I like to think that my past obsessions have made me the person I am today. If I hadn’t spent an entire summer listening to the complete Blink-182 oeuvre in chronological order on repeat, I probably wouldn’t have spoken to my current boyfriend. If I didn’t spend that family trip glued to my Tamagotchi, I wouldn’t have all those embarrassing photos that now serve to humble me. If I hadn’t forced my friend to push her way to the front of that show when I was 17, I never would have sang on stage with Iggy Pop. These are all moments I appreciate in my life. However, I keep obsession in the past tense. There was no way, I thought for so long, that I could feel that overwhelming love for a band or a film or an experience that most teenage girls just think is normal. I’m just not built for it anymore.
And then I started playing Pokémon again.
I stopped playing Pokémon in the prime of my teenage obsessive years, because I stupidly left my Gameboy Color and all my games in a rental car, and was too afraid to tell my mom just how dumb I was. So they went, and I found something better to do with my time. Maybe that’s when I discovered Blink-182, or became convinced I’d find my true love in an AOL chatroom á la You’ve Got Mail. Whatever happened, Pokémon was gone and I was OK with that.
Then my boyfriend started talking about his old Gameboy, which led me to buy one on eBay (I don’t have a smartphone, “it’ll be fun to play games on the subway,” I told myself), and then led me to buy Pokémon Red and play for hours every night. Hours. Like, get home, eat dinner, then sit on the couch as my boyfriend watches an entire hockey game while I played, saying nothing, occasionally consulting my laptop about where to find the PokeFlute so I can wake up the sleeping Snorlax.
“This is fine,” I thought as I watched him staring straight ahead, having long ago abandoned the thought of resting a hand on my knee or saying “I love you” just because. “I’ll kiss him when we get to bed. Right now I need to get to Celadon City.”
He insisted later that being able to not pay attention to each other on the couch is a good thing; that we have the kind of relationship where we are comfortable being silent around one another, and some people never get there. But I’m not so sure. I dreamt that night of my Charizard growing to level 50.
There is a reason we consider 40-year-old men at comic conventions or Magic the Gathering tournaments weird. It’s because we’re told we’re supposed to outgrow our obsessions. Really, we’re supposed to redirect them. Instead of being obsessed with a band, we’re supposed to be obsessed with our careers. Instead of posting 200 photos of our cats on Facebook, we’re supposed to post photos of our children. We’re always supposed to outgrow the childish things, and put our energies toward responsible endeavors.
But where is the line? My friend is not ridiculed for buying season tickets to the Yankees, but would be if he were following an Asian pop band on tour? We are not considered rude when we shush our friends during a very important monologue in “Mad Men,” but would be if that show were “Dance Moms.” I’m personally very creeped out by people who post hundreds of photos of their kids on Facebook. Obsession is obsession.
And we are built for it. To quote Jeff on “Community,” “I can pick up this pencil, tell you its name is Steve and go like this [breaks pencil] and part of you dies, just a little bit on the inside.” We can love cats and games and movies with the same fervor we’re supposed to reserve for people. And it’s weird, and sort of frightening, but it can also be really wonderful.
The other night in bed I complained to my boyfriend that the Magikarp I caught was useless. “Oh but he turns into Gyrados! He’s so cool!” said my boyfriend as he jumped from the bed and ran to his computer, pulling up a photo of the evolved Pokemon. And for the next half hour, we searched everything we could about the game. I still believe adults aren’t built for these all-encompassing obsessions. I don’t know if I will grow out of this one, though I hope I do. But if I am going to be obsessed in the moment, at least I have someone to obsess with. And the internet.