Tuesday, September 17, 2013

On being "weird"

Not that I'm being elitist or anything... (Source: Pinterest)
I have been known to call my cat a "weirdo" on several occasions each day, because lets face it - he is. He loves playing with empty Pepperami wrappers; he rollerskates in the bathroom sink; and today he was caught red-handed eating lemon cake on the kitchen table. My sister tells me not to offend him by calling him names but I don't see being "weird" as an offensive term. It is commonly accepted that I am weird. I turned down a lift the other day when it was pouring with rain, just because I wanted to try out my new raincoat. More often than not I don't complete my sentences and punctuate them with incomprehensible gobbledigook. I enjoy filing. But it is these little habits and quirks which make us all interesting, I think (except perhaps the filing...). Just as everyone is beautiful and fantastic in their own way, everybody is weird in their own way too. 

I had a conversation with a ten-year-old recently about what makes a person "cool" - none of these included being good at anything academic. I accept that academics aren't everything but they are something I have always respected and taken interest in. I'm still studying now! But I remember what it was like to be made to feel "weird" for spending my lunchtimes carrying quiz books around the playground and testing my own general knowledge. Extra studying for fun - fancy that! Another thing I was made to feel "weird" for was having vegetable sticks as part of my packed lunch because that wasn't the "cool" thing to be eating circa 1999. My Mum must have been a leader or something in healthy eating then because it seems to be fairly popular these days... Like a lot of labels (and I am not in favour of labels in most cases, unless they are of the sticky, stationery variety), "weird" has an unnecessarily negative stigma attached to it. What is the problem with doing something differently and taking pride in something different to somebody else? 

Whilst I recognise that the examples and anecdotes I have included in this post are very trivial, I do believe that the world would be a pretty boring place if we all enjoyed identical hobbies and believed the same things. I suppose there is less emphasis on "weird" being negative as we grow up but I am keen to encourage littl'uns that they can do whatever they are interested in and not restrict their imaginations and ideas. Nobody should fear other people's judgement on something that makes them happy. Part of this, however, stems from lack of self-confidence/belief. How do you reckon we go about instilling this in a younger generation who are so image-/style-conscious? 

I would love to hear your thoughts on this - suggestions/thoughts are very welcome in the comments section below.
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  1. Anonymous9:32 pm

    I remember in school it was 'weird' if you enjoyed learning, and actually did your work properly. I think once you get past the high school stage, 'weird' becomes more accepted and it's okay to be a little different, in my experiences anyway.
    I mean, my flatmates at uni think I'm a little weird for enjoying the outdoors, and getting up early to take photographs... but it doesn't hinder our relationship!
    It would be boring if everyone was the same! Kids need to realise that being different is okay, and I think parents would play a big role in doing that!

  2. Anonymous4:55 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading that, and couldn't think of anything worse than a world void of individual quirks and traits, often at times weird because they're not what we consider normal to us.

    Firstly, I think the term weird requires some definition, if I can answer your question properly. There's, as I see it, two very subtly different and important ways we use 'weird'. In the first instance of your blog you refer to the 'weird' in a silly or obscure sense, which is everything from using 'incomprehensible gobbledigook' to pulling a silly face to experiencing an episode of the Mighty Boosh. This way it's friendly and almost warm use of the term, and if not warm, I think we can all agree it's pretty harmless and not really a criticism.

    In the second sense of 'weird', we see a darker side of it's usage, I personally for example have heard people refer to gay people as weird, and you yourself have come across being called 'weird' because you studied on the playground (though, I'm not sure that these people were being hurtful, I think we all know children that have been bullied because of a perceived sense of 'weirdness').

    These are important distinctions, and I think we have to take the circumstance, tone and motivation into consideration when the word is used. Having said that, I think objectively the base use of the word is the same - weird - something alien to us, something we wouldn't do, or wouldn't imagine doing, it's just that the former way is not intended/shouldn't provoke harm - the latter can, whether intended or unintended.

    Children have to learn, as we did, on the job. Empathy and sympathy are both natured and nurtured, but so are senses of greed and selfishness. It takes time for us as humans to balance that into a proper morality, one that is built around, primarily, reason and rationality (bring on the religious argument of taught morality...). Moreover, humans have a very primitive 'othering' instinct, and when faced with differences at a young age it is not unusual for us to focus on them, labelling them 'weird'. I don't think that this will ever change - an understanding of how to treat other people, and an appreciation that we all have our own directions, despite them being weird to others, will always be part of growing-up.

    The important thing that we all do is keep our children thinking throughout this period, by posing them moral questions to guide them to the right answers. I also have a personal belief that travelling and an understanding of other cultures help out hugely to understand the differences on a world scale, in turn allowing us to understand the differences that exist in each and everyone of us. Don't worry if your child is considered 'weird' or they think other children are 'weird' - it's about teaching and guiding them to realise that they're not weird, they're different and that that's one of the best things about the world. Then pull a silly face and silly voice and say, that's weird.

  3. This is a really great post, and I have to ask, how did your new raincoat cope in the rain?

    I totally agree with you that it's so much more interesting that everyone's different, with different hobbies, ideas and interests. It makes the world a lovely place because you never know who you'll come across.

    I think it's hard to let children know there's nothing wrong with being weird, often the cool and 'hip' things in school and what everyone wants. And for some reason people see following the crowd much more appealing than standing out, I suppose because people often get picking on for being different and an individual. I think it's awful that they do. My advice to children, to anyone, is to always be yourself. Ignore any negative comments and in the end any bullies will get bored of picking on you because you're proud of who you are.

    Very inspiring post!



  4. This is a brilliant post. I was brought to tears during my first year of university by two flatmates I overheard telling a boy they'd brought home how 'weird' I was. It was quite bizarre, as my time at secondary school had me in my friendship group as the crazy 'random' one (god remember when random was a thing? Eww) and to suddenly have my personality that I was actually quite proud of turned into an insult against me was bewildering and very hurtful. Eventually the girls in question and my other flatmates came to like my sense of humour, love of strange things and generally every other thing about me that would class me as 'weird', but I've never forgotten the things they said and it makes me very aware when they say thinsg about other people and criticize them for how they behave.

    Eventually i came to realise that they were the ones missing out. As your Alice in Wonderland quote says, the best people are those who don't try to be like everyone else, the people who take pride in being themselves. People who constrain themselves to being 'cool' are stuck, scared of being judged and therefore mocking anyone who reflected to them their own fears etc.

    But after that ramble I think I'm just trying to say that I agree whole heartedly, we are all different and we should enjoy that, rather than try to create clones who watch the same TV, wear the same clothes and have the same sense of humour. The world would just be... well boring as fuck frankly!

    Bella . BELLAETC

  5. +JMJ+

    I've always been "weird." Sometimes I own it and ride people's incredulous reactions like a wave. At other times, I try to fit in a little better and am shocked at how much of an alien I actually appear to others!

    It seems as natural as breathing for me to do my own thing and pursue my own interests, but (and I don't say this in a condescending way) a lot of people seem happy to go with what others are doing and to take up what others are interested in. This is good for group harmony, I guess, but then it also means that someone who seems like a discordant note will be ostracised.

  6. if you've seen the film Donnie Darko there's a scene in there where Donnie is walking the girl home, she calls him weird so he's boviously offended but she says 'no it was a compliment', being weird makes you interesting, not a plane Jane like people who are too afraid of what others think, that fear keeps them from being themselves. so if being yourself means being weird than i'd rather be crazy than boring.