It is a truth, self-evident that many of my nerdy fangirl friends, much like everyone else are seeking companionship. This can be quite a difficult and daunting prospect considering that trying to find a boyfriend in the world of fandom can be likened to walking through a former minefield while blindfolded and roaring drunk. You might survive, or you might find your heart, and the rest of you, blown into tiny bits.
Heather, you may ask, how did you do it? How did you find yourself engaged to the witty, silly, intelligent and kind Mike? A man who has an encyclpedic knowledge of the Green Lantern but can function in the real world? Well, much like Scott Pilgrim, it took me ‘five evil exes’ for me to get there. The lessons I learned dating them, I’d like to impart.
1: GET CONFIDENT, STUPID!
When I was seventeen years old I had it all going on, I was a double d cup with clear skin straight teeth and big baby blue eyes. I was also a social pariah when it came to men. Spending my time watching Buffy and reading Discworld novels meant I was quietly oblivious to this until something occurred. One of those high school ‘frenemies’ came up to me and said “ You know REDACTED’s ex boyfriend Jack, he’s telling everyone how weird you are and how much he hates you”.
I was of course shocked by this! Scandalized!
It wasn’t like I said rude things about him, swore at him or treated him with contempt. I treated this guy with complete and utter respect. So of course being the sassy young thing I was I confronted him and what I was told chilled me to the core. This boy hated me because he found fandom “boring”, I of course found his interest in football, drinking and reality television dull but I never saw that as a reason to hate him.
Over the next few years this pattern repeated itself over and over again. Young men would call my interest in Doctor Who and Neil Gaiman weird hurting my feelings. By the time I was twenty two I was so shattered. I was willing to throw myself at any fanboy who showed the slightesst bit of interest in me. Despite being pretty witty heather lawson I allowed myself to date alchoholics, manic depressives and men who were emotionally abusive, all because some guy told me he hated fandom!
It wasn’t until I looked myself in the mirror and told myself I was kind, funny, intelligent and beautiful that I realised I was deserved a decent guy. I also realized, that any guy who irrationally hates someone for daring to like fandom probably has something going on himself.
Which brings me to my next point…
2: Just because he is a geek doesn’t mean he is a good guy!
Movies have a lot to answer for. As a little fangirl I was brainwashed by films such as ‘Pretty In Pink‘ to believe that all geeky fanboys were lovely romantic sweethearts. A geeky boyfriend would serenade me with Otis Reading, capture a snow flake from Antartica and freeze it in resin or give me a custom made snow globe.
Reality proved to be slightly different, to put it mildly.
When dating a fan boy do NOT ignore red flags just because he has ‘Dead Like Me‘ on DVD. One guy I dated told me he loved me while we watched ‘Heroes‘, then after taking me on a date to see ‘Stardust‘ he ignored me for six weeks. Meanwhile my father was in a coma after a heart attack and my frantic calls only got a “playing Guitar Hero” response. Looking back perhaps he wasnt best boyfriend material, all of his facebook photos showed him in a state of drunken disarray.
Oh, and he had a secret girlfriend in the UK.
3: ‘Type’ chemistry doesn’t equal real life chemistry.
Felicty Huffman the queen of the fan girls from the web series ‘The Guild‘ put it best when she said “ some people only have type chemistry”. Being a fangirl means meeting a lot of potential boyfriends online. One guy I knew on and off online for around six years before we actually met and started dating. Online he was incredibly witty, philosophical and intelligent. He was the token dreamboat, you know, the one intelligent kind wonderful web poster that all the female members drool over. When he came to my city and took me out on a date I was so proud, so blissful, so happy that I ignored the fact in real life he had trouble completing sentences and avoided eye-contact.
Every conversation we had ended up with me babbling for ten minutes while he gradually grew mute. However as soon as we were online again the witty eccentric writer came back! It was like dating both Doctor Jekyll AND Mr Hyde. Eventually he dumped me on Facebook saying he just didnt “ feel” anything. I was devastated. Although I didn’t fall for him in real life I did have a huge crush on his online persona. A real relationship needs to survive in the real world as well as the interweb: if he struggles to actually speak to you on a date it’s time to give him the flick.
4: Just because he is a fanboy it doesnt mean he is a compatible fanboy!
Elizabeth Bennett in ‘Pride and Prejudice‘ said she knew she fell for Mr Darcy when she saw his gigantic over-the-top country estate. I too once foolishly fell in love with a guy due to his material possessions. I never thought I would ever be that kind of girl – fast cars, high-limit credit cards and fine dining never really imrpessed me. But then after meeting this guy while going to the movies to see Harry Potter I found myself entranced. His study was wall to wall filled with hundreds of dvds, books and graphic novels. During my first visit he loaded up my backpack with ten different dvd box sets, all for television series like Wonderfalls that I was dying to see but could never find in Australia.
I was soon swept away into a world of obscure television series, intricate indie graphic novels and complex fantasy novels. It never occurred to me that my boyfriend and I never really talked about things, just watched or read our fandoms together consuming our own little fantasy worlds.
Finally when our binge eating pop culture orgy was over, we finally started to talk to each other and we realised how different we were. He was a Liberal voter who supported the war in Iraq and didn’t believe in climate change, I voted for the Greens and ate organic chocolate. He would rant and rave about how much he hated our detention centre in the local community while I spent my teaching rounds working with refugee children.
When we looked into each other eyes we didn’t see our soulmate, just a very different person who baffled and confounded us. Needless to say it didn’t work out.
4: Never compromise your fandom for a guy.
Relationships are all about compromise, learning to be tidier, not to spend an entire pay check on the complete hard cover of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman or making sure you put your partner first. One thing I’ve learned however is you should never give up the fandom you love in order to please your boyfriend. When I first met my last boyfriend before Mike I was a Harry Potter loving girly-girl, the sort of fan girl who wears fantasy themed jewelery, gypsy skirts and dyes her hair red. My fashion sense made me look like the sort of fortune teller you see in bad movies. I honestly thought I looked awesome and I loved all the fandoms I followed.
This boyfriend also loved Harry Potter but he loved anime and video games more, he was also a music fanboy. Music was his number one priority. Slowly I found myself morphing into a completely different person, I cut my long blood red waves into a short bob, binned my velvet tops and lacey skirts in favour of pop culture tshirts and jeans. Instead of spending my nights reading Harry Potter or Buffy fanfics I foundself watching animes I hated. I understand that shows like Evangelion are insanley popular but for me I found myself staring at the bizarre ‘angels’ and my mind was screaming WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS ALL MEAN?
Also video gamers, I found myself excepting gifts of video games. Although I’m a fangirl I’ve never been a gamer, even when it comes to story-based RPGs. I much prefer a novel or a TV series. If I’m fully immersed in a story I dont wan’t to suddenly be interuppted by having to fight a monster or aimlessly wander about a castle.
Meanwhile the boyfriend in question showed no interest in any of my fandoms. We never watched anything light-hearted comedys, the stuff I love. Nor did we immerse ourselves in high fantasy, my favourite genre. He wasn’t a bad boyfriend, it was just a case where I needed to be more confident and refuse to compromise in my interests.
After we broke up I regained my confidence and slowly became the girly-girl fantasy-lovin’ geek my fiance and soon to be husband fell in love with. I learned not to pretend to “like” an aspect of fandom just to keep my partner happy. I also learned however to push my partner to try new things, through me Mike learned to love Modern Family although he wasn’t a fan of American Horror Story.
All of these life lessons concerning confidence, dating emotionally healthy people and common interests are all pretty obvious. However when it comes to our ‘Sex and the City‘ generation nobody really speaks for us fangirls. Relationship advice tends to be marketed towards women whose primary interests involve glamorous careers, binge drinking at bars and wardrobes which could fund a third world nation.
There has always been an impression that us fangirls should be happy with what we “get” while our nice fandom, guy counterparts end up with the typically “hot” Penny from the ‘Big Bang Theory‘, even though they have nothing in common. Instead we should strive to be like the other female characters from that show, girls like Amy and Bernadette who refuse to settle for jerk like behavior from their boyfriends and who also find someone they have a true conection with – not just someone who happens to like the same comic book.
It took me five big mistakes to realise this and then I found my Mikey – let’s just hope the great director in the sky doesn’t suddenly try to ‘him him off”.