It’s no secret I spend a questionable amount of my free time feeling what one might call “nostalgic.” It might be down to the fact my commute is long. Perhaps it’s because I’m genetically programmed to daydream. Or maybe I’m a just pretty experienced and imaginative procrastinator; either way I could get lost in memories of bygone times any day of the week.
I’ve talked for days, frequently exhausted the topics of jokes on ice lolly sticks, terrible fashion choices or weekly potato smileys, all of which impacted greatly on my childhood, but something I don’t think I’ve touched on before is the act of hardcore fandom that is a coming of age essential for any teenage girl. Up there with ra-ra skirts and making decisions based on The Notebook, one of the things I miss the most about being young is that heart-throbbing, soul-defining, spine-tingling rite du passage that is hero worship.
I spent most of my teenage years obsessing over someone or something. This spanned oh so many years and oh so many victims. From Idina Menzel and the entire cast of Rent (thanks to everyone who put up with that phase between 2004-2008), Nicole Kidman because she was my hair and height twin, or Dr Lara Stone in Casualty, who I became so connected to every Saturday night I thought I might be gay, which caused me to have an intense (if a little premature) conversation with my mum outside a Chinese takeaway in my hometown about the possibility of my being in love with a fictional doctor and what this would mean for the family and my GCSEs.
It’s an experience I imagine most of us are familiar with, and even if you’re not, and I am in fact worryingly alone in my experiences of infatuation and idolisation (although I doubt that), I’ll put it down to the fact that I was a red-haired, glasses-wearing, musical-obsessing 14-year old (cough 17-year old) on a unique journey of self-discovery.
We grow out of it as adults. In the same way we’ve grown out of crimping (tragically I might add), holiday braids and painting little suncream hearts on our stomachs on the beach. Fandom is now “fangirling” – an irrational, hysterical, often irritating display of adoration in the eyes of others, not helped by One Direction. Seen as a phase born out of insecurity, dreams, vulnerability or longing, fandom belongs to the young. Try as you might, it’s much harder to admit to a celebrity crush in your mid-twenties. If you, like me, enjoy playing up to social norms, you might wear a McBusted t-shirt at rush hour on the tube just to piss off people in suits, but you still feel like a bit of an outsider.
When I spent half my weekly wages on a ticket to Celine Dion I was met with a mixed reaction. Some friends commented with a Titanic pun (and received a warm response obviously). Others “only know one of her songs” apparently (what have you been doing all your life?) and a few really wanted to know how old she is before commenting. Celine isn’t your average musical heroine, it seems (and she’s also younger than you think.) It seems Celine is not as universally adored as, say, Beyoncé or Adele – so what is it about her that has charmed me and many others to the point of a) spending so much money on a really quite terrible seat that is potentially closer to heaven than the woman herself and b) feeling like seeing her live really is the peak of bucket list goals.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about all this because, genuinely, I can’t get her out of my mind. I’m still lost in awe of her facial expressions, hand gestures, and the fact she only needed one sip of water in two hours. The magic can’t only be Celine being Celine though; I think it has to be a little bit about you being you, or me being me too. Chemistry.
Celine being Celine, we know, has one hell of a set of pipes. These pipes, it probably goes without saying, are the soundtrack to my life. She is a superhuman, a machine, a goddess, and there’s a lot to be said for sheer mind-blowing talent. Scrolling through my Facebook timeline it appears a pretty large proportion of my friends who get her (and by “get her” I mean are equally obsessed) are singers. So Celine is goals. Celine is also so French. The sass, the style, the softness, the slightly mad chatter between songs, her soul is divine. And it’s addictive.
But of course, French doesn’t do it for everyone. So what else? Well, me being me, I’m all for someone who’s open. Who can get up on the stage at the O2 and talk about sticky toffee pudding getting stuck in her teeth right before killing Think Twice. Who can openly celebrate the life of her husband and share her sense of loss with others so generously. Someone who inspires you to be you, no one but you, and to be you to the nth degree.
You want more? Celine commits. I want to live the rest of my life giving as much as Celine gives in It’s All Coming Back To Me Now, whether you’re opening your heart to the heavens or pounding the floor. And of course it’s the cheese. It has to be that fine line, trodden in sequined boots and leather jackets, between effortless talent and international glamour and something slightly (maybe really) uncool.
It seems relevant at this point to tell you that as I’m writing this the girl next to me on the train is reading over my shoulder and it’s making me extremely uncomfortable. Like far more uncomfortable than if I were writing about thrush. Which makes me question whether it’s embarrassing to be writing about Celine Dion? Why does she make half of us clasp our hands to our hearts and instantly start singing That’s The Way It Is and the other half cringe?
And I think it’s because Celine – all her jewelry and riches and Vegas residencies aside – embraces everything we shy away from. She is unashamedly herself. She is optimistic, unbelievably extra, devoted and wears her heart on her sleeve. Celine is my spirit animal and Saturday night couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been stuck in what a bit of a “grey zone” – feeling a bit lost and lacking confidence and inspiration and thinking ice cream is the only answer. And it felt really good for a dream to come true. And not only that – it felt so good to laugh and to cry and to sing and to fangirl.
Or fan-woman. As women – and as writers, or artists, or, hell, maybe doctors, accountants, aerospace engineers – we are socially programmed to compare ourselves to others. But the magic of Celine is, you can’t beat her. You can watch and celebrate and fall in love and feel like you might die for her but you feel amazing instead of terrible because it would be pointless trying to compare yourself anyway. Celine injected me with a sense of not only joy but real purpose and energy and life. People think fangirling is lame, or irrational, or immature and I’ll tell you what, I am all of those things quite a lot of the time. Sometimes I’m so lame I surprise myself. I sleep with a giant shark for crying out loud and my GCSE music recording was a duet of My Heart Will Go On with my dad.
But what we all forget is that diehard hero worship is defining. It is momentous, unforgettable, healing. This blog post is half in total celebration of Celine Dion – because, like I said, I’m intoxicated. But it’s also half in celebration of experiencing real inspiration. Of loving someone you don’t know (in a non-stalker way.) Of still being on that journey of self-discovery and that being just fine. And whether it’s Celine that does it for you, or Sadiq Khan, or the person who gave you a free coffee at Pret, basically as long as it’s not Trump it’s the one.
Also. That girl next to me on the train who was making me feel uncomfortable. I realised it had nothing to do with Celine. She was eating a Mr Whippy at rush hour. Weird right? You know what’s weirder? Whilst eating the Mr Whippy she was flicking aimlessly through a book about murder. And the moral of that story is, there are far weirder ways to spend your free time than listening to Taking Chances on repeat. It’s also okay for you to imagine than all eight of your Desert Island Discs would be from her greatest hits album. I think it’s probably even fine to sometimes feel sad that she won’t be singing at your wedding even though you’re not planning a wedding – or your funeral even though you haven’t died yet.
So thanks, Celine, for a Saturday night of dreams and a new lease of life. You’re the one.