2006, a small Southern town, in a long junior high hallway with walls like a prison: a girl, fifteen, carries a plastic cake carrier past a row of dull, blue lockers. She’s dressed head-to-toe full Mall Goth, with those black and red spiky plastic earring studs. You know the one. Awkward and chubby, she towers over most of the other kids, her slip-on checkered vans doing nothing to minimize her full six-foot-one height.
That girl was me. I still have the checkered Vans but I ditched the spiky earrings. I don’t usually make baked goods for a famous stranger’s birthday anymore, either. Because that’s what I was doing in 2006. I was bringing home-baked cupcakes to school for Gerard Way’s birthday. I did that.
In 2008, I won my town’s art festival award for a pencil drawing I did of My Chemical Romance’s guitarist Frank Iero. Throughout high school, I wore a shirt with a picture of Patrick Stump, the frontman of Fall Out Boy, and the words “PATRICK IS MY HOMEBOY” on it, which I made myself. When I turned eighteen, I snuck out to get my first tattoo: an exact replica of Pete Wentz’s drawing of a heart-shaped lock that can be found in the back pages of his first book, The Boy With A Thorn In His Side.
These are the emo boys I have loved. Short (much shorter than me), sad, and effeminate, these boys were my life. They were my first crushes.
I didn’t know them, of course, which made it all the more strange that I publicly celebrated their birthdays. I knew ideas of them, propagated by hours and hours worth of ridiculous interviews I would find online and then save to my video iPod. I read and wrote fan fiction about these boys, which imagined them kissing, and holding hands, and…other things. They were not real to me, and that was good.
I dated one boy in high school. Well, I dated one in high school, kissed another, and then dated one in college, before deciding that was enough of that for me. They all turned out to be gay. But then, to be fair, so did I. The boy I dated in high school was small, skinny, and effeminate. He was the creative type, and we liked the same music. He wore “girl pants” and occasionally eyeliner when I forced it upon him. I would spend the mornings and afternoons at school holding his hand. Then I would go home, log in to Livejournal and read about two more attractive, but also more attractively unattainable, boys in girl pants and eyeliner kissing.
To be honest, I don’t quite remember how this happened. It wasn’t my first foray into fandom; I was reading Harry Potter and Buffy the Vampire Slayer fic in the sixth grade. I felt so attached to these boys in these bands that I sought out people I knew would also feel this way, other fans. And they did – feel this way. Many of them were also lesbian, bi, and queer women. Together we built stories and characters to overlay these figures we could never know.
This is embarrassing to me now. Not because fan fiction or fandom is shameful or embarrassing in any way, and for better or for worse most people in my life know I was doing this, even if they did not know it then. It’s embarrassing mostly for the fact that it is so incredibly telling in retrospect.
I found it hard to have real crushes on boys in my school, though I do remember a few of them. I didn’t have many crushes on fictional men in television either, save for a few notable examples like Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, about whom I also liked to read steamy stories imagining him kissing and fucking other men.
I had my collection of emo boys, though, all of them. So many bands, so many bassists and lyricists and angled bangs. I had icons on my Livejournal profile that flashed “I <3 EMO BOYS” in bright letters, and in another tab members of Panic! at the Disco were doing things to each other I dare not recount. Crushing on these fictionalized emo boys allowed me to displace more worrying thoughts: that I might not want to crush on boys at all, that I wanted to kiss girls instead.
I don’t know any of them personally, thank God, but I’d like to think that there was a fictionalizing going on everywhere. In many ways, celebrities exist for this reason, do they not? To offer us a space for imagined closeness, the intimacy of affection and empathy, but from a safe distance.
These emo boys were sad, they cared about their close knit group of friends, they wore t-shirts that said “GAY IS OK” or “HOMOPHOBIA IS GAY” which was, y’know, so cool to me, as someone who was an “ally” in high school. I went to high school with boys who were spraying pre-bottled deer urine on their boots before they went hunting after school. Boys in tight jeans and eyeshadow were a welcome respite.
Who was your first fictional crush? Do you want to write about them for Rogues Portal? Email pitches to Samantha! (Submissions are unpaid at this time.)