Written by Harriet Winn
I am a fan girl.
It is not easy to admit this. In fact, I wrote that statement and then deleted it. Then rewrote it, and deleted it again. But after much internal debate I have finally (reluctantly) conceded that there is truth in it.
I am a fan girl of Florence Welch’s. Florence – the fiery haired, ethereal goddess whose sustained notes and whimsical dance moves define the popular band Florence and the Machine.
Yet for years now I have soothed myself with elaborate falsities about how I am unlike other fan girls; my admiration is “deeper”, “more authentic”, and “unique”. But it’s simply not true.
I dissect Flo’s lyrics with intricacy, whilst exclaiming with naïve self-indulgence that “she is literally singing about my life!” I watch interviews with Flo, feeling a joyous sense of gratification in attaining intimate knowledge about her life. I dance wildly, without inhibition, to her music – investing my body and soul into a song. I attend her concerts and scream with glee the moment she, in all her celestial glory, steps on stage. All traits of an ardent fan girl.
But there comes the catch… the concerts. It is easy to reject accusations of ‘fangirling’ with a dismissive laugh when you are not standing among a crush of 12,000 other infatuated youths – all of them straining to touch Flo, their eager eyes drinking in her every move. But when you are amongst the mass of bodies – the sweaty, flower-crowned devotees, you suddenly become aware of your own insignificance.
I fell victim to this isolating experience on the 21st of November. As I stood, a mere two meters from Flo, my dreams were both fulfilled and came crashing down around me – all in a single moment.
I made the mistake of tearing my eyes away from her for a bare few seconds. I scanned the crowd around me and was initially heartened by the sight of thousands of other women and men, girls and boys, chanting along with me – with Flo. And then the spirit-crushing truth dawned on me.
Flo didn’t notice any difference between me and the other 12,000 people stood in that arena. Flo didn’t see that my devotion was “deeper”, “more authentic”, or “unique”. She saw me as a fan. One amongst millions. In fact, she probably didn’t even see me (although I am firmly and stubbornly convinced that we locked eyes for a few fleeting seconds).
In that moment that I began to comprehend my fan-girlishness. My egotistic conviction of my own uniqueness wasn’t compelling enough to alter the fact that to Flo, I am just another fan girl.
But in the same way that Flo didn’t see me, I didn’t see her.
Sure, I’ve watched countless interviews and can tell you that her mum, Evelyn, is a prominent art-historian. I can tell you that her bathroom is dedicated to Frida Kahlo. I can tell you that she wrote How Big How Blue How Beautiful on the back of a painful breakup with impeccably dressed literary editor Stuart Hammond. I can tell you that one night in 2013, Flo hosted a hectic house party and somehow wound up singing a shoddy cover of Pharrell’s Get Lucky at a local tiki bar, before excitedly shrieking “crowd surf, crowd surf, CROWD SURF!” and being caught by a single (unassuming) man. I can tell you that she is a great appreciator of fine art, and an avid fan of Vali Myers.
You get the point.
But I don’t know Flo. And I never will, not properly. I can roll these trivial facts about her life off the top of my head with ease, but I can’t tell you how she’s feeling in this moment (obviously – I’m not a wizard), her greatest desire in life, or how she relates to her siblings.
As a fan girl, these gaping cracks in my knowledge are disheartening. They serve as a persistent reminder that my loyal devotion will never afford me access to Flo’s personal friendship. But, like all fan girls, I have to make do; I fill the gaping cracks myself. I conjure up a Florence who is partly based on my own inclinations and imaginings.
I know that Flo loves reading, so I’ve decided that she admires JD Salinger’s brilliant perceptivity of human nature. She sings about the elements – land, ocean, the sky, so she cares about the environment; in fact, she’s probably a vegan. She’s strong-willed, and intelligent, so she desperately yearns to dismantle the patriarchy.
I love Florence Welch. I admire every aspect of her artistry and vibrant personality. Yet I don’t love the same Flo that I saw in mortal flesh on the 21st of November at the Vector Arena. I love the Flo that my mind has conjured up. She is mostly a figment of my imagination.
It is for this reason that I could not meet Florence Welch – my musical idol, feminist hero, and creative inspiration, in reality.
I do not have the emotional resilience to survive a perception-shattering encounter with Flo. So I think I’ll keep worshipping the Florence who was conceived and nurtured in my mind, thank you very much.