I finally saw Yvonne after talking about meetups for two and a half months of summer. Our plans had been pushed back times and again because she had been busy with working at MUJI, taking Japanese classes and preparing for her trip to Japan for her idol’s concert, while I was abroad traveling and then working when I came back home.
I met up with her at a hotpot place that we always go to in the city center.
“Hey!” I sat down across from her, “12 o’clock on the dot. Told you I wouldn’t be late,” remembering that Yvonne told me the night before that she got a new haircut, I added a compliment, “nice haircut!”
“Right? It’s Japanese style.” like a little girl showing off her toys, she turned to show me her new hair, checking her reflection in the copper wall mirror next to the table. She looked very pleased with her style change.
“Yeah, it looks really cute!”
She gave me a big smile, and extended her hands to show me her sparkling nails, “and my nails! It’s Japanese fashion. I’m going to Japan to see my ‘boyfriend’ tomorrow.” Boyfriend, meaning her idol.
“You look like you are getting married in Japan.” I laugh.
She ignores me, and continues excitedly, “I am going with a friend. We are staying in the same Airbnb with two other fan girls from Taiwan and Beijing. They look so cool,” pulling up the Instagram of one of them to show me: “I can’t wait to meet them!”
Yvonne and I met in high school five years ago over common taste in American pop culture and love of food. Despite having no common friends, we somehow kept talking almost daily even after I left Shanghai a year after we met.
Now we don’t talk as often as both of our lives got busier and her interest diverged from American pop to Japanese pop, but the friendship persisted.
I looked at her – a Japanese pop fanatic from head to toe, literally. I am not a fan of fans. But having one of my closest friends as a dedicated fan girl makes me reconsider my thoughts. Fan girls, in my impression, are just naive high school teenagers chasing a fantasy that is really a constructed public image with successful PR.
but I know Yvonne. She is not one of them. She is smart and witty. She knows the economics and reality behind celebrities, yet still embraces it wholeheartedly.
She glowed of happiness when I asked her how’d it feel: “being a fan girl is the best thing that I have ever done.”
As the hotpot started boiling, Yvonne started to tell me about her life since I last saw her – Christmas.
“…Now I just find a circle of friends. We help each other out – bring stuff back from overseas; giving each other a sofa to crash on; travel together to concerts.” she said, while dipping her rice cakes in soy sauce.
“Sounds like you’ve found your people.” I said.
She shrugged, like it’s common knowledge, “Yeah, just look for people with your passion. For me, it’s J-Pop. Simple and easy.”
I stopped chewing and looked at her.
Not just people. She’s figured out the keyword of her life right now. It basically evolves around her love for J-Pop: working in MUJI, learning Japanese, hanging out with other fan girls. She is even thinking about moving to Japan. It is not just a fandom anymore. It is the path that she had chosen.
“I never thought about it that way,” I said, “that must be nice.”
Yvonne waved her hand as if brushing something aside, “they are just friends that I can hang out with casually. They can help me with little things. But if I face something serious, that’d be a different story. I probably can’t rely on them.”
I raised my eyes and looked at her, amused by her paradox: she is a realist living a fantasy.
As we were demolishing the food in the pot, Yvonne filled me in of what was happening in Shanghai while I was away, full of scorn for the China reality: “It’s easy to make money in China right now. People are stupidly rich. With the right marketing strategies, anything would sell.”
She shared her thoughts on men and why being a single Chinese woman is way better than getting married and having a child – the same thoughts that I hear all the time from my western friends: “I don’t want to have a baby. Even if I do, that would be because I want to, not because the traditional value tells me to.”
But all of her shrewd judgements and cynicism disappeared when the topic switched back to her Japanese “boyfriend”. She was again that fan girl stupidly in love.
I kept eating and listening to Yvonne talk, trying to figure out the puzzle that was sitting in front of me – Yvonne’s love for a celebrity that makes her travel through countries and spend thousands of dollars seem so irrational compared to everything else that believes and does.
We parted after an afternoon of ice-skating, rock climbing and more hotpot. But I kept thinking about the sparkle in her eyes when she was talking about her love for J-Pop. She looked genuinely happy.
“The best thing that I’ve ever done,” I remember Yvonne said, smiling.
*This is part of my first 30 day challenge: one blog post a day on one focused topic.