I was always the weird kid. There are some good reasons for it, but they don’t really matter right now. Suffice it to say I was weird, I am weird, and I will probably always be weird. I don’t fit in. I experienced the brutality of social ostracism from an early age, and while an artsy college gave me a space, once I left the ivory tower of academia, I was again adrift. I don’t fit in with the mom crowd. I don’t fit in with my colleagues. I’m always awkward, always a little late, always putting a foot wrong. It can be excruciating.
The discount grocery chain Aldi sells a drink called Red Thunder. It’s like Red Bull, but not. I feel like a Red Thunder most of the time. Like some kind of off-brand human, something not quite right. I don’t engage with most pop culture — so much so that my colleagues have called me “Grandma.”
I’m just strange. I never got into the stuff other people were into. My sense of fashion hasn’t really progressed, and it’s idiosyncratic. I get obsessions easily: with TV shows, with bands. All of these things are generally obscure. Certainly none of them are mainstream media darlings, and if I listed my favorite musicians, most people will have listened to maybe one. You’ve heard of the TV shows but you never watched them. We probably have nothing in common but the fact that we parent children on a regular basis, and even as we navigate that topic, you’re going to suspect I’m nowhere on the spectrum of “normal.”
Someone recently called me “out there.” It was meant as a compliment. It didn’t feel like one.
So I’m used to the feeling of being out there. And it hurts, on a regular basis. It hurt when I found out those moms were planning playdates and expressly not inviting me. It hurt when I slowly realized a group of friends weren’t really friends at all. It hurt when I realized I had become the butt of the joke, the one left out of the fun, the girl unspokenly sidelined by everyone. Sometimes it’s taken me a long time to get over that stuff. I’ve spent months choking on my own self-doubt. Panicking about my self-worth. Feeling like I was walking around with that perpetual L on my forehead.
It can hurt — that weirdness, that ostracism. You watch other people and hate the ease with which they slide through life, hate their social fluency and their sure knowledge of what to say, how to say it. Then you blunder in, and they stare, and you feel like an alien from some less savory planet. You hear them laugh at you from down the hall, from across the room, from up the stairs. But you learn, eventually, to shake off that laughter. You learn not to care. You learn to be yourself, because frankly, there is no one else you can be. You can accept it or you can rail against it, and honestly, it’s a lot easier just to give in and accept yourself.
And there is power in that: power in making your own choices, in doing your own thing. There is power in weird. Because you know you make your decisions. You stand in the knowledge of your own authenticity, and not many people can say that. And eventually, you learn you to turn your back and say, Fuck you. I’ll find my own people then.
And you go out.
And you find them.
And they are nothing like you. They are delightfully, wonderfully, frighteningly weird. Your best friend will wear overalls on a regular basis. Your other best friend will teach your children the names of thorny plants. Your spouse will recite Cretaceous sea life like poetry. One friend will love gory horror. Another will have six cats and write shockingly good poetry. One will be obsessed with local politics. A third will be a way-down-in-Dixie girl with one of the kindest, fiercest hearts you know. You will love them all.
And they will love you back.
Weirdness and strangeness and awkwardness and all.