My 14 year old has introduced me to K pop. For those not in the know, that is Korean pop. More specifically to a group called BTS, a bunch of androgynous pop stars that jump around singing incomprehensible lyrics and looking girlishly cute despite being young men in their 20’s. She and her 17 year old sister have already picked out their crushes. How they can tell them apart is a mystery to me. All I see is a blur of neon colours, toothy smiles, hyperactive bodies and mops of hair.
I guess I should feel fortunate that my girls have no problem sharing their various crushes with me. Whether these are remote celebrities or boys they like at school, they insist on inflicting these videos or pointing them out at Parents’ evenings. I try my best to look interested in the former, and not look like a pervy Cougar at the latter. I stay non committal most times, knowing full well that the shelf life of these crushes is 6 months to a year, tops.
My own teenage crushes, which were very many, started with a black and white film that was made in the 50’s. I guess my hormones had just started their teenage dance when I saw this movie and promptly fell in love with the hero, who at the time of my watching this film must have been in his dotage. I would make up time travel scenarios in which I would travel back to his time and he would sweep me off my feet singing a melodious number, and we’d skip into a (black and white) sunset. That lasted all of a month.
Oddly, the next crush was as result of this very hero. When a senior boy at school stood behind me singing a song from this actor’s movie and looking pointedly at me, the transference of affection was a natural consequence. The song, roughly translated went, “Give me your heart, give me your heart, give me your heart honey (dil deke dekho, dil deke dekho, dil deke dekhoji)”. Subtle it was not, effective very much so.
I nursed this school crush a lot longer. It never came to more than looking at each other in assembly, or deliberately hanging out in the same place at lunch times. He was too scared to make the first move, and I was too shy. One day he found a proper girl friend, and I a slightly bruised heart.
At any rate, I discovered the delicious joy of crushing on a boy that realistically could never be mine. From Morten Harket of A-Ha fame to the boy in the neighbourhood who wore high waisted jeans and turned up his collars, I was a sucker for a good crush.
Having a crush had a distinct advantage over being in a romantic relationship. For one thing, I never got into trouble with my parents for not focussing enough on my studies. To them, my sitting at the study table meant I was studying, not whiling away hours dreaming of these various boys/young men. Secondly, there was no chance of discovering that my idols had clay feet. Exchanging looks or sighing over posters gave me no insight into their personalities or characters. Which was just as well, because then I could use my over active imagination and make them into whatever I wanted. And finally, I could pick and choose whoever I wanted, whatever colour or nationality or geographical location, without having to worry about any kind of reciprocity.
Of course, as I grew out of my teenage years, I also outgrew these crushes. But what a wonderful time it was, while it lasted.
Therefore, as obscure as K pop seems to me, and as alien as these pop stars appear, I am heartened by the healthy response my girls have to them. If the price I have to pay is listening to an unfamiliar brand of music, it is no more than what I subjected my poor parents to.
With ‘Take on Me’ playing on a loop, and me staring moonily at Morten’s picture in a magazine, my mother did the only sensible thing she could. She shut the door on me.