Escapism gets a bad rap. Of course it is not healthy to deny reality indefinitely, or neglect what needs to be done all the time in favor of escaping into fantasies, but let me tell you, some escape can be a very, very good thing. Especially in the barrage of vitriole that is our current political and societal climate, having an outlet for pleasure, leisure or a spot of frivolity can keep us alive.
What is it for you – a fun novel? A binge-worthy show? Cosplay games or a con(vention) dedicated to any of those things? Although there is a wide spectrum of investment to be made – both in time and finances required – the benefits of small to large fan activities are similar. I have myself just returned from MissFisherCon, a gathering of the devotees of an Australian TV show (and somewhat the books it is based upon) called “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.” It was a blast – complete with many attendees in 1920’s period clothing, workshops on Miss Fisher’s particular kind of flashy car and the barefoot dancing (belly dancing) the lady detective picks up during one adventure in Morocco!
For the naysayers, of whom I might have been one at some point, I present some counter-frivolity. Here are 3 wonderful accomplishments of fandom.
1. Building community, in an age of isolation and loneliness
Despite (or perhaps because of) being so connected via the internet, American adults are more isolated than ever before, focused on work and home without time for much else. Our lack of connections feeds mental health struggles. My dear friend Danae Ashley, who got me to go to this fan weekend is both a pastor and therapist, and she pointed out how role-playing games can be used therapeutically to help those who do not readily pick up on social cues learn to interact, to be brave, to try out decision-making, and build community when they might be a social outcast in their school or neighborhood. To find others with your interest certainly feels like coming home in the best possible way.
2. Thinking outside our usual boxes
Hispano-Suiza cars, sound mixing for a TV series, plants and their poisons… none of these are subjects I think about regularly, if ever. But each workshop related to our delightful heroine and her adventures taught me something new. Given how these new subjects sent my mind whirring with creativity and new perspectives, I imagine similar phenomena happen for others. It is so very good to get outside our habitual subjects and areas of expertise, to appreciate what others are contributing to the world.
3. Valuing time for ourselves
In our capitalist context, we rarely give ourselves time for leisure. We may placate ourselves with unhealthy quick fixes, like snacking and getting lost on social media, but not invest in the longer interests that actually gladden our hearts. Those who do get paid vacation time often fail to take it all, and those who work at an hourly wage to get paid, stack jobs together in their daily schedules. Time is money, and the pressure is real. Carving out time and money for interests that simply give us pleasure – but don’t materially benefit those for whom we are caregivers – is specifically difficult for women. Between managing domestic and administrative details in our households, working and parenting ten minutes of leisure time at a stretch is about all many women can expect. So going to a Con (if you can afford it) or even attending a concert or reading a full book by your favorite author is indeed an act of counter-cultural assertion bound to be met with resistance. The belly-dancing class gave me this sense of indulgence, in the enjoyment of moving our bodies, away from the male gaze (although there were a few men in attendance at the con). It was just release, just happiness, just for us. And we are worth the investment.