, I feel self-conscious about loving the things I love (don't we all?). And in that moment when I first stood up to dance, I was overcome with self-consciousness. But I am so freaking glad I ignored it, so freaking glad I allowed myself to be the insane Shania fan I am. Because, it turns out, sometimes passion does pay off. Who knew. 

A lot of this post is just me insanely fan girling, at the cost of the good (or mediocre or whatever my work usually is) writing, so I'll leave you with the words of a man who is always a much better writer than me: 

(Can I write a post without quoting or linking or at least referencing John Green? No matter what I say about TFIOS and nerdfighteria, I think not. But hey, it's good to be passionate about things, not matter what--or who--that thing is. Haven't you been following along?)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

TFIOS: Redux

I love The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS, for the uninitiated). Or, at least, I think I do. At this point, I can't really tell. All I know is that I'm supposed to. Which feels really weird.

For years, I bemoaned the fact that the things I love don't have great fandoms. Yes, YA has fantastic book blogs, there's no denying it, but it doesn't have the insane, paraphernalia friendly type of fan culture, like Star Wars or LOTR or Doctor Who or even freaking Adventure Time (like really? What is that? An animated show gets action figures and we don't? Come on!). Of course, the term "YA" encompasses a much more vast, overarching, generalized community than, say, the fan base surrounding one specific movie or book series. But even authors like Sarah Dessen or Meg Cabot, who are YA gods, don't have that type of following. And then came John Green.

I became a nerdfigher slowly. Reluctantly. When I read John's books, I wasn't one at all. I picked up Looking for Alaska with a completionist goal in mind, trying to stay up on the current trends in YA. This was pre-TFIOS, but John's books were still pretty hot back then, so much so that I felt I had to read them to keep up my YA credibility, the same logic which motivated me to read Twilight, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and all of Elizabeth Scott's novels. And here's the thing: I didn't even like Looking for Alaska! I did quite like An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns, however; enough so that I took the time to google John Green to see if, perhaps, he had a blog. He did not. But he did have a vlog. I started with Vlogbrothers, of course, quickly adding The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, Hankschannel, Emma Approved, occasionally Hank Games and Mental Floss, as well as associated creators such CGP Grey, Charlie McDonnell, Alex Day, Rosianna Halse Rojas, and Carrie Hope Fletcher. I added each without really thinking about it. They were simply things I enjoyed watching--it never really occurred to me that the watching of them would affect me in any way. I never considered that slowly, but surely, by watching all these channels and then following John and Hank on tumblr and then listening to Hank's music and then getting DFTBA posters for my bedroom walls, I had become….a nerdfighter?

It's a label I'm not exactly comfortable with, not one I fully identify with, but one you could certainly identify me as given my interests and internet habits. Which feels really strange. There have been a few times when I myself used the label as a sort of shorthand, but it's always felt kind of strange coming out of my mouth. Disingenuous. Unearned. A wrong fit. Conversely, identifying myself that way has sometimes made me feel like a fangirl. In that way, the label was embarrassing. Shameful. Either way, it has been a label I have resisted.

But, ultimately, it wasn't the label that made me question myself. It was how I started reacting to things. Originally, I was a fan of the things--the books, the music, the Youtube videos--and the fandom just came along with that. Now, though, as much as resist the "nerdfighter" name, I fear that I may be reacting as part of the fandom, rather than as a genuine fan with a passion for that specific thing. Specifically, TFIOS.

I really liked TFIOS when I read it. At least, according to my review I did. Yet, now, somehow, I find it hard to remember. Now, it's hard to figure out if I like TFIOS because I'm caught up in the hype and the adoring spirit of nerdfighteria, or if I actually like the book because of my own experience reading it. Unlike most books, I don't really have a personal relationship with TFIOS as much as I have a collective relationship with it. Whereas, with other novels, I reread parts only in the dead of the night or as a treat when I wake up on a lazy Sunday morning or when I'm really upset and need a source of comfort, with TFIOS, I don't seek it out in the same way. Instead, I follow John's tumblr and the TFIOS tumbler and visit the DFTBA website, and, of course, watch the Vlogbrothers videos. Instead of finding the quotes myself, digging through the book like I normally would to find that line or paragraph or moment that stood out to me, that touched me personally in some way, I find myself rereading the quotes that other people selected, that mattered to other people, that touch people most in nerdfighteria as a whole. I don't think this an inherently negative difference. But it is sort of a fascinating difference.

When I see the TFIOS movie poster or the TFIOS audiobook read by John Green, I instantly want those things. And I almost order them and I almost order them, and then I question myself: why do I want this thing? Is it because I love the book or because I'm supposed to love the book? Is it because I want to prove that I'm a nerdfighter or because I actually am one? Is that something I want to be? What does it mean that I want this thing?

All these questions! I don't have questions like this with Sarah Dessen or Stephanie Perkins' novels. Because, in this unique case, it's not just my interpretation of the novel that gives it meaning--to use a John quote, "books belong to their readers"--but the group's interpretation. And, while I'm still finding my place in this group--or perhaps outside of this group--it seems the questions will remain unanswered.
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