When’s the first time you fell in love?
For me, it was May 1997 — with Taylor Hanson. ‘Til then, you know, I’d suffered through the usual schoolgirl crushes on classmates … and Peter Brady. But it was Taylor, with his long golden locks and uniquely charismatic voice, that really tugged at my 11-year-old heartstrings.
I’ve had many obsessions — sorry: hobbies — since. But Hanson remains a constant. My sister and I have seen them in concert dozens of times, most recently as last summer. Twenty-five years after I first stuck “Middle of Nowhere” into my Walkman, the opening chords of “MMMBop” still light me up inside. (I randomly heard the song while shopping last weekend and, with a 3-pound roast in my hands, still did a shoulder shimmy. As my husband likes to say: we’ve reached the age of this grocery story is playing my jams.)
Why do I bring up Taylor? Well, because for as long as I’ve had hobbies, I’ve been teased — sometimes gently, occasionally less so — for them. Hanson gave way to ‘NSYNC, and ‘NSYNC became John Mayer. But for the many years before I had a (real) first kiss and occupied myself with personal romantic drama, I lost myself entirely in the world of adoration. And fan fiction.
I’d nearly forgotten about it … pushed into the recesses of my juvenilia, if you will.
Thank goodness Tabitha Carvan woke me up.
I stumbled upon This Is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch: The Joy of Loving Something — Anything — Like Your Life Depends On It at the recommendation of Katherine Center, one of my favorite authors. (Where Katherine leads, I follow.)
And follow I did — straight down the rabbit hole that was Australian writer Tabitha Carvan summing up the totality of my life in one book. Like me, Tabitha is a tired 30-something (or 40-something?) writer and mother of two young kids working to balance her career with parenting and marriage.
In the haze of her day-to-day life, she randomly gets sucked into “Sherlock” and its charming star, Benedict Cumberbatch. No one is more surprised than Tabitha when she’s suddenly googling Benedict at every opportunity, talking her husband into watching the popular TV series for the umpteenth time, and devouring online forums and “Sherlock” slash fiction.
I know it’s right there in the title, but it’s true: this isn’t strictly about Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s about carving out space for yourself in your own life. It’s also about embracing your passions — your uniquely you things — and reframing how you think about them. Why is it, Tabitha posits, that a middle-aged man can cheer loudly for hours at a football game without earning a second glance, but a woman doing the same at a Backstreet Boys reunion concert is immature or weird?
So unsurprisingly, this is also a book about feminism. I listened to the audio (very good, highly recommend) and was unable to underline my favorite passages, but one that really stood out was about Tabitha making a Benedict Cumberbatch photo the wallpaper on her phone. It felt wrong to her — but why? Because she was a mother. Mothers are supposed to have photos of their children as their wallpaper. Our children are supposed to be everywhere, with little space left for anything non-children. If not — can we really consider ourselves “good mothers”?
Tabitha talks about how Benedict infused joy in her life again. She interviews others who love the actor and dives headlong into the fandom, eagerly gobbling up anything to fuel her interest.
Over the summer, as my mother-in-law was dying and I was stressed at home with two active kids and needed an escape, I joined the rest of the world in obsessing over a truly under-appreciated, little-known talent: one Harry Styles. Perhaps you’ve heard of him? Listening to “Harry’s House” was the gateway drug. I got sucked into the Harry vortex as swiftly as I fell in love with Taylor Hanson all those years ago.
I spent the following months feeling … happy. And silly. I mean, I’m a happily married 37-year-old woman. Why was I looking up decade-old One Direction videos and researching the meaning behind Harry’s 50+ tattoos? Well … I mean, it was fun. I needed a distraction — something far from my “normal” life — and I found it with handsome, energetic Harry.
With the help of Tabitha, my new guru, I’ve totally reframed my thinking on “The Summer of Harry.” I’ve never been embarrassed by my interests, exactly; as I type, my work desk features a headshot of Harry below an engagement photo with my husband. I once owned enough Hanson T-shirts to not repeat a look for two weeks straight. In the early 2000s, I wrote an epic ‘NSYNC-inspired fan fic called “Love You Latte” that, if memory serves, involved Justin and the main character — Megan, obvs — meeting in a coffeeshop. Starbucks was the height of sophistication, thank you.
As I’ve aged, becoming more Mom than Megan, I do think about what is “age appropriate.”
But appropriate for whom? And to what end?
Life is short. Soak it up. Obsess over it. Like what you like and offer no apologies.
Read Tabitha’s book and join us.
If you need me, I’ll be here with “Sledgehammer.”