Armitage middle-aged, or: Something mature fangirls wonder

[Thanks to a friend, for lending me her question.]

Something one reads about oneself a fair amount of time, when one’s surfing the Armitage Internet, is the allegation that Armitage fangirls are middle-aged. (Other adjectives get used with that, but I’ll stick to that one tonight.) It’s inaccurate — plenty of Armitage fangirls are young enough to be my (or even his) children. Still, I just turned forty-five, so I guess I qualify. Armitage said perhaps a bit prematurely when he was forty that he was middle-aged, probably as riposte to those who felt him too young and handsome to be cast as Thorin Oakenshield. But he’s forty-two-and-a-half now, so his earlier self-description is slowly coming true. As it will for us all. My generation is probably the “youngest” generation of forty-somethings ever to live in the U.S., in terms of general health, stylishness of interests, appearance, and purchasing power and taste, so the notion of “age appropriate” has changed drastically in the last several decades. It’s not like one turns forty and suddenly only wants to wear pastel dresses and sensible shoes — if that were ever true. My mother’s generation certainly didn’t act that way. And it’s a rare woman over the age of thirty who feels as old as she knows she is or as her body may tell her after strenuous exercise or not enough sleep.

***

Screen shot 2013-12-02 at 10.59.43 PMPlayful as ever; Richard Armitage being especially age appropriate in Los Angeles at the premiere for the The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, December 2, 2013. You can see the little boy, the young actor, and, I suppose, if you like to fantasize about him as a parent, the father animatedly playing a dragon for his children.

***

So time’s winged chariot will catch us all: Richard Armitage, me, and the people who hurl “middle-aged” around as an insult. That always strikes me as funny. First, everyone will be middle-aged sometime. (I hope, unless you die first, which I don’t wish even on my worst enemy.) Second, I guess people assume it’s bad to be middle-aged, or at least worse to be middle-aged than some other unspecified life stage. Am I supposed to be embarrassed? Dude, I earned these grey hairs (such as they are, there aren’t many yet, nor do I have wrinkles). It’s an honor to have gotten this far. Third, I wonder if there’s any positive life stage to be associated with the word “fan.” Teenage fangirl implies foolishness; elderly fangirl implies — I don’t know what, something inappropriate, I suppose — and middle-aged fangirl implies that I’ve somehow not noticed that my youth is over. The point in all of these labels is to make fun of female desire. Well, I’ve got news for you, epithet throwers — female desire and enthusiasm for the delights of life don’t end with forty, or fifty, or sixty, or even seventy. (I’ve never talked to anyone who’s eighty about this.) The ongoing discourse about this theme tends to suggest that the people who mobilize it feel threatened. One wonders why.

I like being middle-aged, I find, at least so far. I’d never seek the powerlessness of childhood again. Sometimes I think it might be fun to be twenty-five or twenty-seven again, insofar as I would feel less burdened by my relationship with time, but looking back, I realize equally how unrealistic my picture of life was. I was more frivolous then and perhaps fearless in a naive way, but I’m more practical now. I don’t waste as much time. I’ve got more money, even a little cushion (so I can go to see The Desolation of Smaug many times), and the confidence, after proving myself over two decades of a career, that I can do something important even if I end up leaving this career behind me for something else. I’m more conscious of my power. I dare more. I have better friends. I see other people more clearly and am less disappointed by them and more pleased. When I am disappointed by anything, I can process it better. My relationships with students have improved as my anxiety that I’m the only one who can address all of their needs has abated. I’m less worried about appearances, and much more able to accept myself for who I am. Sex has gotten better and better, mostly because I know myself now and I’m more confident, but I guess also because the hormones line up a little more energetically for a lot of women at this life stage. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to have my own needs and comfort as a priority, a notion that I couldn’t assimilate two decades ago.

I don’t want to paint forty-five as a bed of roses, because it isn’t, and you’ve been reading here for four years about all the ways that the fifth decade of one’s life can turn out unexpectedly, bad, wrong. (I also would never want to claim to speak to people who have children at home, because that changes everything, and it’s decisive on the income question; I’m only speaking for myself, here.) Still, because of my life experiences, I’m more competent than I ever have been to face the things that have happened to me. And, aware that my life will not last forever, I’ve become free to ask myself big questions.

I can’t remember where I found this quote — but I screenshot it because it spoke to me:

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 10.38.59 PM

Unraveling is a good word; letting go of baggage I don’t need; living my life to the fullest, full in the face of the challenges one’s thrown as an adult. And giving myself permission to come alive. One regret — that I didn’t see that sooner.

A friend and I were talking tonight about one aspect of this problem — the promises that one has made, the obligations that one entered, years earlier, and which are still pending — which ones are permanent? Which ones can be let go? Which ones will need to be renegotiated? We agreed that the sorting out of all of this can hardly be black-and-white; that as exasperated as we get with some of our commitments, we still wouldn’t have exchanged them because they make up part of our lives. And yet — we wonder. Why one is forced into such long term commitments as a matter of course when one is younger, when one sets out on a life journey. Without regretting, what would we have done differently? Or what do we truly regret?

And then my friend said, “How can someone possibly get all that right? I wonder what Mr. A. would say if someone asked him about what he regrets? Presumably he has them. What would he change now, if he could? What did he choose wrong? What will he be happy with until he dies?”

So, yeah, we wonder.

What would Armitage change? If anything? (What did he mean in LA at the TDOS premiere, when he said that playing Thorin had caused him to look at his life again, and change?)

What would we change? What would we keep?

What would you change? And what would you keep?

~ by Servetus on March 11, 2014.

66 Responses to “Armitage middle-aged, or: Something mature fangirls wonder”

  1. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Much food for thought there. Indeed there are fans of all ages here as there should be. They hurl middle aged out as if that means it is jus a bunch of older women who “need” to act silly over an actor. Truth is we all feel these feelings and age doesn’t really matter. I’m not even considered middle age now but a good looking man still is attractive and one with humor and intelligence even more so.

    Have you seen the ads that talk about life and one being able to write or add a verse to the planet or the “life” itself? Do they think that when we reach a certain age we have nothing more to add? Age isn’t as important as just living your life and being happy with whatever you do. Richard has always said that he was a late bloomer so to speak so he doesn’t really feel his age. Well many of us don’t feel our age and why do we need to do it? There is nothing wrong with enjoying the feel of finding one man attractive and enjoying life himself.

    Here we are again though with the attitude of society yet that when a woman reaches a certain age she hasn’t anything left to offer and looks old whereas men are never seen that way. If you read the news on TV and you are a female you are likely to be replaced the moment you reach that age whereas the man has no worries there.

    Of course it is mostly women who are fans of Richard but it is sad that critics and media just keep pointing to the idea that they’re all middle aged. Isn’t that an insult as well to Richard? You can’t attract anyone but older women because you are older? That is just plain silly. When I was in my teens I often was attracted to the idea of an older man and I’m sure that is still happening to teens today. It is okay of course for a man to be attracted to a much younger woman but doesn’t work the same way when women are interested in a younger man and no younger man goes for an older woman ( I mean much older) unless there is money or beauty involved. As it has been noted here all this attraction to Richard is more about ourselves and our lives and that is also the way that society still thinks.

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    • I couldn’t agree with you more. In today’s terms I am probably over the hill. What about the 84 year old lady (a lady that travelled some distance to see ” our Richard” in the Pinter/Proust play.) Servrtus wrote about her just after the play had been performed. I am nowhere near her age but probably would not have set out to travel in the cold . An inspiring story.

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    • I think some of these pressures fall on men as well, though in a different way. Otherwise people would be less worried about the status of Armitage’s hairline.

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  2. I like the confidence that I’ve slowly built in the last decade or two – my thirties were filled with challenges, and I survived them all! Those of us in our forties have a lot of experience to draw on. It becomes a sort of grace to see more clearly what is and isn’t important or life-enhancing.
    I think it’s funny that ‘old’ always seems about two decades away!
    I know very literate and thoughtful fans who are still in university, and a youthful and enthusiastic fan who is in her eighties!
    I think it’s a compliment to Richard’s art if his fanbase attracts a more ‘mature’ following. He’s not flavor of the year – whoever is most popular at the current moment.

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    • The company my mom worked for before her death was engaged (inter alia) in marketing things to elderly people and she kept pointing out to them that their ads should target how older people see themselves — not how marketers see them. Fell on deff ears a lot of the time.

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  3. I know several 80 somethings (just because you mentioned that you didn’t know what they thought) that still find an attractive man desirable. My mom, who is 90 still fangirls over Paul Newman and when I showed her a picture of RA she gasped and said “He’s so handsome! Like Cary Grant.” (which has always been my thought). My daughter, who is 19 is only now appreciating his good looks. So I tend to think it’s his manly handsomeness, although he can have a boyish look about him at times, that attracts us “mature” females.
    What would I change? My youthful feelings of inferiority. I have so much more confidence now and could have then, if not for some extenuating circumstances.
    What would I keep? My sense of humor that kept me going through those circumstances.

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    • Yeah, I just don’t know many people in that age bracket (my dad’s friends are slowly getting there).

      Totally agree on the feelings of inferiority! Determination got me through, but I regret every second I’ve felt I wasn’t good enough.

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  4. Embracing RA and the fandom is a positive change I will keep. I never thought I took myself too seriously, but I was wrong. I can take myself waaay less seriously. Something to change, fear of technology and my incompetence in dealing with it. Change of topic: using only my memory, this is my summary of Richard’s DOS LA remarks. The problem relying on memory, however, is that I have seen so many RA interviews, they tend to blend together. (I sure I am the only person with this problem.) I thought he said he regretted not hanging out with the cast on set very much, keeping himself separate because it helped his acting process. I think he said he learned that he can have fun with his cast mates without sacrificing his performance. I don’t remember which actor made him aware of this, or if it was caused by the whole group becoming close. I am paraphrasing, of course, but that is the essence of what I remember.

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    • I’ll look up the quote when I get a chance and post it — I’m on a very shaky wifi connection at the moment.

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    • I know that he has said that he’s thought he should have had more fun on the shoots, but the remark I am thinking of comes toward the end of this interviewer where he is asked how he changed as a consequence of playing Thorin and he says it caused him to question his own judgments: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V77O593R6ns

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  5. I will keep my obsession with Richard and my connection with wonderful
    RA sisters. I will lose my fear of technology caused by incompetence. Topic change: LA DOS interview. From memory, which is clouded by advanced age and the fact that multiple viewings of RA interviews cause them to merge (I am sure I am the only one affected by this). I think Richard said he regretted keeping himself isolated on the set during filming because he thought it was important in his acting process. Maybe I dreamed this, but I thought he said he learned that he didn’t have to take himself so seriously to be able to perform and he will do things differently in the future. I am paraphrasing,

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    • I really think that Armitagemania causes a lot of people who are hesitant about or even frightened of technology to move on that issue. I wasn’t an incompetent before this, but I’ve learned things just because I wanted to ‘be there’ and see something in real time and have a record of it.

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  6. Lovely essay! I agree that Richard Armitage’s appeal is ageless–and timeless. He inhabits and shares so many different character personae that there is something for everyone. And in his recent portraits, his shy smile sometimes make me think that he is in his early thirties, or when he is stubbled and grizzled looking perhaps ten years older than he is at 42.5 years. He is a chameleon physically and spiritually in his acting and such.

    And yes, I am “middle aged”–but feel youthful in spirit, mid thirties anyway. Ha! Life and love are better for me with each passing year–for many of the same reasons that you mentioned. Though I am still shy at times–unbelievable maybe, but I am–I do find a sense of empowerment with being my age. I find that what might have worried me even ten years ago, doesn’t anymore. And I can’t think of any examples, because I now take life as it comes and move forward, one day at a time.

    And given that Richard Armitage’s stated lady acting partner crushes in The Anglophile Channel Interview Part 3 were all older than he, I would say that the man has good taste–very good taste. Cheers! ;->

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    • I think it’s probably attractive to work experienced professionals — and one does get experience by getting older. Then again, I’m sure younger actors have their charms for him, too. The woman who played Odette in Pinter/PROUST was, I think, in her mid- to late twenties?

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  7. Food for thought here – and I couldn’t agree more.

    I turn fifty (I don’t like the actual number, yet) in December, and I’m beginning to feel as though the best years are returning or are ahead.

    My late thirties and the entire forties decade was spent bearing, giving birth to, and rearing babies, toddlers and very young children.

    Now, my youngest is coming up to ten, and for the first time in almost 13 years, I can feel my “wings” again. Wings of freedom, and I’m looking forward to the coming years.

    Middle-aged…but only if you feel like it. My age says nothing about my body’s real age, which is probably ten years younger. I do believe we should be proud of having come this far. The mid-life crisis only appears – I think – if you feel something has gone unaccomplished. If you haven’t reached to where you aspired to be by the time you are in the middle of your life, then you may feel insecure, unhappy, unfulfilled. I actually like the term “unravelling”, because in the middle of one’s life there is still so much to unravel, so much to see, feel, hear and smell.

    And may I say that Mr A is a daily inspiration to go jogging, to take the bike instead of the car, to buy the sexy lingerie and to dress in *that* black leather jacket, jeans and high heels so – if I were fortunate enough to meet him – he might approve 🙂

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    • I posted about this once, how I’d really tried to plan my life so I wouldn’t have a crisis at mid-life (don’t ask me why that was important to me as an early post-adolescent, but it seems to have been) and I had one anyway … to some extent pushed on me by external events but also raised by my incapacities. I think there’s some kind of perspective one achieves at this point that causes one to look more carefully at what has been happening …

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  8. This is a fantastic post. (And speaking as a newly-minted 41-year-old fangirl who is also a wife and mom to 2 school-aged kids, I don’t personally think that having kids really changes much in terms of the mid-life unraveling, except that often you’re too busy and/or tired to notice it, even as it’s happening around you.)

    I like the age I am right now. It’s freeing. I’m a lot less worried about what people think of me (and I was never all that concerned with it in the first place!) I like (and am grateful for) the freedom to do what makes me happy, more of the time.

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    • re the kids question — my thought was that it complicates a lot of things. My mom was mostly done with the active stage of parenting when she was my age, whereas a lot of my best friends now have children under the age of ten, and one of my best friends from high school recently became a grandmother! So it probably depends on the life stage — but don’t you think it influences in the income question? I’m really free to spend in ways that friends with children are not, unless they are v. v. affluent.

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      • When I mentioned my children, and now having reached a time in my life when I feel more free, I didn’t mean to sound as though I regret having them. To me having kids meant that a whole new world opened up, but the responsibility of caring for children, who were desperately dependent on me, weighed me down – I can see that now.

        Diapers here are really expensive (certainly compared to the States), and children do cost money. At the same time, they are a joy to watch grow into beautiful human beings.

        Servetus, you’ve hit the nail on the head when you say that maybe it all depends on the life stage. My pre-teen kids help me stay young. My job, which is not dissimilar to yours, by the way :-), also keeps me young. I get a lot of positive vibrations from these young, 20-something students.

        When I look at my friends, who are now ‘ready’ for grand-parenting, I cannot help but feel that the only reason we are still friends is because we’ve known each other since early childhood, because the stages in our lives are so different.

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        • I felt so sad this morning when I heard on the radio that Adam Lanza’s father quoted as saying he wished his son had never been born … I am certain there are people who wish they hadn’t had children (or certainly, had so many of them), but most people I know don’t regret it (or aren’t put in a position where they have to think about it so intensely). My impression from the outside (no kids, two nieces) is that small children usually have to have what they need when they need it. They can’t be put off for food or sleep or clean clothes or whatever it is. They are dependent and they need what they need. So, yeah, I can imagine the waning of that would feel like a relief. I’m always happy when the semester ends, which doesn’t mean I hated my students.

          Agree re: hanging around young people keeping one younger. Or at least keeping one’s cultural references up to date 🙂

          I can’t imagine being a grandparent. Really can’t. But this friend of mine was pregnant as we were finishing high school, and her kids waited a bit longer than she had … so it makes sense. It’s my own failure of imagination.

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  9. What I learned through my experiences are two things: „Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans“ (by John Lennon), and „Everything happens for a reason“. When I was a teenager, I always believed I’m married with 21 and be a mom by 23. Now, I’m 40 (and I still think I’m in my early 30’s), single and no children. I went through changes in my mid-30’s which teached me (in a hard way) who I am, what I’m capable of and these experiences let me mature.

    Life is also a journey and on our journey we meet (hopefully many great) people – in real life, these days in the virtual world (who can become real friends) – and we „stumble“ upon people like Armitage. We cannot know what really brought us to him (I don’t mean his looks or skills). One thing for sure is, no matter how long we will stay with him, he will opens our horizons. Maybe sooner or later our journey will continue to new shores but what we’ve learned through him (and I don’t mean him in person) we will keep forever. And does it really matter how old we are? Yes, I struggle with the thought „Girl, you are 40. Stop your … (whatever) … over someone who you’ll never meet. Pull yourself together!“ But having said that, this is me (or you), my (or your) time – here and now. And if I (or you) need this, then I (or you) will take it. This is my (or your) quality of time.

    Do I regret anything in my past? No, not really. Because all things which happened made me to the person I am now. Again, everything happens for a reason. I would have done some things different tho but they felt right at that particular time.

    I cannot say if or what Armitage regrets. Could imagine he thinks differently now about things that had happend and maybe would change if he could. I think to remember, Armitage once said he thought about Thorin’s courage (and everything that belongs to that). Maybe it shows an indication of what Armitage wished to have done differently in his past.

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    • Well, we know he definitely doesn’t regret leaving musical theater! 🙂 But I do wonder if he thinks at all about the years in his mid-twenties … before things started to take off. I really don’t know, but it would be interesting to know the answer.

      I think there are one or two things I’d probably do differently in my past, but they don’t involve the big decisions (grad school, Germany) so much as they involve the decision to stay commited to things after after they’d run their course, i.e., not to be braver about leaving behind untenable situations.

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  10. He’s two year older than my mum 😛
    I always refer to myself as a middle aged teenager. I like the term itself, it somehow symbolizes wisdom, with all the experience one’s had (and I’m definitely not referring to a person in her/his fifties or sixties) in life. I don’t know why people would seem it as an insult.

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    • LOL, you seem to be very serious in comparison to most of the teenagers I know. Then again, 95% of the teenagers I know live in the U.S. and the cultural questions are different.

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  11. The issue I have with it as a fan young enough to be his child, is that I and many other younger fans find it incredibly embarrassing to see ‘middle aged’ people much older than ourselves engaging in in fighting and squabbling to be the best fan, or just over minor disagreements. It seems that thats where the RA fandom is unique, it has more older fans who are more prone to in fighting than the younger ones, and it is the younger ones who are discouraged from joining the fandom. The incident with that cruel blogger trying to out you to Richards ‘people’ is just evidence of this behavior.

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    • Hi, RA — this comment is sort of on the verge of violating the comments policy (no fan-on-fan policing of third parties who are not here). It’s also problematic in the spirit of the post, which was to point out the problems with applying age labels prejudicially. There’s a lot I could say in response, but I’ll limit myself to this: I don’t think that the fan behaviors that I don’t especially like are at all limited by age. Very recently (January), I’ve seen plenty of squabbling among fans who are presumably younger. One really important thing I’ve learned on my fan journey — when I’m embarrassed by someone else’s fan behavior, that reaction is about me — not about them. I need to ask *myself* what is bothering *me*, what nerve in *me* that struck.

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      • I accept that younger members of the fandom also squabble, but they’re young and whilst its certainly not excusable its more understandable and more leniency can be shown due to their nativity. The older fans have more life experience with conflict and should know better. I actually dont agree with your final sentiment about reactions being about the one reacting, as a fan of RA people need to realise they are representing the whole fandom and not just themselves, so need to keep their behavior in line. I also feel very embarrassed for Richard, he seems to be embarrassed by the behavior of some of his older fans, their squealing around him like schoolgirls. Whenever hes asked about it he looks visibly uncomfortable and redirects the question, remember some of these women are old enough to be his mum and flirting with him, that must make him feel uncomfortable. This is just my opinion, but as a younger fan it has made me distance myself from the fandom and this bizzare behavior which is a shame as I’d love to be more involved as I am with other fandoms. I hope you post this comment and dont edit it, as I have stuck to the comments policy and whilst we dont have the same opinion, I am entitled to respectfully disagree.

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    • I wholeheartedly agree. I’m a fan of a couple of other actors and I’ve never experienced anything as crazy and offputting as what I see with the infighting in the so-called ‘Army’. And yeah, I think most of those people fighting were older. My only theory as to why this happens amongst the older set is because they have followed his career longer and thus feel more possessive of him? I honestly don’t know, it’s really bizarre.

      I was so disgusted by what that blogger was saying about you Servetus, I hope that whole issue has been resolved/went away.

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      • Servetus, I think sometimes your behavior does overstep the mark, theres no need for me to reitterate what was said on the blog as I’m sure you’re aware of it, but what the blogger threatened to do was just way too far and not how to resolve the issue. I just hope all the in fighting/bossy/controlling behavior amongst all of Richards fans can stop because it really does deter people from joining what has the potential to be an awesome fandom.

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      • The first argument you forward here applies the kind of ageism I’m objecting to. One of the points of this post was that we shouldn’t use age as a weapon against each other. Maturity is a matter of how mature one is, not one’s age, and no one needs to be embarrassed because of their feelings at any age. If it’s okay for younger fans to behave as they do based on what you describe as their naivete, then it should be okay for older fans to behave the way they do based on their life experiences. If older fans need to be responsible for their choices, so do younger ones.

        The second argument you forward here is *exactly* the reason that was used to harass me — as a representative of the fandom (had I been I elected, I would have chosen not to serve, to paraphrase a former president badly) I needed to stop writing about the things I was writing about in the way I was writing about them. So I’m not buying it that one, either. Marlise Boland is a fellow fan, apparently, and a woman who looks like she might be my age or a little older (I don’t know; guessing). She’s not obligated to behave in ways I approve of; I don’t see her as my representative, so when she does things that I don’t appreciate, I don’t have to feel badly about them. This may, of course, be the (luxurious) perspective of someone in her forties. There’s a German word for this problem — Fremdschämen (feeling embarrassment because of things others do) — but it may abate as one gets older.

        Finally, re: Armitage’s reaction to his fans — for his entire career, he’s straddled that line because of the way he came to prominence — because of a sudden onrush of fans. This might be of interest to you:

        With one exception, a press interview in 2009, and a second sort of ambiguous statement last fall in HuffPo, Armitage has never been anything but complimentary about his fans (of all ages), although it was clear from the very beginning that he finds the whole experience of having such enthusiastic fans more than a bit strange. I don’t see him as having been any more embarrassed recently about fans than he was four years ago (and arguably, he’s actually less bothered by them than he used to be). But in any case, his reactions are his responsibility. He is the only person who can control himself.

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      • I’ll limit myself to saying that there were several participants in harassing me who were not at all middle aged.

        As long as some fans consider it either laudable or desirable to determine for all fans what is acceptable, that kind of thing is not going to go away.

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        • Yes, I’d like to see The Official RA Fandom Policy Book so that we can all abide by the rules. Someone with ultimate authority has figured it all out and written it down, right? (Just kidding! If you couldn’t tell)

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          • Guylty says all the better blogs have the handbook, but I’m a poor researcher and I’ve never been able to find it. I’ll ask her to tell me again where it is.

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  12. Love this post. I came across this quote today and wanted to share it because to me it sums up “middle age.” The fact that there is still so much to learn, discover and experience alternately excites and depresses me.

    The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.

    – Neil deGrasse Tyson’s response on Reddit when asked “What can you tell a young man looking for motivation in life itself?”

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    • Sadly for him he lost a lot of stock in my estimation for his bizarre portrayal of the Bruno affair the other night, but I’ll take the quote and add it to my florilegium. During the presidential campaign of 2004 I saw (and bought) a t-shirt from one of the campaigns that said, “we are the people we have been waiting for. we have to be the change we seek” and that’s really stuck with me. I’m having to relearn the lesson, insofar as I created my own motivation when I was in my twenties and early thirties but something changed toward the end of that decade and I am still trying to figure out what.

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  13. Not familiar with the Bruno affair. I will need to google. I do love this question tho and I am glad you answered it. I felt like in my younger years my life was happening to me, whereas, now I actively participate my life. But that just might be my experience.

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    • He’s doing a reprise of Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series — and in the first one he totally pits science against religion, ignoring something like sixty years of recent scholarship about the relationship of the Catholic Church to research on science and especially observational science of the solar system / universe / etc. There’s enough anti-Catholic and anti-religious prejudice in the U.S. without scholars who are ignorant on a particular topic adding to it. My FB feed was full of rage from all over the place.

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  14. I will have to watch it. Altho, I do not believe that creationism should no replace evolution in schools. I am fascinated when science and religion meet, esp interested in quantum physics and the study of God. I do not like when people go to extremes to pit one against the other.

    I am quote crazy laday today …

    “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
    Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. ”
    – Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio

    To tie back to your post … understanding that there is more to this world that we can even begin conceive of explaining with our minds is also something I have experienced in “middle” age.

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    • well, demonstrating that the early modern Catholic church was not the villain and indeed, not hostile to science (indeed, practically all natural science instruction that occurred at all before 1600 was paid for by church institutions) isn’t saying that schools today should teach creationism. In fact, the Catholic Church is not a seven-day-creationist group even today. It’s really just about doing your homework. Any book written on the topic during my lifetime (the Bruno trial records were unearthed in 1940) sets the record straight about what actually happened.

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  15. I’ve always wondered if this reference to “middle age” is about beauty rather than age. We don’t refer to Cate Blanchett (or other beautiful women) as being middle aged. The other day I was watching one of those rather obnoxious breakfast shows and they had a guest who put into words something that is always at the back of my mind. “know your score” she declared, and then went on to laugh about the ridiculousness of people who try to date above their score. Oh the one hand I felt repulsed by what she was saying; “we’re not a score” I wanted to say. On the other hand I couldn’t deny the fact that people who openly attempt to attract someone above their score are viewed as being laughable/pitiable, and that I’ve at times felt the latter (pity/discomfort) myself. While this guest was there to give advice on dating rather than on being a fan I nevertheless find myself thinking the same thing. In real life I’m considered reasonably attractive and I’m quite a bit younger than RA but I certainly wouldn’t have the same ‘score’ as him. Strangely I actually work with a very handsome Richard who has similar features to RA (though not a similar nose) and the same dark wavy hair. In this real life situation I force myself not to kindle my recognition of his beauty. Should this also apply to being a fan? Should we only openly admire those who match our scores? Rationally I say ‘of course not’ but at another level that’s what I feel. Anyway to return to topic of your post I’ve often felt these ‘middle aged’ references are really, ‘are you fans beautiful and attractive?’ rather than being particularly about age…

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    • yeah, I’m sure that in some minds “plump” and “frumpy” accompany the adjective middle aged. Although younger people can also be “plump” and “frumpy,” so “middle aged” adds an additional weight to the discussion.

      I’m always amused when I hear this kind of conflation — because that is what it really is — that the admiration for an actor is necessarily the same as the emotion that causes one to want to want to date him, in every case. I don’t want to say that there are no fans who feel that way. But you don’t have to be beautiful to fall in love with a beautiful person notionally (as in some variations of fandom), nor in real life, because the thing is: if we look at the real world around us — all kinds of people with all kinds of faces and all kinds of bodies of all kinds of ages find real relationships.

      I don’t want to say I haven’t felt that either myself or directed at me. But it’s really interesting to watch Armitage with fans. He seems to be smile pleasantly when photographed with fans of every age and degree of beauty. I imagine that there are many reasons for his perennial smile in those settings, but in line with this theme of the discussion discussion, probably one of them is because he doesn’t think of fans as possible dates. So it’s curious to me that critics seem to do so.

      Insofar as fandom is an inherently imbalanced relationship, I just can’t see why an imbalance in “scores” should be a reason that one should not become the fangirl of an actor.

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      • Thanks Servetus. I completely agree that in real life you don’t have to be beautiful to fall in love with someone who is but you’re much more likely to find your love unrequited if you left yourself fall for someone much more beautiful, and to be viewed as perhaps ‘just not getting it’. And of course all kinds of faces/bodies find real relationships and love but the question is; who with? I completely agree that when we think about it rationally scores of fans and actors shouldn’t have to match but personally I feel more comfortable when I enjoy the beauty of someone I could more realistically see myself dating in real life. I’ve often wondered if I’m the only one, and also if RA thinks the same thing. I agree he always smiles pleasantly when photographed with fans of every age but I actually think I detect a slightly different smile depending on the age/beauty (ie. a slightly more relaxed joyful smile when the fan is more beautiful or is very, very old and thus perhaps not seen as desiring him in that way). There are a few particular pics I have in mind. But I agree he’s always very polite to fans of all ages and degrees of beauty.

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        • I guess you’d have to answer the question of why unrequited love is embarrassing — particularly of someone who’s the object of unrequited love from thousands or tens of thousands.

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          • I guess it’s something to do with who is allowed to appreciate human beauty. I’m not expressing this well but it’s a dynamic that I see around me. My mother and sister are both exceptionally beautiful (while I’m more average as are some of my aunts and cousins) and I’ve had a couple of close friends who were very beautiful and modeled for a while. I feel that I’ve observed that it’s okay for my more beautiful relatives/friends to openly ogle beautiful actors, singers etc. Of course this could be all in my head!!!

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            • and I guess what I wonder (what the post was maybe too implicitly asking) is why we should give ourselves shame, or assign shame to others, for loving outside of one’s “score.” If we want to continue to use this particular term — “middle aged” is an adjective that seems to inherently put one outside of the necessary “score” for fangirling Armitage. But that’s not a feeling inherent to the fan, it’s a tag assigned by the outsider. I’m not saying it’s not there — I’m saying it’s a silly tag.

              Some people apparently need shame to motivate themselves. But I think a lot more harm than good is done by it.

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              • I thought your question was subtly different i.e. should we feel shame or assign others shame for engaging in the kind of activity more often associated with the young?

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                • yeah, nicely put. I suppose loving outside one’s score could be a subset of engaging in an activity associated with the young.

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                  • Yes! I’d actually say that both are subsets of activity that is viewed as shameful because a person refuses to be sufficiently self-conscious about “their place”. Old people acting young, less beautiful people acting as if they might be viewed as beautiful etc etc.

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        • Also, I guess we’d have to look at specific pictures.

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          • I could dig some out…

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            • email me some, if you like — I think evaluating degrees of beauty is not necessarily within the bounds of this strand of discussion.

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              • Honestly I’m probably not comfortable evaluating the beauty of specific others here or in private (though obviously I’m the one who raised that i noticed this)

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                • I think the problem with candids or even posed photos with strangers is that we lack a lot of information about the context. We’d have to look at a lot of them to get together a dataset. And even then we’d be assigning the “beautiful” fllter as our own prioritization for evaluating them. I’m not opposed to hypotheses about cause(s) — it’s just that the only thing we have any way to observe is outcome.

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                  • I completely agree that there are lots of variables. 1) some people are much more photogenic (so the photo itself is an strong filter) 2) we have our own subjective ideas about beauty that do not necessarily fit RA’s 3) there are lots of things that affect how happy/relaxed we are 4) etc etc etc. I think because my father was a professional photographer for a number of years (weddings, studio portraits, christenings etc etc) there was a lot of discussion in my house about how to get people to be comfortable/relaxed in photos and a lot of discussion about who was/was not beautiful in particular photos. I’ve found myself thinking about these things virtually every-time I see a photo, and comparing across different photos in similar situations. Anyway I honestly admire fans who are totally comfortable being who they are, who enjoy the moment, and who get a pic. As you’re always saying in various ways, away with the shame!

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                    • yeah, to put it succinctly, it would be easy, if “beauty’ were one’s priority category, to see a picture in which Armitage looks slightly different, assign uncomfortable to that, and then say, “he’s uncomfortable because he’s being photographed with someone not very pretty” or whatever. It has a *lot* to do with one’s impression of the celeb, too, I find. I spent a lot of time looking at posed pictures of fans with Dean O’Gorman and I was really bothered, until I realized that my feelings were coming from my hypothetical perception of O’Gorman as a person, which I was then reading onto his expressions in photos as an index of his reaction to the person he was being pictured with.

                      Nice point about photographers (and I would extend it to families in which there are very high level amateur photographers — like that of my exSO). On the one hand there’s this discourse about how everyone should be photographed, no one should be shy, but a competing one about who’s beautiful. It really made me not ever want to be in their family photos and there was a point at which I needed a photo. ExSO said he’d take it but it caused a serious fight because I simply could not relax in his presence when he was looking at me through that lens.

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  16. Oh my, we’ve gone on so long the replies are only an inch wide! As we would say in my field that would be a misspecified model ( one that is missing key explanatory variables) . Fun photo times, try being the kid! Night 🙂

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  17. And I totally agree that our reading of an expression depends on what we think that particular expression means on that person.

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  18. A good post, no time to read the comments at this time. I don’t think of myself as middle age yet. Maybe it has something to do with the people in my family that live long lives, or that if I only live as long as my mom I am getting past middle age. I guess that I don’t want to think about it.

    I semi-prement color my hair, I have had gray since 25. Wrinkles no not really and I have been able to past myself off as younger.

    I will have to say that there are things that get better with age. I also enjoy having sons that are older now. Son2 is 15 on the 12th. I also am to young to be grandma and not ready to be one, I am great auntie and that is fun.

    I am old enough to know better, but don’t want too.

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  19. […] tangential follow up to this post on being middle-aged and unashamed. Reflections from three off-blog conversations went into this post; I think you will recognize […]

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