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Posted: January 21, 2012 9:31 p.m.

Hallman: The 40-year-old fangirl

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I always assumed when I hit 40, I'd become more of an adult somehow. I'd wear sensible shoes and be properly shocked when folks acted out in public. Quite the contrary, friends, being 40 means I'm most likely the person acting out. For example, in the wee hours of the morning this past week, I found myself in front of a crowd of hyped-up "Vampire Diaries" fans, standing beside the Newton County Judicial Center and looking out at a reporter from this publication and a large, imposing police officer while screaming, "Did she just call my hat goofy? Hold my cookies!"

Being a star struck, 40-year-old, fangirl means whatever sense of decorum I've ever possessed is as low as my estrogen levels. I'm a freewheeling, willy nilly, devil may care "Vampire Diaries" fan now and I don't care who knows it.

When I got it in my head earlier this week that I had to be at the filming of "The Vampire Diaries" on the square, I naturally begged my soul sister friend to come with me. This soul sister doesn't even watch the show and, if she did, she wouldn't be interested in standing out in the cold in the middle of the night, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the square, just so I could maybe get a peek at some boy toy in a leather jacket. But that's what womenfolk do. We force one another to act as witnesses to and/or join in our insanity. I didn't even know if Ian McDreamykins, who plays Damon on the show, would be here, but I knew this was my chance to be there, to see something - anything - happening with the show.

Ian's real name is Ian Somerhalder, but I just like to call him Ian McDreamykins. Now, y'all, a 40-year-old woman lusting after a 33-year-old man who plays a teenage vampire on a show geared towards young adults isn't entirely creepy. Not as creepy as if say, the gender roles were reversed here. I don't make the double standards in our society, y'all. I just enjoy the ones that make it socially acceptable for me to hit pause whenever Ian appears on the show shirtless.

I decided months ago that it was my purpose in life to interview Ian for The Covington News. I know, right? That would be awesome sauce times infinity. I figured if I'm going to be a stage-five stalker and stand around the set ‘til the wee hours of the morning with my unwilling soul sister in tow, I might as well go for broke and ask him if he'd let me interview him. It's not my modus operandi to just ask something like that though. The only way for me to do such a thing was to bake some homemade cookies sweetened with local honey and flavored with rosemary from my own garden, write a note and present him with this act of loving kindness, which wasn't a hop, skip, and a jump away from a restraining order. Look, baked goods are just how I roll when I want to be nice. Ask anybody.

Around 6 o'clock, I headed up to Square Perk, a.k.a. "The Vampire Diaries HQ," because Andrea and her crew make sure they know what's going on where and when so they can pass that info onto all the stalkers, I mean, fans of the show. It's kind of like unofficially the official hangout for all the cool kids when filming is happening on the square. I got to interview people for the The News and, the more folks I talked to, the more excited I got about this whole thing. Apparently, Ian is super nice and always comes over to see the fans who wait until filming has wrapped for the night. Everyone was telling me how he had been sighted on the set across from the Judicial Center, so the odds of seeing him were increasing exponentially. Well, at least in my mind, they were.

When we walked over to the corner of the street where a dozen or so fans were hanging around, that's when the magic really started to happen. I suppose most folks could actually see the actors working. We were that close, but I'm as blind as a (vampire) bat, so it wasn't until my new friends from Germany, Orkide and Alicia, loaned me their binoculars (or fernglas, which sounds a lot like "fan glass" to Southern ears). My friend, Nita, and her daughter Cassie were there to show me where to look and, low and behold, I got to see some bona fide vampire shenanigans unfolding right there in front of me. Of course, I had to share the experience with the really young girl standing next to me who was having just as much difficulty seeing what was happening across the way. She let out the same "squeeeeeeeee!" I did when Ian came into view through our German friend's fan glasses.

I spent the hours and hours it took for the crew to film these scenes, making friends with people from all walks of life. There was Brandy Cox, another local who knew her way around this diehard fan business. There was Braeden and Allison who were in from Cartersville, on their first and second trips to Covington respectively. I found myself chit-chatting with Leslie and Schaunda who came in from Augusta. Leslie let me know that they were not leaving without pictures with Ian. "I guess I'm going to jail tonight, because I'm getting that picture one way or another," she said to me. Now, here were women close to my age who had no shame about their love of Ian McDreamykins and acting out in public. It looked like I had found my people on the corner of Usher and Hunter.

Brooke and Emily, college students who drove over from Athens, had been trying to get their picture with Ian for a year. They reassured me after Nina from the show came over and I failed miserably at getting my picture taken with her. See, the crowd of a dozen or so fans turned into well over a 100 quicker than you can say, "Pepper spray!" and I just wasn't aggressive enough. I needed to want that photograph more. Brooke, Emily and my other new friend, Summer, all recommended being up front and using just a little elbow. I grew up going to Mardi Gras parades. I can handle a little elbow. After not getting my picture taken when I met Nina, I was beginning to panic a little. Here stood Brooke, Emily, Schaunda and Leslie who had been trying for their three seconds of bliss with Ian for months and months. How did my cookies and I stand a chance?

Then, the set went dark. Someone yelled, "That's a wrap!" My new friends circled around me, whispering words of encouragement, making last minute changes to their own meticulously thought out plans of attack. Suddenly, it was 1984. I was just another teenage girl covered in buttons and clutching a copy of "Tiger Beat," my love for Duran Duran keeping me glued to the spot, tears in my eyes and a goofy grin plastered across my face like someone had slapped my back and it had frozen that way.

And there he was. Ian. He was taking the cookies from my hand, the crowd was pushing in on us. He was smiling at me; he was saying something. It was like he had his own personal spotlight and I couldn't tear my eyes away from his gorgeous smile and those eyes. What was he saying to me? I couldn't hear him. It was like I was underwater until the terrible moment when I was being pushed out of the way, my jacket coming loose and being taken away by the estrogen-rich crowd who were now fully engulfing those dreamy, sapphire blue eyes and my box of cookies.

I spun around and around wondering how that happened. I just met Ian McDreamykins and I had no photographic proof of this event. I'm sure I never spoke a word to him either. I was supposed to say something endearing and witty so he'd remember me and want to give me an interview, but instead I must have looked like some middle-aged psycho who baked him cookies. Holy crap. I was a middle-aged psycho who baked him cookies.

I searched for my soul sister and spotted her on the fringes, doing her job of taking pictures and staying calm. I must have looked like I was going to cry or throw down or pitch a fit, because she went into soul sister commando mode, grabbing the tallest police officer there and explaining how I had made Ian those cookies and I had not gotten my picture taken with him. This is when she called my hat goofy, I think, but it's all a blur now. That great big tall officer looked right at me and said, "Don't worry. I'll take care of you."

Then, he called out, "Mr. Ian. This lady baked you some cookies and she needs a picture with you." Like an angel, I heard Ian say, "That's it, guys. I have to take a picture with this sweet lady and then, I have to go." Ian was there again and I snapped out whatever star-crazed lunacy was controlling me long enough to appreciate what was happening. Ian was putting his arm around me, thanking me for the cookies, smoldering for the cameras, kissing me on the cheek, giving me a hug and making me the happiest middle-aged teenager in the history of ever.

Now, y'all, I know how insane all this sounds, but I'm gonna kick it up a notch and tell you about what happened after all my new friends and I sighed and "oohed" and "aahed" over what had just happened, after my soul sister took me back to my car and I was on my way home, back into my life as a mama in the wilds of Newton County. I was overcome with such tears of happiness that I sobbed and shouted into the night, "I just met Ian McDreamykins and he kissed me on the face!" I cried and I cried and I babbled to an empty car about how great it was to meet this beautiful man right here in my own town, right where I live. I cried like someone who had been granted a wish. I let those tears of joy flow until I was all cried out and left only with a smile that lit up more of Highway 36 than the bright lights of my car.

I'm sure glad I get to be 40-years-old in Covington. It's a good place to be a grown up. And by grown up, I mean a vampire stalkin', cookie bakin' fangirl.

Beth McAfee-Hallman lives in Covington and can be emailed at mamabee@onefabulousmama.com.

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