My stomach fizzed with anticipation.
Years – decades – of daydreams had led to this winding queue in the upstairs room of a record shop on London’s Oxford Street.
The hum of Take That’s new album Wonderland played in the background, almost drowned out by squeals of excitement. Fans clutched CDs, waiting for the band to arrive.
A ripple of applause, a handful of screams, a gentle surge forward: Gary, Mark and Howard – my boys – had arrived. After 25 years, my time had come.
They say don’t meet your heroes, but Take That didn’t disappoint. Charming, funny and brilliant huggers, it was worth every minute of the quarter of a century wait.
I’m 42 years old and a Take That fangirl through and through. It’s in my nature to be all or nothing. I love with a strong, fierce loyalty and, from the first time I saw Take That on Top of the Pops in 1992 as a 13-year-old, I was devoted.
Those five gorgeous boys singing Could It Be Magic? stole my heart immediately. The heady mix of good looks, cheeky grins and catchy pop was irresistible and as soon as the performance was over I wanted to watch it again.
As a teenager, being a fangirl meant writing fanfiction where Howard fell madly in love with me, spending hours rearranging the posters of them all on my bedroom walls and cutting any pictures of the band out of magazines to stick in the scrapbooks that were my pride and joy.
I collected anything and everything to do with Take That. Dolls, videos, t-shirts, badges… I had the lot.
The highlight was counting down to the annual tour when I’d see them in the flesh at Cardiff Arena, the thrill of crossing off the days on the calendar cutting through the humdrum of school.
My best friend was as into them as I was, which meant most of our time was spent watching videos of performances we’d recorded off TV programmes such as Live and Kicking and The Ozone.
Both of us were such big fans that our mums had little choice but to love them too, joining us at shows in Take That t-shirts they’d borrowed from our collections.
When they split up in 1996 it was heart-breaking and felt like the end of an era, but I supported their solo careers through the hiatus and willed Mark on to win Celebrity Big Brother in 2002.
I made a pilgrimage to view the graffiti etched on the walls of Mark’s old house in Oldham long after his family had moved out. Time may have passed since that first Top of the Pops performance, but my loyalty never waned.
By the time the band reunited in 2006 and announced the Ultimate tour, I was an adult with my own money. I booked tickets for multiple dates, something I’d only ever dreamed of as a teenager.
It was a special time and sharing it with like-minded people, some who I’d gone to gigs with back in the day, was a joy. Fandoms have their own communities and that togetherness – especially at tour time – is the best.
It’s a bonding experience, sharing the journey from the high of securing tickets to the emptiness of the lights coming up after the final song of the encore.
Queuing is part of the fun too, making friends as you spend the day waiting to bag a spot at the barrier. I’m still in touch with Katie, a fan I met in a queue at Cardiff Arena in 1993 and I made wonderful friends while watching the filming of Let It Shine, the reality show searching for singers to take part in the Take That musical, The Band.
For me, being a fangirl is an escape. I’ve attended Take That shows as an unhappy teenager, and at 38 weeks and four days pregnant, with my baby kicking along to the baseline.
It’s always exciting when they spot you in a crowd and wink or reach out for a high-five. One of my favourite moments was Gary mouthing ‘I’m sorry,’ to me and my best friend before a sprinkler came on and soaked us to the bone.
Take That has been there through it all – my constant in an ever-changing world. I know others feel the same, especially those of us who’ve been fans since the 90s who are now mothers and grandmothers.
There’s an element of nostalgia, but it’s more than that. It’s a relationship; a love affair of sorts.
In the past friends have said I should grow up and I’m sure some still think that, but being a fangirl is part of who I am. The lack of understanding upset me because being a Take That fan is a huge part of my identity. I own it now, even including it on my Twitter bio.
As I get older, I find I care less what people think and in many ways it’s easier being a fan as an adult because I’m more comfortable in my own skin and don’t feel the need to justify my decisions. If I want to spend my time waiting outside venues for a glimpse of the band or queuing to be at the front of a concert, I will.
Friends and family joke that I’m Take That mad but it’s all comparative. Some fans follow the band for the whole tour every time. Good on them. If they have the time and money, why not? So long as they’re polite and respectful, they’re doing no harm.
I can’t imagine I’ll ever stop being a fangirl and don’t see why I should. Some people think it’s a phase that should be grown out of, but it’s a hobby like any other.
Outsiders think it’s fine for teenagers to be fangirls but that once adulthood hits other parts of life should take priority, when there’s always room for the enjoyment of an interest alongside having a career, looking after a family and running a home.
To outsiders, older fangirls may be a laughing stock, but why? Where’s the joy in belittling things that give others pleasure?
Take That gigs are uplifting, and singing and dancing with those three, four or five men lifts my soul. They bring me joy and hope, so why would I give that up?
Life is short, so do what makes your heart sing. I only wish everyone could find something that makes them as happy as Take That makes me.
Age is Just a Number
Welcome to Age is Just a Number, a Metro.co.uk series aiming to show that, when it comes to living your life, achieving your dreams, and being who you want to be, the date on your birth certificate means nothing.
Each week, prepare to meet amazing people doing stereotype-defying things, at all stages of life.
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