You can 100 percent still be a fangirl if none of these extremes apply to you. Just because you don’t spend your time illegally downloading the Lifetime movies in which your favorite celebrities had three-word roles doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to appreciate them. The fangirl way of life doesn’t belong in a box any more than my “I Met Li’l Sebastian at the Pawnee Harvest Festival” T-shirt belongs at the bottom of my closet. Wear it proudly, and don’t let anyone tell you what you are or aren’t.
If you aren’t bold enough to define yourself to others, the world will smack a label on you faster than Ryan Murphy can ruin your life with a TV show. There are about a zillion myths about fangirls floating around these days. Many of these false assumptions sting those dipping their toes into the wading pool of fandom. So before you decide to avoid the label of fangirl altogether, you should be aware of the myths that spew from the mouths of haters.
MYTH 1: FANGIRLS ARE ALL TEENAGERS. The first fangirl friend I ever met in real life was a wonderfully intelligent and successful woman in her forties. Sure, there are herds of thirteen-year-olds lurking about the Web, crying about not having enough allowance money for concert tickets, but many of us are college age and beyond. Is it more socially acceptable for a teenager to cry about Sirius Black than your grandmother? Yes. But that doesn’t mean the middle-aged ladies of the world aren’t secretly pining over Julianna Margulies’s eyebrows or Claire Underwood’s wardrobe in their free time.
MYTH 2: FANGIRLS ARE TRYING TO ESCAPE THEIR BORING LIVES. False. Why do people paint fangirls as Lady Ediths left at home to mope? We have hobbies that don’t involve making gifs or crying. We go on adventures with friends and family. We have killer careers. Some of us even care about sportsball! Fangirls can have rich lives just like other people. The difference is that we just have six thousand imaginary friends along for the ride. Also, we might not feel the need to share too much about non-feels-related endeavors on the Internet.
MYTH 3: FANGIRLS AREN’T CAPABLE OF HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS. What is it about the Internet that makes people think all of our fangirl friends are serial killers or proselytizing lesbians preying on straight girls? All of a sudden we’re all Orange Is the New Black characters. Engaging in fandom and participating in healthy family, friend, and romantic relationships aren’t mutually exclusive. Anything can become unhealthy if you focus on it too intensely, real-world relationships and online relationships alike.
MYTH 4: FANGIRLS SPEND ALL DAY ON THE INTERNET. Fine, this is 100 percent true. I’m on the Internet right now, scrolling past cat gifs. Haters gonna hate. Fangirls have been known, from time to time, to hang up our clicky fingers and breathe some fresh air and go hiking and stuff. How else do you think we come up with vacation headcanon for our OTP?
The Power of Story
There are some people in this world who can sample a tiny spoonful of gelato and walk out the door with their money still in their pockets. And then there are some of us who proceed to buy the entire country of Italy. It’s often an all or nothing world for the fangirl who has yet to learn to bridle the imagination. She is notorious for being incapable of passively enjoying stories. She takes them and makes them hers with that special stamp of inspiration.
For years I have studied and written about the art of psychotherapy, a profession whose efforts could be summed up with one simple question—what motivates people? Psychologists spend a great deal of energy debating this very question, and for years I piled theory after theory into my tired grad student head without bothering to ask myself, “What motivates me?” When I finally did just that, my brain rolled out the confetti cannons.
I know this much is true: Story motivates me. Story is powerful, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s coming from across the table or from my Netflix account. All too often I fail to remember in my own life that the bad weeks are part of a larger story. A story where I am my author, my protagonist, and my audience. Life is a lot like TV when you think about it. Sometimes days can seem as uneventful as a midseason hiatus. Or times get tricky as new characters emerge, people we loathe as much as the nastiest villain on American Horror Story. But the beautiful thing about reality is that unlike TV, we can start a new season of life whenever we feel like it.
Excerpted from THE FANGIRL LIFE by Kathleen Smith, available July 5, 2016. Printed with the permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright Kathleen Smith. ©2016.
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Kathleen Smith is the author of The Fangirl Life, available July 5, 2016. Printed with the permission of TarcherPerigee/Penguin, a division of Penguin Random House. Copyright Kathleen Smith. ©2016.