Look i dont wanna sound like a Fandom Mom or whatever but what do you think women over 25 or so are supposed to do? Do u really think theyre supposed to drop all their interests and just talk about taxes and marriage or whatever? It seems like 25+ year old fanboys do not receive this kind of “ooh cringe” reaction either. There are guys in their 40s with comic book collections and shit and people might think theyre a nerd at worst, not a freak who shouldnt be trusted
Thank you. Because, here’s the thing, I literally tried that. And this sounds really dramatic but it kind of ruined my life for a long time.
Once I got out of grad-school and started working, at exactly age 25, I figured it was time to get serious because I was “too old for this stuff” and frankly I was afraid of being judged.
I sold all my comics, I stopped reading fanfiction, I stopped playing video games. All of it. It’s not that I never, ever watched anything “geeky” or spent a weekend binge-reading a kink-meme, but when I did, it was rare and I’d feel guilty about it like it was time wasted. I’d keep it all to myself, you know? And without any kind of inspiration, I eventually stopped drawing. After all, I didn’t need it for my “serious job,” so why bother? Unfortunately, my former skill is so atrophied now it’s nearly lost, but worse than that, it’s stressful now instead of the thing I loved to do for most of my life.
What was I doing instead? Well, I’d work my miserable, toxic job, come home and worry about how far behind everyone else I was, and how weird I was compared to all my colleagues. I’d go out with people and do the things they liked doing, but I only pretended to. But I’m not great at that and pretending to be someone else ate me alive. Unsurprisingly, by 31, my anxiety and depression was not in a great place, and I fuckin’ snapped. Not just because of this stuff, of course, but it honestly contributed. I quit my job and left town.
Suddenly I was completely alone, no job, no friends, and no reason to pretend to be someone else. So, I started doing all the things I’d given up. I read all the fanfiction I wanted, I bought a Playstation and an SNES and played them for hours. I bought back every comic book I loved, watched every Marvel movie I missed, and caught up on my favorite characters. I started traveling around just going to cons for the first time (NYCC, GeekGirlCon, DragonCon, etc). In fact, at @geekgirlcon and DragonCon especially, I saw groups of women who were 60+, just fucking enjoying things, and it made me feel so much better about my future. I’m not even joking, I literally cry every time I think about it, because I never realized how scared I was about aging in a world that thinks I’m already a decade too old for the things I love. Suddenly, that wasn’t so scary.
And then I just stopped pretending that I wasn’t into this stuff. I mean all of it, even the stuff no one understand, even the stuff people openly make fun of, even smutty fanfiction.
And look, I’m not saying this cured my depression, or that everything is perfect. For one, I picked a city that’s awful for geeks and I’m trying to figure out where to move and how. For another, I lost six years of making like-minded friends, and it’s hard to find them now because we’re all so worried about being judged and online – the space that was always a refuge for me as a loner weirdo growing up – is now apparently a Children of the Corn. But I’m happier here, actually fucking liking things, than being the unobjectionable robot woman I’m apparently supposed to be.
I don’t expect anyone to actually be interested in this, or have gotten this far, but because I’m having feelings about turning 36 on Monday, I just want to tell anyone who is about to turn 25 that you should just tell people to go fuck themselves. It’s your life. You’re going to offend people no matter what you do, at least choose the direction that makes you happiest, because those people certainly aren’t going to pay for your fucking therapist bills, are they? 🦖
This is gonna sound weird to you guys, but when I first started writing fanfic and sending stories to fanzines to be published back in 1991, in my first fandom all of the fans and writers and editors and readers I met were shocked that I was 17 because they were all in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. I was the outlier. I was an aberration.
Wanna know when young people started discovering fandom en masse? In the mid 1990s, when AOL got their internet gateway.
All the folks who ran fannish mailing lists and conventions and published ‘zines and posted fanfic online were over 18, because email and IRC and Usenet and FTP sites and listservs were primarily used by adults because they were almost exclusively college students, government employees, and academics. And the users of gated communities like BBS, GEnie, Compuserv, and AOL all skewed older. Only Prodigy was actually aimed at kids, because prior to the mid-to-late 1990s, children weren’t getting online until they went to university.
And what kids found was the fandom that adults had built online, after being a part of it offline for decades.
Even when FFN was launched, the people who initially posted there were the same people who had been posting fanfic to the internet for a decade: THE GROWN-UPS.
So the idea that we’re meant to put away childish things is hilarious, cos for most of our lives, fandom was not a part of our childhoods. It was a part of our everyday adult lives.