During my first year of college, I wrote poetry about “enlightened twats” and short stories named after Smiths songs, which of course I thought was the most obscure and artistically genius thing I could do. I wore vintage wedding gowns from the ’20s that I bought off eBay for $2.99 plus shipping&#8212this was in the early naughts, before eBay exploded with vintage sellers charging a fortune for a polyester crapsack&#8212and listened to the kind of music that my friends said sounded like “weird noises.” I was anti-pop. I was anti-establishment. Anti-everything. Whatever.

The week before finals, I stayed up for 30 hours straight working on papers, and when I was done, I went with my friend to the local Safeway to get some snacks. While I was waiting in line, I picked up a weekly gossip rag and flipped through it. I came across a short article reporting that 19-year-old Taylor Hanson&#8212’90s heartthrob and Hanson’s singer-keyboardist&#8212had tied the knot with his 18-year-old girlfriend. This is the part where I e-avert my eyes and e-hang my head in shame: I immediately started crying. I was no longer an enlightened twat. I was a 13-year-old fangirl.

I was crying when the cashier scanned my one-liter bottle of ginger ale and my bucket of Planters Cheez Balls. I was crying when she asked me if I wanted the magazine. I was crying when I told her that I would put it back. And I was crying when I didn’t put it back and just stood there instead. I only stopped when I realized that my friend was eventually going to find me crying in the supermarket and he was going to want to know why. When that happened, I would either have to (a) lie to him or (b) explain that I was crying over the guy who sang “MMMBop” when we were in seventh grade and, oh yeah, I still secretly believed that I would one day meet him and he would fall in love with me and confess that when he was a shy, lonely 13-year-old boy writing love songs for Middle of Nowhere, he always imagined someone exactly like me, but never thought in his wildest dreams that she was actually out there.

But there’s more. And after I show it to you, I’m going to have to burrow my way into the mines of Moria where the freaking Balrog lives. The summer before ninth grade, I sporadically chronicled my love for the Hanson brothers in my diary. I present these entries to you, in all of their manic, misspelled sincerity.


Dear Diary,

I read in a magazine that June is the month of making dreams come true for Capricorns, meaning me. I usually don’t believe in these things, but lately I’ve been having this feeling of unsettlement that I know won’t go away until I fulfill my dreams of becoming a widely acclaimed singer/songwriter/keyboard player. I know I won’t feel complete until I’m sitting there at the Grammys with small beads of sweat forming at the anticipation of finding out whether my name is in that envelope.

Another dream of mine was to meet Bush, who are four incredibly talented men in their 20s. But as shallow as I am I decided I would trade them in to meet Hanson. I secretly think Taylor Hanson is like my soulmate or something. Even though this means nothing, he’s 13 like me & plays the keyboard like me. I just don’t know if he writes the majority of the songs. Hanson are incredibly talented too. I seriously am serious about meeting them. Taylor has inspired many of my songs. (Isaac also did. I just thought I should mention him.) I really wish to meet them, to become great friends or more with them, to live a long full life, and to become a top-of-the-charts musician with a great band that I will stick with. I really hope my new band will finally be formed & come together & start performing this summer. Please God, if you are up there, listen to me & help me out.

Dear Diary,

I got my period the 2nd time & it’s horrible timing. Tomorrow is the day there is a party at one of my parents’ friends’ house. The only thing I’ll do that day is jump in the pool. Do you think I still can do that if I have blood dripping? Probably not. Oh well.

I think I am officially obsessed. Obsessed over the Hanson brothers. Every other minute is concentrated on them, their good looks, their funny personality, their great hair, great songs, music, lyrics, etc. I can’t get them out of my head, no matter how hard I try. Ugh! One of my dreams would be to meet them and become great friends with them or even more. Pretty dumb, huh? Actually it’s not. They are my idols, practically my role models. They’ve inspired me & I really look up to them. Who knows? Maybe miracles do happen! Bye!

I got my hair cut real nice & contacts. Funny how a lot of things are based on looks, huh? Sometimes, I feel like there isn’t a single person out there who will understand or get to know me. Feels like I’m alone in this world. I’m always constantly helping others through sticky situations, consoling, giving advice. Then I present my life to be flawless. And yet, it feels like I’m screwed up the most. Seems like I can’t get an hour with parents without feeling like I’m gonna break down. Sometimes, they make me think & feel like this world we live in is all about money. Being some hot-shot doctor. Making my dreams die instantly. Like I never could accomplish them. Everyone, even my best friend Diana, thinks I don’t have what it takes to be a famous, talented musician.

I want to make my dreams reality. I want to fall in love, get an albulmn out, and tell my parents “I told you so.” Prove to the world that maybe I’m not another mistake, another immigrant. Sick of feeling savage. Feeling in second place, sick of obsessing over Hanson. Sick of daydreaming, fantasies, and cute guys who break hearts. Sick of being underestimated. I need someone so desperately to hold on to. To love me & understand me. Please I need someone to help me.

[no date]
Dear Diary,

I don’t know what’s wrong with me these days. These past few months, come to think of it. One minute I’m so happy, the next I’m breaking out into tears. I feel like I’m destined to become my parents. Shrewd, bitter people. I want to follow my dream, which is music. How can I do that if my parents expect me to become a Harvard grad? When everyone sees me as a shy egghead. When even my best friend doesn’t understand.

Sometimes I look at the Hanson brothers & I think what it must feel like to be them. To have talent, skills, supporting parents, money, a nice house, and good looks. It’s like a packaged deal they were granted. I feel so foolish for thinking these stupid thoughts. Wish me luck & 3 miracles or at least the first miracle.

  1. Very successful career in singing, songwriting & keyboard playing
  2. Meeting the Hanson bros. & becoming friends or more
  3. Getting the chicken pox scars off my body

Just a few minutes ago, I was angry & so sad. Now I feel like a giddy little kid again. Trying on a new coat & hugging my mommy & daddy. Felt like I was 7 again. I only feel remorseful that I may never meet the Hanson brothers or have a record deal & a CD that will be chart topping. Too bad. But thank you God, for blessing me with a semi-charmed life.

Well it’s final. I won’t see Hanson perform. So what? I don’t know. But I feel like there is no reason for me to live anymore. No purpose left in life. Isn’t this sick?

Hanzhi’s mom & Jing’s mom called me pretty, should I be proud? Just a few days ago I was so mad that I would probably never meet the Hanson bros. or get a record deal. I feel only sadness now. Oh well. I will try as hard as I can to achieve success. I won’t let anything get in my way. I swear.

I feel pretty darn ugly now. Hanson is the farthest thing from my mind. Just a few hours ago, I had a conversation with my mom. A real one, one that I haven’t had in years. I told her so many things that I’ve kept bottled up for years. I don’t know if she heard all I was trying to say, but at least she listened this time. I still have so many things that I could never tell her in this lifetime though I hope that my love of music will not be just a stupid dream. I need it to become a reality soon, before, I fear, it’s too late.


And now, before I show you my last diary entry about Hanson, I should explain a couple of things. At some point, I decided I was going to make one of the Hanson brothers fall in love with me by writing them the most brilliant, witty, intriguingly dismissive letter I could possibly write. When I didn’t hear back from them, I started writing letters addressed to their parents because I figured, Well, they probably have waaaay more free time to spend carefully reading fan letters!

Here’s one such letter:


Diana & Walker Hanson & co,

First off let me warn you: don’t you dare send me some silly fan club form! Secondly, I want to congratulate your boys on finally achieving their dream, and you, for helping them to do so. Also, the point of writing to you was that I figured Ike, Zac & Taylor would never get the time to read my letter with their insane schedules. Of course, they should feel free to read it at their heart’s desire. (Being sarcastic.) Besides, I’ve already written a letter to them & I’m expecting a fake autograph sometime soon.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I completely respect & admire your sons for their musical talent & their dedication to family and God. They have deeply inspired me to try & work hard at my own dream of musical success. However there are 2 things about your sons that bother me & I greatly resent. First of all, what’s with their one-too-many love songs? How old was Zac when he decided to write a song about pining for a girl? When he was 10? Are they writing fiction stories? Isn’t music all about writing from the heart & to be in touch with your soul? How could your sons possibly grasp the idea of falling in love at their delicate young ages? The fact that they dedicate most of their songs to girls sickens me beyond belief. Second of all, I don’t want to offend anyone or put you down, but I so completely & sincerely think there are another group of Hansons in this world who have the same talent & ability, but may be too “ugly” or don’t have the money or support that you’ve given your sons. I pity those who struggle whenever I see your sons on TV or hear their song on the radio. Not to say that your sons haven’t struggled for fame & recognition, but I guess we oughtta face facts. Those screaming girls aren’t screaming at the concerts because they are so overwhelmed by that “great song ‘MMMBop.’” They’re going crazy because they are in bliss from seeing the long blond hair & sparkling eyes. I mean, you stick your sons there a year later with a pot belly & a shaved head & I promise they won’t need to fear getting mobbed again.

Before I end this “cruel” but honest letter, I really want to tell you how lucky your sons are for having such great parents. It is incredible how supportive & flexible you are with your children. Encouraging them to believe in God & following their dreams. I wish my parents could be half as supportive as you are to your sons.

I hope that this letter will be read by someone, anyone. I hope I will have made at least a little difference & impact in that person’s life. I hope, if this is Diana & Walker Hanson reading this, then you can urge your sons to tell all their obsessed fans to get over it. Hanson, or any other group for that matter, is not worth being obsessed over because you can’t spend a part of your short life devoted to some cute stranger. Lastly, I wish you & your family luck in future albumns, friends, obstacles, and even girls.

Forever & Always Truthful,
Jenny Zhang

You see, in my calculating little brain, I thought, Hey, if I insult the Hanson brothers to their mother, she will show them my letter and then maybe they will become intrigued by my hot, hot insolence and become obsessed with me.

I waited for a reply. The days were not days, but like endless stretches of unorganized time that existed solely to stop me from becoming Taylor Hanson’s girlfriend, Zac Hanson’s fun older sister, and Isaac Hanson’s confidante. And then, like every rabid, uncompromisingly obsessed fan at one time or another, I was betrayed.

I came home one afternoon to find a letter from the Hanson Fan Club. Even though I knew in the back of my mind that the “Hanson Fan Club” meant I was probably getting some kind of generic form letter, the part of me that believed in miracles, that believed great things could happen just because you want them to, still believed, as I tore open the envelope, that I would find a handwritten letter to me from Taylor, Ike, and Zac telling me how their mother had told them to read my letter and, boy, were they glad they did, because I was the most interesting person they had ever heard from and, P.S., was I as physically gifted as my BEAUTIFUL MIND had led them to believe?

Then I opened up the envelope, saw it was a generic form letter, and the part of me that believed in everything started to die. I kind of lost it. I went into my mom’s room and stole a tube of lipstick from her makeup bag and drew penises over all my Hanson posters. I drew Xs over their eyes and wrote “I HATE YOU” across their faces and then I drew some more penises. Then I tore it all down, crumpled it into a big ball, spit on it, stomped on it, and even considered pissing on it, but I lived in a carpeted room and I knew that I would suffer way more than the Hanson brothers would. Then I proceeded to write the most spiteful, rage-filled letter I’ve ever written to anyone, including people who have ACTUALLY wronged me.

I’m not sure I can replicate what was in that letter, but be assured that I used every single insulting variation of “penis,” “vagina,” and “asshole” that I could think of. A sample sentence likely included phrases like “you worthless sacks of shit” and “you sicken me to my core.”

This is what my diary entry looked like that day:

And then I finally got it. I was in love with a manufactured product, and it wasn’t OK anymore. I made that manufactured product my own, the way we all do, and my love for it wasn’t any less f’realz or meaningful, just in the same way that you can read a book or see a movie or hear a song and feel like it was created just for you, so you could be forever changed. But I got to a point where I wanted more than just a relationship with a product, and that frightened me because it meant I wanted real relationships with real people, and real people are fucking flawed! They will sometimes disappoint you or even hurt you, intentionally or unintentionally. And they belch and fart too much.

Which is what’s so fun and intense about obsessing over famous people: they aren’t real. Taylor Hanson was whatever I wanted him to be, and what I wanted was for him to never marry anyone (except me, OBVI). So when the reality of his life finally intruded on the fantasy of mine, I cried. I wonder if that isn’t partially why Beliebers cry when they finally meet Justin in the flesh—the collision of fantasy with reality is just too terrifying. I cried because I loved my fantasy too much. It gave me so much pleasure to imagine how lonely Taylor must have been, and it gave me pleasure to imagine being the one to unlock that loneliness. I cried because my first celebrity obsession manifested itself at the same time that I was trying to articulate what I wanted in my life, which was to be adored and talented and adored for being talented. I cried because it was hard to figure out how to be accepted by my family and my friends and how to assert my profound need to be my own person. I cried because I found it easier to fantasize about how all of this would be made possible if I could just get one of the Hanson brothers to love me! I cried because I wanted so badly to experience the feeling of being in love. I cried because, even though I was no longer 13, I was still susceptible to comparing my life with what little I knew of other people’s.

Though I am way too old to believe that my teenage fantasies will save me, I still find myself taking comfort in them. A few weeks ago, I stayed up all weekend watching Hanson videos on YouTube and I came across a clip of Taylor forgetting the lyrics at a concert and then endearingly asking the audience to help him, and suddenly I was all, What a magnificent person, I wonder if he and his wife are going to get divorced, even though they have four kids. He would probably be more intrigued and fulfilled by someone really creative and unhinged like, um, me. When I told my roommate that I was writing an essay about Hanson&#8212in case she was wondering why I was blasting it every morning&#8212she told me her that her friend had interviewed Zac for the A.V. Club a few years ago. Immediately, I thought, I am only two degrees of separation from Hanson!

You knew all along I was going to do this, but to quote from “MMMBop”:

You have so many relationships in this life
Only one or two will last
You go through all this pain and strife
Then you turn your back and they’re gone so fast
And they’re gone so fast
So hold on the ones who really care
In the end they’ll be the only ones there
When you get old and start losing your hair
Can you tell me who will still care
Can you tell me who will still care

I can tell you who: ME. I still care. I will always care. ♦