“Don’t be a weirdo.”
That sentence — in one of its many iterations — was everywhere growing up. It wasn’t ‘Don’t be weird.’ Weird was a way you acted, some one-off thing. Nope, weirdo was something you were. It went beyond actions into some shameful personal transgression. Being weird was a phase. Being a weirdo — a character flaw.
And I was a weirdo.
It’s like having a tumor. You can’t see it, but the x-ray is telling you it’s there, so it must be true. People are telling you you’re weird, so you must be. Sometimes, it was because I was too quiet. I would play alone in my bedroom or read. This, apparently, is anti-social, which is a highly suspicious behavior among normal little girls. Hence, I had to come out and play in front of everyone — something I was loathe to do. You can’t read in a living room full of people. Or you at least can’t read without everyone trying to turn it into a social endeavor. What are you reading? What’s it about? These question were, naturally, followed by judgement. Why do you want to read that? That’s such a boring topic! Here, why don’t you read this book about a nice little girl and puppies. And I didn’t want to play pretend in front of my family after I was considered too old for that. Besides, adults just messed up my over-wrought stories and (poorly) mapped-out imaginary worlds. I did not want to change the way these characters interacted, thank-you-very-much.
And then, there were times when I was conspicuous. These were less frequent — but that’s just how my personality shook out. There were times when I couldn’t stop laughing even though all the funny things were only in my head. That, apparently, was also a problem. Gallows humor in an eleven year-old girl is another thing that’s heavily frowned upon. Morbid stories — with too many deaths and epic battles — weren’t kosher for fifth grade creative writing. Nope and nope. Being shunted aside because your brain poured out of your mouth was just as bad as being dragged from the corner where you’re minding your own business.
This, I believe, is what’s called a ‘no-win’ scenario. A catch-22 for you more literary folk.
At least, when you make a mistake, it’s a temporary slip of mind. People can steer you on the right path, hook you up with your true passion. See, you don’t have to be weird! Here’s a way to be normal. Just do this, you’re good at it, and we accept that. But when everything about you do is off, there’s no way to land on your feet. Gee, you get good grades — but don’t really seem to be paying attention, so you can’t be working hard. Except wait — you’re too over-eager. I guess you should try … try something where you don’t have to work with people. Ever. Like, just work in a box. Yeah.
When you’re a weirdo, you can’t ever really be good at anything. You’re a weirdo — it denies you personality. Words like nice and friendly, smart and creative don’t stick to you. You think you’re made of something different; not flesh, but maybe some type of rubber. But the genius of rubber is you can stretch it into anything, and it’ll always bounce back. This — this undefinable elastic quality — becomes your personality. Your weirdo code-of-arms is a bouncy ball or one of those metallic blobs you throw at the wall — where it slides down with the gait of an amoeba.
And really, is there anything more weird than feeling a personal kinship with an amoeba.