Assuming you don’t humiliate yourself with a derpy social misstep, It’s always a cool moment when someone you
geeked out over respect acknowledges your existence, Like the time Iain Lee and I had a brief heated argument conversation about library fines a while back, or when I got a twitter mention from a Podcast that outranks Kevin Smith. 😉 I had one of those Squee Moments right around New Year’s, when I was followed on Tumblr by TGWTG Producer Emerita PushingUpRoses. I found her via her snark-a-licious reviews of the Christmas Special, Head, and 33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee, and then stayed to check out her let’s plays of sundry 90s PC games. (She’s a far better LPer than Doug “Nostalgia Critic” Walker was, though that ain’t saying much 😉 ). I reblogged her farewell video on tumblr, and got a follow in return! I thanked her in a private message, trying to keep the “You Like me! You really Like me!” geeksqueeing to a minimum. Then she replied as you see above.
I felt my shoulders tense, and the nausea rise in my gut as a crusty old mental script started looping something along these lines: “Oh gods, she thought I was a huge Monkees fan. I try to stay balanced, am I talking about them too much? Dang it, I KNEW the Twelve days of Nezmas was a tactical mistake in building a broad multifandom base of followers! Will people think I’m obsessed and immature and stupid and have no other interests in life?! Why didn’t I keep the Pseudonym?! Am I coming across as an idiot, oh NOES I’ll be the laughing stock of the internet and get fired from work for being insufficiently professional and get served with restraining orders and lose all my friends!!!”
Then I took a deep breath and wondered…”hmmm…what’s that all about?”
I short-circuited that loop of “disasturbation” and asked that question in part because, being the dork I am, I used my vacation poolside reading time to brush up my knowledge of Zen Buddhism. Why? Well, in the wake of The Year Of Our WTF, I started to think a bit about the ways I let myself be ruled by the demons of the past and the fears of the future, and the ways in which those demons and fears had led me to ignore some wonderful things about the Present (not to mention gain a buttload of weight in my late 20s and turn into a bigger perfectionist nutball than I already was). The book, in turn, got me paying more attention to the present, which allowed me to observe that I have this odd “People think of you as a a huge fan=Everything is Ruined Forever” construction in my head.
By any objective measure, I AM a huge fan of The Monkees singularly and collectively. I mean, I own Changes, for God’s sakes. I’m not even all that uneasy about people knowing that side of me relative to the old days—given it’s suddenly become semi-hip this year to “come out” as a Monkee fan. Heck, I even admitted it to a coworker when she saw me knitting the Intarsia Scarves of Doom! So why am I queasy about being named as such? I mean yes, their fans can be idiots and nutballs, but no more or less so than any other fandom, really.
Like most people, I have a lot of personal nasty memories of loneliness, anger, social confusion and of course bullying during 4th through 7th grade. In fairness, most of them had more to do with my dad’s health issues and my own profound nerdiness than my tween-aged musical tastes (though I remember a few conversations not unlike those experienced by Young Marge Simpson). However, the memories of what I pray will always be the worst years of my life often get triggered when I someone calls me a “huge Monkees fan”. No matter that I’ve built up far more fun, happy, nay “normal” connections and memories to the fandom. No matter that everyone and their dog has suddenly *always* been a fan but was just “ashamed” to talk about it. Because I felt I had to choose between fandom and normality during puberty, and because finding happiness and success and selfhood was such a hard-fought struggle in my early teens, I’m petrified that if I embrace the label “huge Monkees fan” I’ll lose that happiness and success and becoming some stunted, disturbed and socially inept fan. (A false dichotomy, I’m well aware). that anxiety is why I sporadically flee the fandom for years on end, and with the exception of the choice of my first dance song at my wedding, didn’t ever really publicly acknowledge the depth of my old affection to any but my closest friends (without the use of a pseudonym) until February 29, 2012.
But there’s also a grain of truth embedded in this cultural tension between being a “huge fan” and being a functional adult (whatever the hell THAT means). As the guys from Big Bang Theory recently learned in The Bakersfield Expedition, when you get so wrapped up in the fannish moment that your car gets stolen, there’s a problem. Kevin and I discussed the ep after, as is our habit, and his immediate reaction was that the plot was “cruel” to our heroes, particularly during the scenes that took place in the diner. I certainly see what he meant. While that sequence was just as exaggerated as any other sitcom, society still frowns over cosplay and other major public displays of nerdiness, even in an era of geek chic.
In another sitcom, our heroes’ public humiliation and particularly Sheldon’s realization that he was beginning to feel like an idiot would result in a dramatic and immediate shift to “normality” akin to Klinger’s abandonment of drag after becoming company clerk of MASH 4077. And yet, the end of the episode nicely subverts the cruelty that came before. Our four guys trudge up the stairs after their ordeal, only to be greeted with the voices of Bernadette, Amy and Penny (three living, breathing, and attractive proofs of the guys’ increasing engagement with Real Life) bickering away over comic book minutia.* Hearing this alien conversation coming from the three women who have been dragging them into Real Life inspires the guys to re-assume their roles as landing party, and engage in play within the culturally approved safe space of their friendships. In a society that demands adherence to social norms as the price for acceptance (whatever you may think of those norms at times), happiness lies in at the balance point between individuality and conformity, and the maturation process the show is depicting (which “all started with the big bang” of Leonard and Penny’s first meeting) describes the ways that the main cast members have found that equilibrium between fandom and “being normal”, or are still working toward it. There are reasons that being a “huge fan” is a cultural punch line, but that doesn’t mean you have to act out those dynamics in your personal life. There need be no contradiction between silliness and success. If nothing else, the last eight months have taught me that one paradigm feeds off the other.
But back to the whole “huge Monkees fan” moment of social anxiety. I’m not sure if there’s anything I should or can do about dismantling that neurotic little bit of superseded psychic code, or if that particular construction will continue to wane on its own along with my recent fixation as 2012 becomes a distant if bizarre memory. That said, it’s interesting to know that construction is still there in the back of my head, and I need to acknowledge it as I learn how to sit with all the muddled crap that swims through my mind as I explore a new, less goal-oriented direction in life.
Why am I sharing this? Partially because as much as I want to (and probably should) build some sort of barrier or “bracket” between my philosophical and personal fandom musings, I can’t seem to do so anymore. At least not the ten foot concrete barrier I carefully tended in the past. For me, in 2013, living the good life means living a life fully connected to myself, and fully engaged with the people I call friends, knowing full well that they will accidentally or deliberately hurt me, and I will probably do the same in return. I’ve also thought a lot this year about what I “owe” the literal and figurative ghosts from my past. The best conclusion I’ve reached is that we all owe each other a life well lived, and a life well lived seems to be a life filled as much with compassion and interconnection as it is with checkmarks on a resume. When used to flee from or smother suffering, overachievement and social withdrawal are both forms of delusion. One doesn’t negate the other, both ultimately need to be reconciled in a middle way in order to live the good life. In writing about my struggles to do so alongside my more cerebral explorations of Lenny and Pinkie Pie**, maybe this will serve as a map for someone else on a similar journey? Who knows?
Anyway, that’s where my head is today. Next time is the Harry Potter Ethnography. Unless it isn’t. 😉
*I appreciated the shoutout to Fables by the way, but I think that’s much more interesting to most geek gals, and probably even Penny, than the frakking liftability of Thor’s Hammer! And on a related note, I think I want to do something one day on the differing gender expressions of geekery and my conflicted feelings about TBBT’s depictions of “geek girls”, though that may be trodding a bit on The Mary Sue‘s turf…)
** Part of a series of Pony character analyses coming after the season 3 finale and before the Season 4 premiere. Hopefully.