This is how it was, or: Armitagemania infection trigger

[Fills in this placeholder, describing events of December 13/14, 2009. Seems weird that this event should have fallen on St Lucy, but maybe it’s significant in terms of darkness and light. Happy St Lucia to all the Scandinavians and hyphenated Scandinavians in Diaspora. On the celebration of the holiday in contemporary Trondheim, a post from the blog I lurk on most obstinately. I woke up in tears this morning after another Armitage dream, and I thought it was about this, but then I realized the significance of the day.

I’d never have imagined that two years later, on a day when I got an invitation to attend a party from my last employer, that I’d be able to write about these things with tears in my eyes, but mostly without rage, and be able say, “Gaudete!” Thanks, Richard Armitage; thanks, Armitagemania; thanks, Armitage friends.]



The situation I referred to here (post on initial Armitage exposure) wore on all fall. The hammer fell the last week of August, but responses were possible for the entire fall and into the spring. I didn’t participate in any, but as my closest friends at work were doing so, I witnessed them at close range. Friends and colleagues pressed me hard to participate, although I was never able to bring myself to do so. The capacity for response or resistance had been beaten out of me in semesters that seemed so distant as to make my memory of the Servetus who objected to abuse seem like a childhood fantasy.

As a result, the fall of 2009 was unbearable. People started shunning us — I remember in particular an elevator ride in bitter silence up four floors with the colleague who’d been responsible for furthering my professional advancement only weeks before, who was now exiting the building via a circuitous route in order to avoid me. Others who’d never given a damn suddenly pressed on us a level of attentiveness usually reserved for unconsummated love affairs, but it turned out what they wanted was an absolution that I, at least, never felt able to give. They wanted not to be villains, and only my disappearance would give them that, though the Hotel California quality of high-level academic meant the departure took almost two years — about eighteen months of which were concurrent with this blog. In October, Dear Friend got some halfway good news, but all fall I was running on a special depth of “empty” reserved for people who believe they are damned and are just waiting to fall through the earth to their destination.


As the rather loathsome Céline knew, death comes on the installment plan. I was hoping that it wouldn’t be so bad, but I knew the next piece of news was due any day. And yet. It didn’t apply to me. I was done with this already; I’d made my decisions. At the time, the situation at work was no longer even my biggest problem, just the one looming in most recent memory. I had to get my grades done. I had to get get everything in the car and I had to drive home. It was looking bad for all of those things, as the second classes had ended, I had turned into a hibernating sloth. In seven days, I hadn’t managed to force myself out of bed before one in the afternoon, and on several of them, even seated in my office, I’d been unable even to turn on the computer. Emails from the registrar about grading deadlines were multiplying, and people who were still speaking to me kept coming to say goodbye, usually with the remark, “I thought you’d be gone by now.”

On that morning I knew the only way I’d be able to get out of bed at all was if I didn’t make myself go to work. So I went to my favorite local cinema instead — a place where you can order alcohol and food while you watch the film, and thus inebriate yourself where no one but the crack dealer waiter can see you. I saw “Invictus,” which had just opened. Questionable history/politics, soppy story, and then the poem is my mother’s favorite. She made us memorize it, although she also warned us that it is heretical, especially in the concluding strophe. On that day, I was not especially cheered by telling myself that my head was bloody but unbowed (although I suppose that my feelings proved her right about the mistaken theology). But I cried, and I drank four beers, and ate a lot of fried cheese, in the dark, and maybe that was an acceptable coping strategy for the day.

I was sober when the movie ended and decided to drive to work, which I did as the sun was setting. It was easy to park after 4:45, and the building was quiet, and I thought I might get away without seeing anyone. I made it to my office, and of course, my friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor was there. He and I had started at almost the same time, and despite a rocky beginning of our relationship, things had improved, and when I got an office close to his, and observed similar work hours, and we recognized each other as fellow curmudgeons, we became close friends. He’s older than my parents, and has children my age or a little younger, and sometimes the lines between parent / mentor, colleague, and friend became very blurred. But he was one of very few colleagues who never abandoned me, though he easily could have, and even made a point of kindness where others could see it after the shunning started.

I said “hello” to him, commiserated pro forma on the poor grammar of American student writers (because, you know, that campus wasn’t Cambridge), and downloaded my email. Item number one was an electronic copy of a letter from the university, sent that morning. It confirmed what I’d known since August. The big question was what was happening to Dear Friend. I called her and she told me that despite the October news, the situation had been resolved to her disadvantage. The pit dropped out of my stomach and my jaw began to hurt. We talked for a few minutes, and she said she had been on the phone all day and needed to talk to a few more people about ongoing initiatives. She was close to tears, and she’ll do almost anything to avoid appearing humiliated in front of other people. Me, too. She didn’t want me to witness her tears, and I didn’t want her to witness mine, either. I don’t know if we’ve ever cried in front of each other.

The beer and cheese roiled in my stomach. We hung up. I slammed my fist down on my desk, and then I began to sob, uncontrollably. Unfortunately, I forgot that my office door was open. My friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor rushed over to hear what was wrong. I told him, and he asked me what I thought Dear Friend would do, and as I have all along, told him to ask her if he needed to know that, and then he asked me what was wrong with our campus. I said I didn’t know, and I couldn’t possibly talk about it, that I had finished with all of it, and had only underestimated how viscerally I would feel her misery, and that I had to get my grades in and get my car loaded to go home and would he please just forget that he had heard me crying. He said that it wasn’t the sort of thing that was easily forgotten.

“Will you be in tomorrow?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “Still have to finish this term’s grading before I can go. But I can’t draw this out too much longer, my folks are waiting on me.”

“All right,” he said. “See you tomorrow, then.”

The next day I was in my office when he came in, and he stopped, opened his backpack, pulled out the item pictured in this post, and pressed it into my hand.

“I leave for London tonight,” he said. “I’m sorry for your and Dear Friend’s troubles. Maybe this will help. It’s something that women seem to like. ”

I thanked him for thinking of us, and then he left.


It’s that time of year again: a point at which we think about the needs of others in the midst of gratitude for the gifts we have received. Here’s a link to Mr. Armitage’s recommended charities at JustGiving and a link to Act!onAid, a child sponsorship organization for which he recorded a voiceover in December 2010. In 2011, Mr. Armitage also participated in fundraising efforts for Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. You can also generate a donation by doing any or Book Depository shopping that you do for the holidays via, or or shopping via, as these fansites both donate earned commission to charities that Armitage has endorsed. Fans have also donated in honor of Armitage to Oxfam International.

~ by Servetus on December 14, 2011.

24 Responses to “This is how it was, or: Armitagemania infection trigger”

  1. So the old Cambridge professor turned you onto RA? That’s amazing. I’ll bet two years ago seems like 12 years ago now. Glad to see you’re on the upswing and mending.


    • It was Dear Friend who showed it to me the first time (see link to “exposure”) but MFACTFCP put it in my hands at this crucial moment. I’m hoping I can write about the onset this year on the anniversary (beginning of January).

      It does feel like so long ago. I’m sure I owe a lot of that to my colleagues here, including Pesky.


    • It was also a relief to realize that my blowout this morning was due to the coincidence of these significant anniversaries — not unexplained craziness.


  2. Moving on is the very best thing. We can’t “move on” from all situations, cetainly not from family in most circumstances. The best we can we do is to intuit which situations to exit. It is so cheering that this new environment has brought a “renewal” to you. No doubt it will have its challenges, but they appear to be simply that – not head-banging against walls that would have appeared to have been beyond the limits of ethical persons.

    Just – Happy Chanukah! And a new year beginning!


  3. That is extraordinary. So glad it came into your hands at the right moment and continues to inspire you. I could use some myself right now.


    • You can see (with my providential background) why I started to wonder if it was a sign from G-d.

      Can I do anything to give you some inspiration, Sydney?


      • Not unless you have expertise with moody 14 year olds, but I thank you. I wish you safe travels and hope that you find your parents in good condition.

        Chanukah sameach!


        • I remember being a moody 14 year old, but I’m sure everyone is her/his own special case.

          Gosh, only a week to Ch — I’ve got to get my act together. Chag sameach to you, too.


  4. Thanks for sharing your story. I’ve been thinking deeply about my own experience with the onset of Armitagemania. It really is more complicated than it seems at first.
    I am very glad that you are in a better place in your life. Are you relocated near to your “Dear Friend”?
    Happy RA anniversary!


    • Thanks, phylly3. It *is* complicated. I hope that in writing about this people will have the chance to see that being a fan is not just a sort of silly escapade or frivolous.

      Dear Friend and I live a very long way apart now. We joke about getting a campus to hire us both.


  5. My thanks too for sharing how the Armitage effect came into your life when needed. What a caring man your colleague is.


    • What’s a bit funny about it all is that he was never seen that way by anyone, including me at first. It’s always the quiet ones who get you.


  6. PS I’ve yet to work out why, after a slow burn of two to three years from when I first saw Richard in RH and VoD, Armitagemania hit me like a ton of bricks. I became besotted with him and his characters, and life has never been the same since!


  7. I know firsthand how cruel academia can be. I am glad that your Cambridge professor friend had the insight to offer you the gift of solace. I am pleased that you and your Dear Friend have survived and prospered, enough that you can truly rejoice.


  8. Thank goodness for your friend’s care and understanding! Literally angelic of him.

    I’m glad you got what you needed when you needed it to start the healing process.


  9. I still find it somewhat astounding that the Cambridge prof, of all people in the College, would be the one with both the collection of period drama DVDs, AND the sensitivity to loan them out to those in need of video therapy.

    But thank heavens, right? And I might also say that it’s not just Mr. A., but your amazing reader-friends who’ve helped the catharsis.


    • I know, right? That was the most improbable thing, given what everyone thought about him. Including us, at times.

      Yeah, the commentators have been the most unanticipated gift of this whole experience. I’ve been just as or more surprised by them as by Armitagemania.


  10. […] was home, seeking respite from the poisonous atmosphere around the Armitagemania trigger event. On Christmas Eve we drove out to the farm to go to church with my brother’s family. This […]


  11. […] North & South. December 2009: the last chance to resolve the problems at work evaporate. Trigger of Armitagemania, when my friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor puts North &am… I drive home for Christmas, spent, like the latest one, in the bosom of my family, with the […]


  12. […] My friend and colleague the former Cambridge professor has been diagnosed with an advanced case of prostate cancer. I don’t know all the details but it is apparently extremely serious. […]


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