Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Whole-Hearted Fangirling: Thoughts, Tips, And A Little Rambling


Growing up, I was one of those kids that felt things deep down, who loved too quickly, who jumped in heart-first. Everything was important and dramatic and I just needed people to know how I felt, you know? Not everyone, of course, not even most people - just the ones I cared about. The people who mattered. The people who sometimes didn't realize how much this quiet kid in the background hung on their every word, or how much some small kindness had meant to her. Teachers, camp counselors, community leaders, even radio hosts; I had a lot of great role models in my life, and I loved them all.

At the same time I was also the quiet one. The one who desperately - desperately - wanted to grow up. The one who hung out with the mom during sleepovers, who sat with the adults and listened while they debated politics or religion. The careful one, the easily embarrassed one, terrified of being branded "silly" or immature.

So I would lock myself in my room, and I would write. I wrote journals, and I wrote letters. So many letters. I wrote to people who inspired me, to people I cared about, and to people I wanted to care about me. Fan mail, basically. Some to people I knew, others to celebrities who wrote or sang or said things I liked. I wrote to thank them, to tell them how amazing they were. I was a budding fangirl, eager, excited, and looking for heroes.

I remember this one letter, I must have written and re-written it - by hand - half a dozen times. Did I sound OK? Was it too much? Would they laugh? Ah, agonies. But I couldn't stop writing. I couldn't stop reaching out. I was addicted to telling people how much I cared.

Sometimes - many times, really - my letters received amazing responses. I acquired some pretty cool pen pals. Other times I got a teary-eyed hug, or a stammered thanks from the crotchety old guy at church with the beautiful voice. Sometimes there was nothing, sometimes there was too much. Sometimes I was misinterpreted, and I learned a few hard lessons about expressing admiration as a teenage girl.

I stopped writing fan letters after that. Which was good. I had a lot to learn, and a long way to go in both growing up and growing wiser.


Today I'm so much more self-assured than that terrified teen. I'm OK with being silly now. Heck, I even encourage it. I know and like who I am, and I don't need validation from my role models like I did then. I still want it, of course, but I don't need it. And you know what the best part is? The more confident I am in who I am, the more comfortable I am fangirling again. I'm freer complimenting people, especially strangers. If I like something someone did online, I comment and tell them so. When I take cosplay photos I've been known to gush. If I like your art or your shoes or that sarcastic thing you just said, odds are I'm going to tell you. And while I've always been on the reserved side, lately I've even found myself telling my friends I love them. That's right, I bust out the L word. I tell them I miss them if it's been a while, that I want to spend time together. I fangirl. I put myself out there.

I'll be honest, it's still scary sometimes. Some of my friends have been a little taken aback. Some don't say they love me back, and it's a little awkward, but then I have to laugh because that's totally OK. I just want them to know, you know? I want all the people I care about to know. After all these years, I want to fangirl whole-heartedly again.



Today I opened the latest batch of fan mail from our PO Box. There were letters and thank you cards and hand-drawn pictures from little ones. About halfway through the small stack I picked up this one envelope, and I was struck with this vivid, almost visceral memory of the time I wrote and rewrote that one fan letter, all those years ago. Inside this card there were words a lot like the ones I used to write, carefully inscribed in a handmade card this person knew I would love, decorated in my favorite colors. Everything about it spoke of care and consideration... and hope. Hope that this sounded OK. Hope that it wasn't too much. Hope that I wouldn't laugh or think it silly, but would somehow understand.

So from one fan to another: I do. I get it. And I'm humbled and lifted up and forever grateful for the words you trust me with. Whether it's a quick "thanks" or three pages of soul-spilling and secrets, I want you to know - all of you - that your words have unimaginable power. So be careful with them, and use them wisely, but use them. Write it, say it, text it, paint it in a picture. Tell people they matter. Tell them you appreciate that thing no one else noticed. Go ahead and fangirl a little. Get comfortable being unabashedly enthusiastic. It may feel silly at first, but I promise you - I promise you - people are starving for your approval. Starving for a word of validation. Starving for the encouragement they need to get through another day, another hour.


We're geeks, you and I. We're fangirls and fanboys. We're passionate and a little obsessive and gosh darn it, we care about things and we just want people to know.

So go tell them.


 




42 comments:

  1. I get it. I've been practicing complimenting people on something of theirs that has caught my eye...a shirt, the shoes, the hair, the bag, whatever. It doesn't have to be a long involved chat about the item, just a quick "Oh I love your..." And I've never had anyone get upset at being complimented.

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  2. We love you and John, too, a LOT. :-)

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  3. You know what my biggest regret is? Not that I didn't go to the college of my choice, or have the career of my choice - it's that I was at the last concert John Denver gave in Atlanta and I did not try to go backstage afterward and tell him all he'd meant to me when I was growing up.

    So, yeah, TELL PEOPLE. You will never regret telling, but you will regret not telling.

    I still do.

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  4. Another post that I finish teary eyed. Thank you Jen, for being the awesome person you are, for creating this space, for letting people know that is OK being who we are. More than that, we should be proud of being who we are. Thank you for being this beacon of light, hope and understanding in this stormy sea of anger and intolerance that the internet can be.

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  5. Thank you, Jen! I think we all need to hear that it's alright to be a fangirl/boy periodically.
    I want to let you know that the online community (FoE) that has come together because of you and John has already made a HUGE difference in a lot of lives in just this way...and we love you both for it.

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  6. A great reminder! Thank you!

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  7. You are unbelievably gracious. This is a lovely post.

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  8. Ack, you're making me tear up. I was the same kind of kid but never brave enough to send letters. I did write an awful lot of super detailed, emotional fanfic in the early 90s when fanfic (and, you know, the internet) wasn't a thing yet. I always felt like I was a weirdo and there was something wrong with me. I should have probably done a lot more reaching out. I'm sure it's simultaneously easier/harder to be a yearny (made up a new word) tween/teen nowadays. Just getting up the nerve to say I love you and John, love your blog and think you guys are inspiring and awesome!

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  9. This resonates with me so much right now. I'm a massive fangirl of a particular YouTuber that I do some captioning for. I recently wrote him a note about a particular video, addressing him by his title, and he said "I think we're on a first name basis now." I cannot tell you how much that small kindness and acknowledgement brightened my day. I'm still warm and fuzzy about it over a week later.

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  10. I adore you. I love how open you are about everything, whether the things you love or the things you struggle with.

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  11. Several years back I was walking to work, and passed a guy on the street. As we walked past each other, he said to me, "You look beautiful today." And then he just kept walking. And that guy probably doesn't remember me in the slightest, but I still remember him, and how happy that little comment made me that day. This post reminded me again. Thanks!

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  12. Yep, that. Also, that bit about misinterpretation and having learned a few hard lessons about expressing admiration as a teenage girl? Ooh ya...been there, done that.

    I love this little corner of the interwebs. You rock. *e-hug* :)

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  13. Storm the KlingonMay 11, 2017 at 3:41 AM

    Everything you said was full-on me-too, except for the part about writing letters. I'm terrible at writing "real" letters (but I'll send you a bloody novella in an e-mail), and I never had any addresses to send them to.

    Another difference is that I seem to have the opposite problem when it comes to "fangirling" on some innocent unsuspecting cool person; I simply cannot restrain myself from it. Ever. Before I know it, I'm scaring the large and curvy woman cosplaying Maleficent by yelling "WORK!! WORK, MAMA! WORK EVERY DAMN INCH OF IT, DIVA!"

    Last weekend, I was at the big party that San Diego Pug Rescue throws every year (HUNDREDS of Pugs in one place, being rolypoly and silly-- SO MANY BLEPS), and I startled a hipster beardy-guy by exclaiming that his Cowboy Bebop t-shirt gave me LIFE, and confused a young woman dressed all neo-retro Dapper Day-style by ANNOUNCING that her look was on POINT, and that she was working the hell outta those shoes, girl.

    I can't help it, and I blame being raised by/around nerds and drag queens. When I was a nerdling/young diva in training, the things "our sort" were fond of were so rarely seen, especially in smaller towns, that it would come as a sort of pleasant shock; I'm not alone, this person knows about this, too?! HEY, YOU! YEAH, GIRL WITH THE AWESOME RAMONES SHIRT AND THE COPY OF SANDMAN! YOU ROCK! GABBA GABBA HEY!

    As the Vulcan has remarked, and it's a fair cop, that besides being a Klingon at heart, I have a great deal in common with Lwaxana Troi; my loving can be a bit... intense. But that's me, and it gets worse as I get older and have fewer and fewer fraks to give about what people think. Like Edina Monsoon says, I'll never see any of these people again, what do I care? I WON'T BE A PRISONER OF OTHER PEOPLE'S EYES, DARLING!

    Cheers,

    Storm the Klingon

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    1. I love you, Storm. That is all. (Well, except to add I want to go to a con with you someday, and just follow in your wake of awesomeness through the crowd.)

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    2. And I will be behind you sprinkling fairy dust and glitter in your wake. Storm, you are AWESOME! And Jen, you and John are the bestest. <3

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    3. Can I follow too? I'm rather Vulcan-ish myself, but Lwaxanna is my hero. I think we would get along smashingly.

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    4. Storm the KlingonMay 12, 2017 at 4:08 AM

      Well, I must say, I'm slightly relieved; I thought you didn't like me no more-- now THAT is something I give a frak about! HA! (For reals, though, thanks you guys; I've not been feeling very awesome of late, so it's appreciated. ;)

      Factually, we would make a good team getting through the aisles, as I enjoy crowds about as much as you do. But when I'm in Klingon drag, I become very Fezzik-like very easily: "Okay, EVERYBODY MOOOOOVE!" (But I don't think Fezzik would throw in a random "YOU! You are not too attractive, but I will have you! DRINK WITH ME!" at passersby).

      I once ran into a friend at Comic Con that was acting as assistant/gofer to the legendary Ray Harryhausen, trying to get him through the crowd in a wheelchair, and failing miserably. I was in full-on K'Lannagh-space, so I got my lungs full and shouted "HEY, YOU NERDS, MOOOOVE! LEGEND COMING THROUGH!" and they parted like the Red Sea. Mr. Harryhausen laughed, thanked me, and shook my hand before haulin' it to his panel. Good times!

      @Gwyn: Me too! I wish I was as glamourous and confident! That's why I'm working on a Lwaxana costume; I just celebrated my First Annual 49th Birthday, I feel like I should start thinking about working costumes for the Mature Fangirl, and hey, I've got Majel's chin. I'm saving up for black contact lenses and just the right huge wig. I can't wait to find someone dressed as Picard and start giving him The Business ALL CON LONG.

      Cheers, thanks a lot,

      Storm

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  14. How can I not comment on this post? You are a huge inspiration to me and many others (some of whom, I have introduced to Epbot), and the top reason (apart from you and John's fantastic builds) are the openess and honesty and unashamed geekery and fangirling. Thank you for being a voice for that. <3

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  15. Yup, yup, yup..... yup, yup. Yup. Yes. Unabashedly Enthusiastic. Telling people. Good. You are great. Keep doing it and I love your posts and tell people about you whenever they have issues or interests that I think what you write will interest or help them. Thank you.

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  16. I was that kid, but also starved for affection. Praise God for a couple teachers and a couple ladies in my church who really invested in my life.
    I MAY have expressed my admiration in ways that occasionally made people think I was stalking them...but several college teachers really appreciated my encouragement, and on my worst days, my darkest days, encouraging them encouraged me to keep going.

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  17. So I am left teary and speechless, but in a good way. Thank you for always being so honest and open. You literally described my childhood, with the exception I was too fearful to actually tell anyone so I was usually a mess inside of warring feelings. Your message was a beautiful epiphany ahead of Mothers Day for me that it was just the type of person I was and not some screwed up kid. And that I need to remember to be more mindful of that with my young daughter who might need help coping too as I've started noticing some of my traits blooming in her. So as usual, thanks Jen (and John) for the unconditional love you share with the world, and I truly hope we can meet someday soon. I've been reading since you started Epbot - Cakewrecks was how I found you, I would read a post before a stressful work conference call to calm myself (the Kwanzaa/cornnut cake can still make me laugh until I cry!) - thanks for being moral support for so long without even knowing it! If you find yourself in St Pete sometime I hope we can meet up so I can finally give you a giant hug. :)

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  18. A little happy crying over here ... *snorts*
    True, so true.

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  19. thank you for being you! You inspire me!

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  20. Wonderful post and sentiment, Jen! I'm trying to be more outgoing and supportive - tell my loved ones that I love them more often, compliment people and generally try to be a little light in this world. And I LOVE the idea of fangirling about life. We should all celebrate life's good moments with the same enthusiasm we have for our favorite shows, movies, books, and characters. Thank you for a great reminder, Jen!

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  21. Jen, I almost felt like you were writing my story...except for the writing letters part. I didn't really do that because...I didn't think people would really care that I cared.

    Then, one day, I finished a book. It was one of the best books I had read in a LONG time...I literally couldn't put it down, and I was reading when I was supposed to be chaperoning! So, when I got back home to my computer, I looked up the author's email and sent her a note. Know what? It was her FIRST book and she wrote back! I couldn't believe it! And now we're friends on Facebook. :)

    All that said to say this: Jen, thank you. thank you for thanking people. Thank you for teaching me, a rather backward person, that I can go up to people at a convention and say "I LOVE your costume!" and it's okay. And I can tell people that they are funny or cool or did something awesome.

    And thank you to John too! Geek hugs!

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  22. I've been talking with my new therapist (which, I started therapy in part because I'd never seen anyone talk as openly about their struggles before I found Epbot and realized I'm not alone and there is hope) about finding the good things in life and focusing on those instead of the negative. Epbot and FoE are near the top of my "good things" list, because the passion and honesty and geekyness you and John have built are so inspiring to me. Thank you!

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  23. apparently i compliment a lot because some folks think i am insincere. once they get to know me, they know i simply find the good in everyone and am not shy about verbalizing how much i appreciate whatever good i see. thrills me to know you do the same!
    wish more people knew themselves and liked themselves. most stupidity i see is as a result of insecurity.
    love to you and your fantastic self.

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    1. The cool thing is that neurologically honest flattery and insincere flattery elicit the exact same responses in our brains, so it doesn't matter how the targeted person evaluates your sincerity!
      [Citation needed, I know, but I don't have the energy. I've read several published peer-reviewed studies, and more than one course on the way to my psych degree presented this.]

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  24. Thank you Jen! This is a great reminder! I was that kid too but I had a hard time telling people except those closest to me. I still do sometimes. Thanks for sharing these wise words and we do love you and John!

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  25. You made me cry, good tears. Thank you for your words. I'm raising two fan girls and they love wholeheartedly too. I can't wait to share this with them because I think there are times where they worry if what they said is OK AND might decide to say nothing at all. I want them to know it's OK to love!

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  26. I swear you must be me. That's pretty much how I was growing up.

    Thanks for the reminder to step out of the comfort zone and take the chance to connect with someone I might not otherwise. Somewhat newly single, and still riddled with the resulting anxieties, it isn't easy to remember to do. ♡

    And someone's chopping onions *looks around*

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  27. I love this SO much. All of it. Thank you for the reminder to never let your enthusiasm die.

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  28. Thanks for your words, don't mind me tearing up over here at work. :)

    You, John and the facebook group are quite the positive force and it's great to see that.

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  29. I love enthusiastically complimenting people. It's so much fun! They get this look on their face. I was running yesterday and this girl walking by had these great pink sneakers w/ rainbow socks! I teased that I might be able to run faster if I had awesome magic shoes like that. I liked making her smile and it was a fun distraction from the misery of trying to keep myself healthy. (I hate running, but I also don't want to die because I don't take care of myself.)

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  30. I love you!!! you are the best! you brighten my days and bring smiles to my face even if the rest of my day is poop. THANK YOU! YOU ROCK!!!
    Now I shall go write a letter to Tom Hiddleston and try to show my appreciation without making him fear another crazy fan stalker :)

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  31. I needed this today :) thank you

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  32. Oh my word it got so dusty in here! You inspired me several years ago not to stay quiet when I found something I loved online--and, truth be told, this is one of the blogs I comment on the most. I should probably use something more identifying than my first initial! I usually just put "R"...so maybe now I'll be "Just R" ;) And this post inspires me to tell you that I feel like we are friends who just haven't met yet, without being too scared to say it for fear of seeming creepy! I spent way too many of my younger years feeling too embarrassed to enjoy things unabashedly, but you miss out on so much joy that way. I hope I can raise my son to hang onto and proudly celebrate what brings him joy as he grows up.

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  33. windswept armadilloMay 13, 2017 at 3:11 PM

    You are so right, Jen. It got REAL dusty up in here all of a sudden.

    I thank you for your openness on this blog. Thanks to you and this tribe (as The Bloggess might call it), I realize I’m not alone in my struggles and it’s okay to feel my feelings. (And boy does your blog inspire the feelz!)

    Your joy in the geeky things and the silly things helps me revive my own joy. I’m so glad you’re here!

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  34. Hope you don't mind, I'm going to share this over on the MST3K fandom site I help admin. There's a live tour this summer and a lot of the fans have expressed apprehension around finally meeting their heroes. As always your words are so honest and straight up helpful. Maybe it will help some of us get over that fear.

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  35. THANK YOU.
    I needed this today. Especially today.

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