You Don't Have to Grow Out of Being a Fangirl

Breaking news: I’m a huge, hopeless fangirl, and I'm not afraid to admit it.

I’ve tried to walk away from my TV/movie/book obsessions too many times to count. It doesn’t work. Fandom culture is just in my blood.

For some reason, there’s a weird stigma surrounding the word “fandom.” People make fun of middle schoolers with blogs devoted to Harry Styles and high schoolers who read fanfiction about couples in Teen Wolf. People outside fandom culture are quick to judge those who participate in it, and having people repeatedly attack that way of life (because it really is a lifestyle) makes it feel shameful.

Sure, teens take a lot of crap from people against fandom culture, but the stigma hits adults arguably more than anyone. There’s this unspoken understanding—even if you’re making fun of people who unabashedly blog, write fanfic, or draw fan art—that for adolescents and young adults, this is just a phase. They’ll grow out of it.

But what if they never do? Fandom culture has been a huge part of my life since I was 13, when my thirst for new Harry Potter material led me to supplemental stories about the characters written by other fans. I created a Tumblr blog under a Remus Lupin-inspired URL, started reblogging art of Harry and Hermione, and continued to fall farther down the rabbit hole of this Hogwarts-based obsession.

My Tumblr blog has seen me through many different fandoms: first Harry Potter, then Hannibal, Sherlock, and most recently, Marvel. But nevertheless, it’s been a constant for the past seven years. Obsessing over characters was never a phase. I never expected it to be.

It’s not as easy now that I’m in college to recognize other fangirls in real life. In high school, no one was too afraid to talk about their favorite TV shows or books to people they felt would understand. But we’re older now, and this isn’t high school anymore; maybe the love of fandom culture has become something to grow out of.

When I first got to college, these old obsessions felt childish and immature. Many of my peers were so interested in going to parties that they didn’t seem to have time to think about what would happen if Harry, Hermione, and Ron were baristas at the same coffee shop. If anyone around me had once been a fangirl (or fanboy), they must have moved onto bigger, better things.

Despite this, I wasn’t willing to give up Tumblr or fanfiction. My love for these characters and their stories was still too important to me. So I kept everything under wraps—blogging when no one else was around and reading fanfic chapters in between study sessions.

Eventually I got tired of hiding this part of me. I had a 4.0 GPA, an internship, and a fairly healthy social life, so what did it matter that I spent some (okay, a lot) of my free time making up scenarios about how Sherlock and John are finally going to kiss?

I’m not shouting any of this from rooftops, but if someone asks me what my hobbies are, I tell them blogging. If someone asks me my interests, I say Captain America. I’m fed up with feeling like I should be ashamed of this part of me, because it isn't going away any time soon. Fandom culture isn’t affecting any other areas of my life, and it makes me happy.

So that part of you that never really grows out of fandom culture—don’t keep her stuffed inside your high school locker like a skeleton. Break the stigma and don’t be ashamed of her. Remember that you’ve found something that makes you happy, something to call your own. You latching onto fandom is no different than latching onto a sport—and sports fans certainly don’t grow out of that or feel pressured to.

If fandom culture is a part of you, anyone who’s worth keeping in your life will accept it. If it’s in your blood, don’t try to bleed it out.

Feature photo: Alia Wilhelm/ VIA Unsplash.