It was when I found that I had developed a raging case of the hots for a one-eyed cartoon character from a TV show, that I first started to question the state of my mental health. It made perfect sense at the time; almost too much, in fact: one-eyed alien she may have been, but, to all appearances, she was intelligent and sensitive, could fly a spaceship effortlessly, and had a figure to die for. Why shouldn’t I swoon?
I was reluctant at first to do anything about it, reasoning – not entirely stupidly – that my little secret wasn’t hurting anyone; in any case, this comfortably fell into a pattern of behaviour that I had shown for years, holding Captain Haddock up as a life hero, losing sleep over my NFS 5 score, wondering if the Odorono girl was doing okay, etc. A boner for a cartoon seemed to be the logical next step.
The trouble only started when it struck me that this was seriously hurting my ability to hold a normal conversation with a normal woman. I might add that I was a student in those days, and that the subject of “normal women” was hugely important; indeed, it had started to take up the kind of brain-space usually reserved for the Mick Taylor vs. Brian Jones question or the pressing problem of finding all the Who B-sides on one disc. An active threat – a self-made one, at that – to my chances on that front called for, at the very least, some serious soul-searching.
Now, there are many good things to be said for the Mick Taylor vs. Brian Jones question, but it doesn’t put a vast amount of casual sex your way. It does make you a handful of friends if you’re lucky, but those friends are invariably male and alcoholic, which is fine – indeed, I know of no other kind of friend – but it’s hardly what counts as a love-life. (At this point, I will stress that sending ill-conceived, drunken text messages at three in the morning to women you’ve met online also doesn’t count. Not really.)
Ultimately, if you’re the kind who gets the flutters over a cartoon, you’re well and truly stuffed as far as the girls are concerned. It’s not so much that it’s outright perverse (it isn’t), it’s that it says a lot about where your priorities lie. There’s a class of person, and this includes every single pop-obsessed, record-bothering, Motown-humming, Rolling Stones-dreaming kid I’ve ever known, who don’t live anywhere close to the real world of back-stabbing, bitchery, tax returns, and career plans. They may pretend long enough so that their bosses don’t find out and give them the sack, but their heads are elsewhere and worrying about other things. And not necessarily real things.
I believe, as Rob Fleming did, that pop music – and, by extension, all things pop-like, like Tintin books and Futurama – stunts you. It feeds you concentrated bursts of longing, excitement, hurt, and sunshine in miniature, perfectly-formed three-minute capsules, until you can’t face the world outside any longer, because it simply won’t match up to the one you’ve carefully fed and watered inside your own head. And this is why half the pop-nuts and cartoon-watchers and movie-memorisers I know can’t find a nice girl, or hold on to them when they do. It’s not that their motives are suspect. It’s just that normal human relationships aren’t lived all the time in the throes of high passion. You still have to make small-talk at the breakfast table. Living inside your head takes that ability permanently from you.