Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “being weird,” likely fueled by several convergent experiences over the past two weeks.
The first was a recent conversation with my thirteen-year-old niece, in which I was informed that she and her group of friends proudly call themselves “The Differents.” As seventh graders living in Minne-soh-tah, they are old enough to recognize what it means to not be “mainstream” (Southern lady code for “popular”) — so instead of being insecure about it, they’ve embraced it. My niece is mixed race, and her friends are Dominican, Chinese, Mexican, and Caucasian with curly hair. Not to brag, but she is extremely artistic, a voracious reader, attractive, intelligent, and a star team member of Nordic (for those who are not from “up North” translation: cross-country skiing); and “The Differents” all follow suit in terms of their own abilities and assets. They’re weird — at least they perceive themselves this way — and as far as I can tell, they aren’t overly concerned about it.
My second experience involved reading, with a rather frightening level of intensity, Mason Currey’s recently published DAILY RITUALS Women at Work. From the American-born French dancer Josephine Baker, who claims her secret was “little catnaps” — in which she would fall asleep mid-conversation then awake and continue as if nothing had happened — to Venezuelan sculptor Marisol, notorious for her complete silence during openings and dinner parties at which she was often a special guest, being weird seems to be a prerequisite for any sort of extreme creative success.
Next up was accidentally stumbling across some old Amy Sedaris interviews with late night talk show hosts. Without going into any level of detail, I highly recommend watching this video which pretty much sums up her level of off-the-chart weirdness-slash-funniness in under three minutes.
By this time I was beginning to get the distinct feeling that “being weird” was not only desirable, but being brave enough to embrace weirdness was something I really needed to work on. I often feel like a “closeted weirdo”, too chicken shit to walk around in cowgirl boots and flowy, hippie dresses reciting poetry and cracking jokes about Alabama state politics — which is what I’d probably do if I didn’t have to worry about things like making money and not embarrassing my (newly inducted) husband. And, if I was braver.
Last night I took said husband out for date night to Nashville’s famed Ryman Auditorium, where singer/songwriter and performance artist Amanda Palmer put on quite a show. She gracefully careened in and out of telling stories about death while banging away on a grand piano and intermittently making jokes about abortion. (NOTE: This last one is really hard to pull off, but she managed to do it. However, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re Amanda Palmer.) Taking him was part of my clandestine plan to let him see parts of me that I can’t figure out how to articulate. “Weirdo by proxy” and yet, not requiring my full commitment.
I’ve known about Palmer for years, first discovering her via Maria Popova’s Brainpickings blog. It was her knack for poetry and book Art of Asking that initially got me…not necessarily her music. So when we showed up to the concert in our regular Saturday night “out on the town” attire (we present very WASPy) — flanked by a combination of Goth subculture constituents and tree-huggers — I immediately realized the irony of my situation. Here, I was the weird one: Dressed in my high-waisted black jeans, cropped pink-flower shirt, and white boots. I thought we were attending the equivalent of a TED talk with music; but it wasn’t that at all.
An hour into the show, I settled on the idea that perhaps being brave enough to be weird doesn’t necessarily mean anything other than not being afraid to embrace how you’re different.
As we walked to the car, I asked my husband what he thought of the show. “It was a little weird, but thanks for getting me out of my comfort zone. It definitely made me think about a few things, which is not what I was expecting.”
Today I’ve decided that I am in fact weird. So what if most of my friends look like me, I’m not bold enough to wear hippie dresses, I can’t help but converse with people at dinner parties, and I’m not comfortable enough to make public-facing jokes about abortion. Perhaps some day?
But being willing to show up every day and think about things differently…and being brave enough to ask others to do the same? That’s weird enough for me.