Joseph Addison, a 17th century essayist and poet, said, “Admiration is a very short-lived passion that immediately decays upon growing familiar with its object, unless it be still fed with fresh discoveries, and kept alive by a perpetual succession of miracles rising into view.” Admiration is indeed a passion. I’ve experienced it and love the feeling of it. Coming straight off yesterday’s “The drug” post, I can continue the basic theme by admitting I live to be in the state of admiration in general. To me, admiration is adoration of the exceptional. Whether it’s an exceptional person, thing, or idea, I enjoy the feeling of excitement, enthusiasm, and aliveness that pervades my entire being, possibly to the point of addiction. And I’ve watched others in varied states of admiration.
The most excessive admiration I’ve seen, yet understand completely, is that of groupies—groupies of musicians, politicians, athletes, even firefighters—of anyone who represents a measure of power and elevation above the norm. It’s not just admiration from afar. And it’s not always so much about the music, or the politics or whatever the earthbound deity’s gig is. It seems hardly about craving an autographical brush with a star, but more about a desperate desire to be assimilated by greatness, perhaps out a gaping lack of self-worth, inventiveness and skill of one’s own. Even if that were not the case, and the groupie nature comprised a sort of corporate arrogance, maybe gained from being the one with the attributes the stars are most attracted to, in my opinion it still wreaks of the ultimate unbalanced sacrifice, the laying down of one’s soul to be trampled at the feet of another who is no equitable god.
Probably most, if not all groupies would argue that point, preferring to consider themselves muses, or simply involved in the occupation of supporting and sustaining the stars. The Penny Lane character in the movie “Almost Famous” says, “We are not Groupies. We are here because of the music, we inspire the music. We are Band Aids.” And Pamela Des Barres, maybe the most famous of real-life groupies, in an interview with David Templeton of AlterNet, kept trying to sell groupie-ism as having played an integral part in the history of feminism, “We were there doing exactly what we wanted to do. That’s the heart of feminism, isn’t it? We were paving the way. We were the real feminists, breaking new ground, throwing out the rules of how a decent young woman was supposed to behave.”
Nice spin. But it kind of clashes with another Des Barres quote from that same interview, this one in more traditional groupie language, a more conflicting statement, pathetical yet punctuated with egoism, “A groupie was more than just some girl who wanted to get laid by any member of the band. Sure, it may have been like that in the late ’70s and the ’80s, but when we were doing it, it was more about being a part of the scene. It was about being embraced by the group, like we were embraced by all of Led Zeppelin, who, I must say, adored me.” Oh, but of course.
I dredged all that that up, went straight down Excess Lane, because I wonder if there really is what’s called a “healthy” admiration. My favorite online dictionary doesn’t help the case with the adoring pictures chosen for each of the different Thesaurus entries. And it could be just me, but I swear the definition itself at least points toward fixation: “1. A feeling of pleasure, wonder and approval. 2. An object of wonder and esteem; a marvel.” Wonder? Marvel? The awe twins. And awe is over the top to the heavens.
If there is a line between healthy and unhealthy admiration, I feel like it’s a ridiculously fine line. Can you admire someone just a little, just enough, stopping short of wonder, a.k.a. awe? Perhaps some can, but if I question myself, if I do a quick mental check from now back to then, of all the people I’ve admired, I’d have to say I don’t remember admiring anyone short of being crazily amazed and awed. It’s been either all or nothing, below deck or overboard.
But as the Addison quote says, admiration is a passion that can fizzle out as quickly as it skyrocketed toward the stars. Again, if I check my experience and that of others I’ve watched, it’s true. If we don’t keep up our relationships by continually adding the spice of sharing inspiring thoughts and ideas, and participating in activities and projects that freshen and bolster the bond, the relationship will crash, or at best, become mechanical and mundane. I would like to say this shouldn’t be work but after many years of knowing someone, something like work may be necessary, although I’d like to call it something a little more appealing…like keeping your richest, lushest gardens thoroughly watered with plenty of Miracle-Gro® in the mix.
What’s your definition of a groupie? Have you ever been one?
Can you admire someone just a little? Or is it over the top or nothing?
If you can be subdued about admiration, how do you do it?
Do you keep your relationships fresh and lively? If so, how?
Photos above by Getty Images
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