Lately I’ve been trying to figure out why I like K-pop so much. A little emphasis for tone and meaning is required here. I’m not asking why I like K-pop. I’m asking why I like K-pop. In other words, what is it about me that makes me like K-pop when most people my age (that I know) don’t care for it. If I go by what some of my friends have theorized, it’s because I’m basically still a teenager at heart. But that isn’t it entirely, because a lot of people in their 20’s and 30’s love K-pop, and they can’t all be emotionally stunted. I think it’s also that my personality shares a lot of traits with K-pop: optimism, innocence, sincerity… I feel like K-pop suits me. But I still feel I have to defend this belief to friends and family that just think I’m living like a perpetual minor.
I’ve been told by my closest friends for most of my life that I don’t act my age. I heard this the first time when I was 13, when my peers said I was “too kiddish” to hang out with them anymore. It’s true that while they were getting into makeup, fashion, and boys, I was still obsessed with kittens, stickers, and Barbies. In my teens, when my friends started partying and dating, I was fangirling over “The Goonies” and Duran Duran… I admit that I’ve never “aged out” of fangirling. But it truly bothers me when friends I’ve known my whole life tell me, “You’ve never grown up.” I graduated from college and had a successful career… I have a 22-year marriage, a mortgage, I pay premiums for ten different kinds of insurance, and I’m raising two accomplished young women… it makes me wonder what exactly about my life isn’t grown up. I’ve known people that seem to possess “an old soul,” and if this is actually a thing, then perhaps I just have a “young soul.”
Outside of my husband, none of my closest friends or family over age 18 wants anything to do with K-pop. I’d really love to have girlfriends my age with whom to enjoy it, but most of the “older” friends I’ve met in the fandom are still not beyond their early 30’s. Not to say there aren’t exceptions to the “K-pop fans are young” rule. My daughters spotted a couple women in their 50’s (according to my girls) at KCON that were going crazy over IN2IT at their meet and greet. However, I can tell you that they were not at the “Hallyu Fans Over 30” panel because I peeked into the room and promptly exited upon seeing that no one visibly over the age of 30 was in the audience! I met a dad around my age at the KCON stage, and another dad at the dance workshop. Both of them were accompanying their teen daughters, but they clearly enjoyed K-pop as much as their kids, which was refreshing to see. But where are the K-pop moms? Most the women my age that I see at K-pop events are leaning against a wall looking bored or sitting cross-legged on the floor staring at their phones. They never appear to be having any fun. These aren’t my people. #I’mNotThatMom.
I feel like I didn’t get the memo telling women my age that we can only love Bruno Mars and Beyonce. And I do love Bruno and Beyonce, don’t get me wrong. Even though I don’t stan much American pop, I still enjoy it, which makes it hard for me to understand why American pop fans wouldn’t go crazy for K-pop too. It’s great pop music times a thousand! But when I mention to my peers that I love K-pop, they scrunch their faces quizzically or flat out laugh at me. Their only exposure to K-pop, if they’ve even been exposed to it at all, is Psy. When I’ve recommended K-pop MVs or songs to my friends to check out, they don’t have the reaction I hope they will have. To them, it’s silly kid stuff, manufactured fluff; they really don’t care to hear it. To each their own, I suppose.
I’m at least very thankful that my immediate family shares my passion for K-pop, because we have so much fun enjoying it together. Yes, it would be really nice to have some girlfriends my age to enjoy it with as well, but I’m OK with the fact that I don’t. They can do them, I’ll do me. I’m loving it.