A few years ago, I had become so obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch I didn't dare proclaim it on social media. But that wasn't because I feared ridicule. It was because I didn't want him to find out after we were married. I didn't want him to think I was a creeper.
It was a few years after college, and I had just quit my dream job in disgust. I didn't know what to do with my life, and I felt truly, madly, deeply, inadequate. I was lost. So I turned to Netflix.
I started watching BBC's Sherlock because of the critical and audience acclaim, and by the very first episode, Cumberbatch had me intrigued. In my case, and from what I've noticed with others, Cumberbatch obsession seems to go like this: voice, then acting ability, then eyes, then his entire being.
I spent about two months being completely consumed with him. I watched everything he'd ever been in, including The Fifth Estate on opening night. I expected the theater to be packed and was genuinely surprised it was only me and five other people. I even re-watched movies I'd seen but hadn't realized he was in.
To me, Cumberbatch was sophisticated and handsome, and I attributed his great acting ability to the fact I had previously thought he was ugly in Atonement the first time I had watched it. This man could do no wrong. Even when he was slightly embarrassing during interviews or kept mispronouncing "meme," I would shake my head and think, "That's just Ben."
I knew it was insane. But that somehow gave me permission to keep going. Insane people don't know they're insane. So if I know I'm insane, then I can keep obsessing because technically I'm not insane.
If people came close to finding out, I told them I was really into Sherlock. No one knew I cyber-stalked Cumberbatch or read every interview he had. I never had his photo anywhere because I grew giddy looking at his face, and I needed to function enough to get through the day.
Even though I was able to hide it, my obsession was pretty bad. I wanted to meet him but didn't want to join the throngs of people clamoring for an autograph because then I would be like every other person who was obsessed with him. No, I wanted to meet him so I could marry him.
I had it all figured out: I would become an accomplished author (and if you don't think I had a step-by-step plan to do so, you don't fully understand my obsession), go to England, and meet him at a party where I would say, "I loved your (portrayal of) Tietjens." He would thank me in surprise, and I would laugh at his politeness while saying, "You're welcome," and then walk away. He would ask his friend who I was, and he would tell him I was an accomplished author (because his friend knows stuff like that), and Cumberbatch would ask me later at the party if he could show me around England. I would ask him to take me to either a contemporary art museum or an incredibly old church, making me unique and spontaneous compared to all the other girls.
It was bad. I was convinced I was going to be his wife and the mother of his children. I had serious conversations with myself about if I could be happy raising kids while he was on location. I imagined the fights we'd get into about it. Then I'd imagine the fun signs the kids and I would make to welcome him home at the airport. I imagined the discussion he and I would have about boarding school and the funny stories he'd tell about me on talk shows. The one problem I saw with this future, however, is that I wanted Benedict to marry me for me and not for future children. I mean, what if I couldn't get pregnant? How would we cope?
I altered my beliefs and dreams for this fantasy of a perfect life. In reality, I don't actually want children. I can't even handle how needy dogs are. I also panic at responsibility and get pretty pissy if someone doesn't appreciate how much effort I've put into something. And yet, for two months, I fantasized about having two or three kids and spending my days at home with them while Ben worked. I'd have dinner ready when he got home, and we'd spend the evening listening to him recite poetry. I don't actually want any of that in my life (except for listening to Cumberbatch recite poetry).
I spent a lot of time since then trying to figure out how I got to that point. I think my life was a mess, and here was a man who had everything figured out. He was successful, and people loved him. I wanted that. But I didn't know how to do it except to attach myself to someone who already had it. He had a ready-made life. Just add one me and stir to combine.
Suddenly those "crazy fans" made sense. People don't question when "nerds" lose themselves in comic books or an online fantasy world. They don't feel like they fit into this world, so they spend as much time as they can in another. Hardcore superfans do the same thing when they lose themselves in a fantasy world of famous celebrities, the only difference being they want to fit into this world. And what better role model than the celebrities their peers love?
That's key. I had seen Cumberbatch in movies before but didn't notice him. It was only after hearing how everyone loved him that I miraculously came to the same conclusion. Yes, he is a talented actor, but that's not why I became obsessed with him. I became obsessed because others loved him, just as I wanted to be loved by others.
I got over my obsession very quickly. I saw a picture of Cumberbatch kissing a Russian model after she had stated in an interview that she was in a serious relationship with someone else. Suddenly, I realized that Benedict Cumberbatch is just trying to figure it all out like the rest of us, and I should start doing the same. Just like that, my fantasy crumbled, and I woke up surrounded by reality.
I still admire the man; he's a great actor and loves his fans. But for me, he is no longer an object of worship — just admiration.