Remember when liking and knowing things wasn’t cool? I have no idea how much school might have changed since I went, but when I did, being able to answer a question correctly was the top reason to bully someone. Not so much a case of ‘might makes right’, but more a case of ‘might makes being right undesirable and punishable’. Being a ‘nerd’, or any equivalent, was in no way cool. If you wore glasses it’s because you had shitty eyes, not to accentuate your position within a subculture. And even now the ‘geek’ look is only considered sexy if you’re basically already sexy, looking like a geek on its own is not enough. I should know; I went through school with the physique of a Tim Burton animation (plus acne) and the incessant pedantry of a YouTube video entitled ‘David Mitchell’s Best Rants’ (minus the wit), and it did very little to help me out socially.
Well now knowing things and liking things apparently is cool, due to the rise and acceptance of nerd culture. So having an ‘obsession’ or passion is not considered weird, but is encouraged. I’m led to believe that offices have replaced ‘dress-down Fridays’ with ‘try to dress like your favourite anime character without being offensive Tuesdays’, GCSE English exams exclusively ask students to discuss the themes of identity in Scott Snyder’s run on Batman; and Pub-Golf is disappearing to make way for the much more popular Pub-Magic:The Gathering.
While a lot of my ‘obsessions’ certainly fit into the mould of a stereotypical nerd, I also have a few outliers. Shall we share?
First up, looking at before and after photos of celebrities who have lost weight (the Nutty Professor is subsequently much higher than it should be in my personal movie rankings)
Okay, now you go, what’s your ‘obsession’?
Oh wow, I didn’t realise that was still technically legal, but thank you.
My turn again. Reading about hip hop stars that used to be in a feud but have since buried the hatchet. If DMX and Ja Rule can learn to get along, maybe there’s hope for us all.
Now you again.
Oh that’s so adorable that you think that’s even worth mentioning, bless you. I mean I wouldn’t call it an obsession, but I certainly tried it during my adolescence on those lonelier nights.
See, sharing these things is a great way to get to know someone, as we have just categorically proven. But these aren’t really obsessions are they? What we’ve been talking about are just passion projects, or hobbies. Basically the things we would list on dating profiles next to GSOH and that picture of us pretending not to know we’re having our picture taken. Mine would be something like ‘reading, writing, trying to make people laugh, trying not to fuck up’ which also very accurately describes my school experience. Maybe you would list ‘looking at strangers’ dogs’, ‘thinking that being really excited about Christmas gives you more of a personality’, or ‘craft ales’. But whatever annoying thing you do to stave off the thoughts of death, they aren’t really obsessions. A true obsession would be something you can’t stop thinking about on an hourly basis, something that is all-consuming, to the point of almost being detrimental to your mental health, whether it comes from an internal or external source.
People like to bandy the term ‘OCD’ around like a volleyball on a nudist beach, but mostly just to describe being slightly worried about neatness or grammar. Such as:
“Oh don’t put that cup of tea on the table without a coaster, my OCD will go mental.”
“Please… I think you mean 5 items or fewer, not less. You have to stop that or I’ll just get so OCD all over you.”
“Is that Bryce Dallas Howard or Amy Adams? Let me just text my OCD, he’s good with stuff like this.”
Some mental illnesses enter our general lexicon, but few that are used in such a watered-down version day-to-day. I don’t want to pretend that I’m the spokesperson for it, or that I even fully understand the condition, but I did suffer from it mildly as a child, and for me it had nothing to do with correcting people’s grammar (which I do, but purely recreationally). I think mine started as a result of having to check the ingredients of food due to a nut allergy, and took a less logical jaunt over to turning lights on and off multiple times before leaving the living room, and obsessively checking the doors were locked. There was no sense to it, I would literally stand at the front door for minutes, jamming my hand on the unmoving handle, knowing it was locked, but still having to continue checking. If a dating profile asked me to list my obsessions, I don’t think this would be what they were after.
I guess it boils down to knowing the difference between a passion and obsession. A passion is following your favourite sports team. An obsession is following the players of your favourite sports team home, because you think they might be in love with you. I have a passion for comic books and comedy. I had an obsession for making sure the lights in my kitchen were turned off properly because I was worried it would spark in the night and, in the event of a gas leak, set the house on fire and kill us all. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there.
But don’t feel too bad. I hammered on my parents’ front door handle so many times over the years that I actually broke it and my dad had to replace it. If only someone could have gone back and spoken to me as a teenager, during a time when my arms were little more than pairs of parallel lines between wrist and shoulder, and told me that I would one day rend a door handle free from its bindings, I probably would have felt pretty good about myself. I guess what I’m saying is, never give up. Or something.
Next time on the Bandwagon, I try to prove that beards aren’t vegan, to ruin it for everyone.