I am not going to insult your intelligence by implying the road to healing after finding myself trapped in a never ending loop of sadness was a skip and a jump. One high note by Kim Taehyung, as hauntingly beautiful as his voice is, was not enough to get me out of the funk I was in. I hesitate to call it a funk, however. A funk implies certain shallowness to the emotion, the words gives a certain transient flavor to the feeling. A rut? A layer of depression? Call it what you may. I was able to function, go to work, laugh, eat, fuck, do everything I did before but with less…zest. The things that made me happy no longer made me as happy. Happiness, actually, was for the first time in my life, a foreign emotion that I missed deeply. I wasn’t on the verge of tears or anything all the time just deeply, deeply gray when my life before was full of rich technicolor. It was like living and seeing life through a blurry, grimy window. I cannot tell when I noticed the healing influence BTS had on my moods. It’s not like I woke up one day and said oh, BTS is the remedy. I also cannot say the boys of BTS were the ONLY remedy in my life, but they were hands down the biggest.
What I discovered after my crying jag at the stop light was that I was sad and I needed to deal with it, accept it. It didn’t make the feeling go away or any easier but it was kind of like shaking hands with a new person in your circle. Even if you don’t like someone at work sometimes you share projects and you have to deal with them whether you like it or not. The sadness, this new roommate in my head and soul, was there for the time being and walking by it, pretending it wasn’t there on the way to the kitchen while it sat in my figurative couch eating popcorn wasn’t going to make it go away. So I acquainted myself with it, once the feeling had been given a name and recognition it wasn’t quite as heavy, it wasn’t quite as daunting.
When V’s voice made me cry (listen to Stigma and tell me what you think!) it made me curious about him. Setting aside what his voice had unleashed, ignoring for a moment the freedom I felt finally accepting and acknowledging my negative emotions, taking away all the feelings and tears and focusing only on the art, there was no denying that objectively he had a beautiful voice. My moods have always been greatly influenced by music and I am not alone there. Most of us listen to relaxing music when we need to destress, or romantic music when we first fall in love, or heartbreaking songs when fighting with our special other. Is there anything better than wallowing in sad music when feeling sad? It’s as if we need somehow to delve in the darkness, roll down in the mud with it.
Gollum’s Song from the Lord of the Ring OST has always made me feel unbearably sad. And I listened to that shit on a loop in 2017. It’s a song about betrayal after making oneself vulnerable, about having your heart stepped on when you finally dared to reach out…and it’s a song about not taking that betrayal laying down, there’s revenge there, payback, a blistery, poisonous anger, a kind of madness. But I didn’t want to take Gollum’s route. I went against my own nature there, away from anger and chose the harder way (I think), to remain open and vulnerable, I went the V route.
There is a fine line between self-care and procrastination. Self-care and escapism. I am not ashamed to say that I didn’t only cross that line, but I gleefully jumped it and left it behind, waving away as I ran while flipping that line the bird. I was not sorry and still am not to have chosen the escapist route when it came to healing. I’m sure there are plenty of other more productive ways to dig yourself out of an emotional hole, to me, there didn’t seem to be a better way than BTS YouTube videos.
You name it, I watched it. Shipping videos? Hello Taekookers, Viminers, MiniMoni, Sopers and Jikookers alike! Reaction videos, recap videos, award ceremony videos, dance practice videos. Some didn’t have captions; others had a video quality that reminded me of life before HD. It didn’t matter because if there was anything, they had in common was that they made me smile, they made me feel better. They were silly, sometimes serious, whimsical and unlike anything I had ever seen western men engage in, open and vulnerable. It’s as if they had decided to take every preconceived notion of masculinity and toss it out of the window. The rules of engagement had changed, and they weren’t trapped by those boundaries, they were not stuck in a box and it was refreshing, fascinating and fucking hilarious.
More than anyone to me, V embodied that otherness. He was at times delicate and sweet, sometimes in the old videos somewhat bratty, but always unfailingly kind. The way he was with the rest of the group or even interacting with interviewers and fans, all his behavior had a common denominator and it was kindness. He was thoughtful and respectful. What a joy he was to watch and what a high bar to aspire to. It was a weird dichotomy to see him display a fanciful wisdom beyond his years and then act completely foolishly and like a total clown.
Sometimes he got a brief laugh out of me, one of those that goes away and doesn’t linger. But others he could do stuff that would make me laugh hours later. Sometimes this little clip would play back in my head of V saying he wanted to be a Saxophone star and his mispronunciation in English made it sound like he said, “Sexy Porn Star”. I would find myself snort laughing about that for days. Years later it still makes me laugh. And it didn’t feel like a point and mock laughing but like we were all laughing with him. If there is anything BTS is good at (and the list is endless) it’s making the viewers and fans feel as if they are in on the joke. That we are all part of the group. Part of something bigger than a music band. Even when they have inside jokes you don’t get at first they don’t make you feel left out, just curious to know more. When I was feeling more than ever like an outsider in my own country it felt great to have that feeling of inclusion.
Some may wonder, how included can you feel in a group of seven men who live across the world and have millions of fans just like you? I don’t have the answer to that. How genuine and lasting is that feeling? I am still here four years later, and I guess that’ll have to speak for itself. Even if it’s fleeting and even if this place in time we are briefly inhabiting goes away, the fact remains that the laughter V gave me when I needed it the most won’t go away, won’t disappear. The healing that laughter brought happened, it did its thing and it cannot be erased, even if someday BTS is no more. That laughter lift me up and slowly brought me back to myself. It didn’t make me a new person, it just helped me out of the bog. Like a little guiding light really (insert appropriate Army Bomb simile here!) all I needed was to find a way to myself and I needed a little outside help and V made it easy.
One time I watched him at a table with the other six members exchanging gifts for some reason and there was a mosquito or some bug flying around towards Jin’s head (all ARMY know bugs love Jin) and Jin swatted away and Taehyung jumped and blocked it , defended it, saved it, and pushed the bug gently off the table saying “Go, go and live”
Such a small move, a tiny moment in time immortalized in YouTube and I found it unbearably lovely. It showed everything I felt the world was lacking. Action to move and do something even if people think you’re crazy and an innocence-filled kind of compassion for something others might not believe worthy of the emotion. It made me adore him but more than that, it made me respect him.
To speak the language of fans everywhere, V became Taehyung to me, or just Tae, like a close friend I could trust not to slap me away, and I finally had my bias.