I’m an obsessive person.
Usually, when I say those words to someone, I have to watch their face scrunch up in discomfort as they go through a mental checklist of all the stereotypes they associate with obsessive people. They think we’re creepy and immature. They expect us to stalk celebrities, keep inappropriate collections of gross things, and generally cross boundaries in some awkward way or another. That’s the way obsessive people are usually depicted in the media, and it’s what the general population tends to think of us.
However, most of us fans are regular humans who just happen to find joy in becoming experts on specific topics. For one reason or another, we’re driven to learn everything there is to know about the things that have captured our attention. We’re not freaks or sociopaths; we’re just extremely engaged in particular interests. It’s an important part of who we are.
I usually obsess over music, television, or some other form of media. Ever since I was in love with Mickey Mouse at the age of two, I’ve been infatuated with some famous figure or another. The person (or cartoon mouse) of my affections always has at least one characteristic that prevents them from being part of my personal life, however: they live far away, they’re a member of a different generation, or they don’t even exist. Whatever keeps them out of my reach, it’s unalterable and absolute. I can never attempt to be a part of their life. I can never win them over.
More importantly, that means I can never fail to win them over. It sounds odd, but the farther they are from me, literally and emotionally, the easier it is for me to hold space for them in my heart. I enjoy the struggle of loving someone who can’t possibly return my feelings. Maybe I’m just attracted to giving more love than I receive, or maybe carrying around unrequited feelings takes the pressure of maintaining a real relationship with a celebrity off of my shoulders.
Regardless, I can’t imagine enduring life without holding onto some kind of sacred celebrity crush. Why should I bother to learn anything about someone if I’m not determined to know everything about them? What would make up my self-image if not for my comprehensive knowledge of someone else’s creative work?
What am I without infatuation?
So I let my obsessions grow, because I recognize that they’re an essential cornerstone of who I am. Denying my desire to nerd out over TV shows and the like would mean denying a critical piece of myself, and I could never be happy that way.
However, I have a set of extremely important, self-imposed rules when it comes to researching my obsessions. I never go down rabbit holes of information that celebrities wouldn’t want me to know; I never collect anything illegally; and if my obsessive actions start to make me feel depressed, anxious, or upset in any way, I adjust my lifestyle until my infatuation is carefree again. Being a fangirl should bring me joy and nothing else. Otherwise, I know I’m doing something wrong.
I’ve found that by keeping these rules, I can maintain a healthy lifestyle for myself and the people I admire. My rules help me mitigate my expectations of how celebrities will treat me. They prevent my obsessions from becoming tainted with sadness and regret. Most importantly, they keep everyone safe. After all these years of throwing myself wholeheartedly into the media I consume and the people who make it, I can proudly boast that my dignity remains undamaged, as do the lives of the people I admire.
Though it isn’t obvious from the way we’re depicted in pop culture, most obsessive fans like me are normal, law-abiding and boundary-respecting people, capable of exercising self-control. We simply want to fixate on certain parts of life in our own personal, quiet ways. We don’t want to hurt anyone. We don’t intend to cross any lines or bore anyone at parties. We’re only interested in being a part of the wonderful cultures our heroes have created. And if we ever get the chance to meet those heroes, we have nothing to say but “thank you” before we’re on our way.