I recently started reading and watching Outlander. Hold on to that thought.
If having children has taught me anything, it’s that personalities are pretty much cemented at age 10. Yes, we all grow and change with each new experience or trauma, but the core essence of who we are stays the same. This, is my non-scientific proof that no one should expect me or any of my sisters-in-arms to outgrow our penchant for being super enthusiastic about fictional characters and the actors who play them.
Fanboys need no one’s permission to go forth and geek out about whatever kicks their Serotonin and Dopamine into action be it sports or Star Wars. Whereas women are often met with hostility on the matter — and the stigma runs deep, even amongst our own.
When my daughters lost their shit over Zac Efron, One Direction, or The Jonas Brothers, I was completely supportive. I bought the concert tickets, the DVDs, the bed sheets, the singing Niall Horan Barbie doll, and all the swag from Justice because this was an important rite of passage. My parents making it possible for me to see Duran Duran live in 1984 is on their highlight reel right along side putting me through college and paying for my wedding. I believe infatuation with an intangible — like the pop star or actor you are likely to never meet — offers girls the safest route to exploring their depths of their emotions. I think it also helps to define one’s eventual taste. Well, it did for me, anyway. The summer before seventh grade, Emilio Estevez as Otto in Repo Man was arguably my first punk rock crush. I say, “arguably” because it was also around this time that I had been obsessing hard over Nicholas Cage as Randy in Valley Girl and John Doe in X’s “The Hungry Wolf” video.
However as I got older and started relationships with actual punk rock boys, I developed a penchant for FBI agents on TV — Dale Cooper and Fox Mulder specifically, but kept the fangirling on the down low. Kids, the days before the internet were dark times indeed. Face to face geeking out over a band was one thing, but for a young adult woman to be talking too much about a character on TV show came off as a little creepy and suspect.
Keeping my celebrity crushes mostly to myself and not really wanting to pry into other people’s secret fan lives, I’m not sure when it became socially acceptable to be loud and proud about it off the convention floor or the random chat room, but I first noticed the mass coming out of the fan-girl-of-a-certain-age closet with the Twilight novels. While I personally didn’t partake (I experimented with the first one and realized I couldn’t stomach it), it still made me happy to hear the conversations about fictional characters at PTA meetings and playdates. Not enough gossip IRL, no problem. We could talk about who we shipped on TV. Next thing we knew, someone realized that we now had disposable income to buy front row seats at concerts and to fly to distant cities to see our favorite actors on stage. No one was casting side-long glances, because we weren’t ashamed to admit our routine married suburban mom lives could be improved by some fiction and our imaginations. I believe infatuation with an intangible offers women the safest route to re-exploring their depths of their emotions.
Four years ago, as my daughters were starting 7th grade, a frenzy started kicking up amongst the moms again. In the parking lot for field hockey pickup and on the tennis courts of our county club, the excited chatter was now centered on the name Jamie Fraser. It was a book, it was a tv show, something about 18th century highlanders and World War II. (WTH?) But I was woefully behind on my entertainment queues as is and I was just starting in on some mild-obsession over another Scot, James McAvoy, in the first two seasons of UK series Shameless. There wasn’t time for a new show. (Plus, I had been burned by those Kindergarten moms’ bad taste in Twilight. Once bitten, twice shy). But these ladies would not stop. Upon hearing I annually attended Comic-Con, I was cornered at Girl Scout Service Unit meeting by a couple fellow leaders asking how one would get tickets….something, something, Sam Heughan, squee. I thought these bitches were crazy.
Now that I’m almost through the first season and about 300 pages into the book (something I was compelled to do simultaneously), I need to apologize to these women. I get it now. I am sorry I doubted you. Jamie Fraser is everything. Sam Heughan is everything. For the exception of maybe Colin Firth, I have never seen an actor tell a story so fully with just his eyes. His other body parts aren’t too bad either.