I’ve always been a bit Weird. Like “Hey you’re a Weirdo” kind of weird.
Here’s how I know:
Ever since I was a little kid I have observed that look on people’s faces when I have said something or behaved in a way that was out of the rhythm of the expected. First it’s in the eyes: pupils narrowing ever so slightly, putting up the first layer of boundary. Then it’s a crinkling in the face and a barely perceptible lean backwards. Other kids’ reactions were more vocal and animated – “What are you talking about, Weirdo?” – a sneer, a snort, sideways glance to their crew. As I got older, the reactions usually softened into an awkward pause, nervous chuckle, swallow, nod, excuse themselves to the buffet.
Some examples of my Weird:
- My small talk is wonky. Either I bore you with my basic obvious-ness (I like how blue your shoes are. What a soft layer of fuzz on your sweater.) or shock you with my bizarrely personal revelations and excessive cursing (Oh Shit! I should tell you about the time I soaked the fuck out of my jeans pissing off the back of a truck!). It’s like there is a malfunction in the pumps and filters that move my thoughts from my heart through my brain and out my mouth. The ‘right’ words that had sounded so fascinating in my mind get caught in a choke valve in my throat and come out mangled and off-center.
- As a kid I also had this nervous tick where I would look over the top of people’s heads when I spoke to them. I didn’t even realize I was doing it. This was, of course, an easy target for ridicule in elementary school: “Why are you always looking up? What are staring at the sky for, Weirdo Looking-Up Girl?”
- I had several dozen imaginary animal friends…at an age where you really weren’t supposed to be telling your peers about packs of cheetahs who followed alongside the bus… like say, middle school. Which was actually pretty awesome in hindsight. I mean, shit, I currently believe I have unicorn spirit guides.
- I talk to myself out loud. Always have. Usually in the mirror. And it’s not always a ‘Pep talk’…sometimes I just have to say that thing that’s been rolling around in my head just to see what I look like saying it. And then I make faces at myself.
- I’m also the kind of person who gleefully waves at a stranger who closely resembles someone I know long after they’ve squinted back at me in a confused way and quickened their pace. And then of course I reassure myself Out Loud, validating that anyone could have made that honest mistake.
- But my biggest Weird is that I have never really felt like I fit in. Anywhere. I have always felt like there are all these prefabricated “GROUPS” of people in the world and I don’t really belong in any of them. I tried very hard to CONFORM into someone worthy of being accepted from about the age of 12. I was nerdy, preppy, grunge, goth, skater (I never actually skated on anything), alternative, country, Wiccan, sorority, hood rat. Just ill-fitting masks.
“Party girl” was the only one that seemed to stick.
Everywhere I go I see these GROUPS, but I am on the outside looking in. I try to slide in, ease up, break through, but I always hear that preschool jingle playing in my head like my theme song: “Which one of these things is not like the others”…
[I’m at an event at some point in my life – Girl Scouts, middle school dance, sorority social, teacher breakfast, anything really – the GROUPS are gathered, already talking, sharing laughter; I approach alone, wearing the red W for Weirdo on my chest; my throat is tight and my heart beats in my ears and I already know how red my cheeks have gotten because when I was younger the other kids would point it out. At first I am invisible, a silent stalker; then I push closer through my nervous fear, determined to be included; someone eventually notices me and my over-eager grin awkwardly edging in; my off-beat laugh screeches in at just the wrong moment. In my head they have already looked me up and down and smirked with their friend “There’s that Weirdo” before turning sideways to create a palpable energetic wall between my Weird and their group of Normals.]
I am an adult now, and most of this is just acted out in my head, running over and over the rut of stale memory from puberty. I know can manifest and project this worn-out scenario onto my current adult interactions, or I can choose to thank it for showing up (yet again) and then tell it to fuck off.
One thing I’ve learned in my 40’s is that most people have felt this way at some point in their lives. We all have different ways of shrouding our feelings of isolation and strangeness.
When I would drink – or even as I entered the mindset of planning to drink – all my awkwardness would fall away. Walking into a bar full of drunk people – that was my Wheelhouse. In my mind I owned that room from the moment I set foot in the door armed with a pack of Parliament Lights and my Visa debit card. Vodka tonic please, keep the tab open. I was good at drinking among drinkers. I had a high tolerance and I was (usually) a happy, fun drunk. I had pick-up lines for every kind of conversation – flirting with men at the bar for free drinks, chatting up drunk chicks in the line for the bathroom to make momentary BFFs, listening with honest empathy to tales of veteran bar flies, finding dance partners with tipsy seniors on a ladies night out, matchmaking lonely souls, you name it. I had the mojo to speak to anyone when I was drinking. In the low bar lighting, with a drink in one hand and a smoke in the other, my Weird was no longer a Handicap but a Beacon.
Drunk people are so accepting. Alcohol blurs the borders between the cliques and labels we assign ourselves in daily life. Frat boys, gym rats, gamers, soccer moms, DINKs, old, young, rich, poor: We are all leveled out when we’re 6 drinks in, shivering in a doorway smoking cigarettes or scream-talking over the club music and hugging strangers.
Quitting drinking meant I had to accept my Weird and walk it out in public with no excuses. I had to let it out of the cage, comb its hair and slap it on the ass.
I am full of flaws and full of sparkle. I am often PG13 when I should be a G. I am audibly narrating my gum choice in the grocery check-out line.
I am saying the wrong thing. I am staring at the clouds.
©Skye Nicholson 2020