This post needs a bit of set up, I think — it’s an old piece from a past fangirl life (circa 2005!), but I wanted to bring it over here, because it’s a subject that’s near and dear to my heart.
It’s from a website called Wearing_These_Chains that was, basically, a giant work of meta-fiction: the blog of two entirely fictional fans of Nine Inch Nails and its auteur, Trent Reznor, written by me and a (male) friend. There’s a full explanation of the project and it’s origins here.
My character was Dierdre Keating, a 23-year-old unrepentant fangirl who was sexually obsessed with Trent Reznor, and my friend’s was Gabriel Miller, a sexually confused art student, raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, who wrote awesome poetry about Trent’s shiny trousers and microphone and struggled with his guilt over the idolatry. We started the website because we were disgusted by the behavior of Nine Inch Nails fans on the biggest fandom messageboard at the time, echoing the sound (which still exists in a new iteration) where cooler-than-thou BNFs split their time between long sycophantic screeds about Reznor’s electronics and much vaunted virtuosity and the ritual humiliation of girls who (very understandably, because he was always begging them to) loved Trent Reznor.
Before long, our silly website was much more popular than we ever dreamed. We started it because we wanted to yank a few chains, but we kept it alive because we loved writing Dierdre’s and Gabriel’s stories, and wanted to maintain a space where people felt free to say the things that were so verboten elsewhere (“Trent is so hot!” or “I wrote a poem about him!”). Dierdre and Gabriel were profoundly idiotic sometimes, but we grew to love them. And, it was disappointing to us that an artist who had made his place in our hearts so permanently by saying all the things he shouldn’t say — by ferociously avowing and insisting on the validity of his own truth, regardless of how embarrassing, or transgressive, or wrong it might seem to everyone else — should inspire his fans to be so intolerant of one another.
As over-the-top as Wearing_These_Chains sometimes was (see Dierde’s completely ridiculous lettersto Trent), I think the strength of it was always that we salted it with absolute sincerity and moments of completely unalloyed seriousness. We did love Trent. We loved his work. And the things we wrote weren’t ALWAYS silly.
This post was one of those times where Dierdre’s voice and my own were very close (though she does express herself in much more romantic terms than I ever would), and what she was saying was something I really felt needed saying, and still does. So, on that note, below the cut…
A meditation on unrequited, fangirl love, and Trent Reznor.
So, yeah. Fangirls and their unrequited love. People like to make fun of it, especially when it involves writing love letters on the internet to sexy-little-ass-having rockstars that you don’t, so much, actually know. I get that, and I know why it seems so ridiculous, but you know what? It’s all bullshit. Love is love, and it’s nothing to scoff at, requited or not, and no matter where it’s directed.
I receive so many emails and comments from enlightened fandom lamas out there who have advised me to find a real relationship for the sake of my mental and spiritual health, and who tell me that they worry about me for my 10-years-running, never-to-be-requited passion for a man who doesn’t know I’m alive. They tell me that the love of real boys I actually know — love that stands a chance in hell of being returned — would be better and more fulfilling than being run through from afar by Trent Reznor’s mojo. They say I’m a pathetic dreamer, and that this kind of love means I’m crazy and in need of psychological help.
Sure, you could say all that. I know I’m weird. You know what, though? I don’t care. And, I find it ironic that these enlightened souls, whose path as fandom lamas is one of cool distance and renunciation, would advise me to invest in the concrete desires of the flesh when the love of which I speak is a spiritual, renunciatory one.
Firstly, I hereby swear on all that’s real and true, that I’m never going to camp out in Sparklepants’s bushes, or otherwise impinge upon his sovereign right to not return my affection. Hence, my love from afar isn’t doing him any harm. Meanwhile, all things being equal, I must tell you, that to date, no man I’ve ever personally met has even come close to filling me up, mind, body and soul, the way Trent Reznor did 10 years ago, and still does, today. In fact, I have no idea, really, how you could listen, and really hear that voice — listen to the way his music, his words, and the entire grain of him is so ineffably soulful and utterly committed in a way that is so entirely disarming, and for all of its strum und drang, is really just all about wanting to be truthful, authentic, and wanting to love and be loved — and not be a little in love with him. To me, it sounds like that is exactly what he is asking for. My love merely says “Yes!” to him.
Unrequited love, my dear readers, is all about dreaming. It starts with some real catalyst, say, an especially beautiful and compelling performance, or a particularly clear voice that for some reason, goes right into the heart of you, or even less — maybe just a fleeting expression in fine, dark eyes, or the way s/he moves through space — but after that, you want more of them, so you listen carefully, and watch attentively, and look more closely than you ever do at other people.
Not on purpose, really, but because you can’t really not, you start collecting the pieces of a puzzle that tell a story about someone other. The story of him. You collect all these little details — magnificent perfections and flaws, spiritual and physical, all his good and bad — and recompose it as poetically as only art or love could do, and you rebuild that magnificent creature in the space between his reality and your imagination out of all his most beautiful pieces and parts, using your most aching empathy, sharpest attention, fondest wishes, and pure devotion as glue.
But, he’s not imaginary, is he? The man moves, of his own volition, and when he does, he blurs your perfect picture, complicates it with things he says and does. In his hands, he’s holding all your fragile hopes for the beauty of a human man, along with the strength to break them, and he makes you nervous, because you want him to be just like you imagined; but even more than that, you want him to be real, and surprise you with beauty and truth that you couldn’t dream up by yourself.
Before you know it, every new thing he does or says thrills you, because you’re not completely sure exactly where your dream ends, and his reality begins. It’s like a roller coaster, because every time he acts, there’s a chance he could falter, that his work could become heartless, or his voice could become shrill, and stop speaking to you. Or, he could somehow just prove, conclusively, that he is incapable of shouldering your dreams — in short, that he is not the man you’d hoped he could be.
I’ve been carrying Trent in my heart for a long time, and I won’t lie: he’s had some bad days. there have been times when I could not hear him, times when he has seemed nothing but sad and ridiculous — times when I’d nearly given him up for dead — but there’s always been a process in him, an ongoing narrative that I’ve needed to hear, and in some very serious way, remarkably, he has never been a disappointment to me, because what I’ve always loved about Trent is his body of work, and his work has always come from his soul, even if it’s been hard for me to swallow, sometimes.
That Trent, himself, in his work, so clearly imagines purity, truth, ideal love, and their diametric, impassioned opposites — that he so ardently strives for his own unalloyed truth — makes him seem essentially unrequited, too, in a way. But, in my heart, he is everything he has ever aspired to, and more. I’ll always be watching him and listening to him, and it will always be my dearest wish that he can make everything that’s best in himself real.
What are “real boys” to that? I mean, have you seen them? Wandering with bovine submissiveness through the mall, resplendent in backwards baseball caps, cargo shorts and stupid t-shirts? Seriously, go outside right now, and I promise you, you will see an entire herd of real boys that couldn’t stand and deliver despite enormous cost, like Trent does, if you drew them a fucking map. Do they even have souls? Do they aspire? So many real boys are just so paltry in comparison, and even the ones who say they aspire to something fine are usually all talk. The real boys I know may be able to requite a momentary need with their real cocks, but they don’t seem to have the tool that can quench the pure, eternal flame of the love I’m talking about, and that’s because they can’t even imagine that such a thing exists.
I know Trent can. I’m totally positive that he does.
What’s that? You say Trent, himself, is a real boy? You say I’ve built him a pedestal far too monumental for his freaky feet of clay — that he is flawed and far from perfect? That in the past, he’s been high as a kite at the bottom of the most squalid pit in the garbage dump of hell, covered in slime and sleaze, and probably vomit, and has had a public spat with Courtney Love about the size of his penis and proficiency in bed? That he has been featured in Marilyn Manson’s gross groupie stories and has very likely behaved as ignobly as it is possible to behave?
Yeah, sadly, I know that, too.
Maybe as much as 95% of him is just an ordinary man who shits and eats, and gets dirt under his fingernails, and makes big, ugly, hard to ever forgive mistakes. I know that. I know that guy wakes up with nasty ass-breath, scratches his nuts, and gets pimples on his back. He’s short, obviously ego-maniacal, and can be petty and ill-mannered with the help (by which I mean the ever changing roster of members in his “band”), and wears black socks at inappropriate times. He obviously spends far too much time looking at his muscles at the gym, and plays lame video games. I know that man is there, and that he is probably endlessly capable of being thoughtless, unconscious, uninteresting, and utterly common. At best.
But you know what? The fact that he is just flesh and blood, like anyone, makes it more unspeakably gorgeous that there’s something else about Trent, too. There’s another part of him that I can see with the x-ray eyes of my love, and it’s pure poetry. It’s the part of him that falls from grace, and struggles back up from those depths, the part of him that wants what it can never have, but it keeps striving, and nothing can stop it — the part of him that decided it wanted to live and work despite all he’s undergone, so he listens for his muse, faces fear and all his demons, and feels divine and godlike when he creates. There’s a part of him that’s always going to be singular and secret no matter who he touches, and it’s the part that holds the truth of his soul, and the soul of his work, beating as quietly and as surely as my heart does.
My unrequited love, you see, is an act of creation and generosity. It’s a response to a real question that’s really being asked. It’s isn’t unfulfilling or the poor shadow of some concrete thing; it IS that thing, and it’s wonderful. It satisfies me. My love for Trent is requited every time he sends a new missive from that secret place that’s backwards, inside of himself, and that part of him is just as real as every shit he’s ever taken, literally or figuratively, and it’s every bit as divine as my idealised love. And you know what? On the day that love is requited by a real boy, I’ll thank Trent for making sure I’d know what it looked like, and that I’d still be waiting.
But, having said that? I’m not gonna lie. It would be amazing if Trent would quit fooling around and get over here to satisfy some of my momentary needs with his real cock, too. I mean, I wouldn’t throw him out of bed for eating crackers, or anything.
“A meditation on unrequited, fangirl love, and Trent Reznor,” ©unreconstructed fangirl, originally posted on December 4, 2014 (from a 2005 LiveJournal post)