The Weird and the Strange

What is weird really? Who is weird? What is the difference between an individual that is weird, a person that is strange, and all of the variances that exist between those two exaggerated poles? One of the best ways to define a general and relative term like weird, is to define what it is not. It is not, for the purpose of this study, strange. The term strange, by our arbitrary definition, concerns those that were affected by a more natural malady. Through no fault of their own, they have had something inflicted upon them that they cannot undo, and nothing they do, in the future, will repair their separation from the norm. We don’t define this separation to be nice, though we do deem it mean-spirited to mock, insult, or denigrate those that arrived at their differences in a more natural manner. We don’t create this separation so that our readers may consider us more empathetic, wonderful, or compassionate, but we do deem those that would go out of their way to poke fun at the strange to be lacking in basic human compassion. This also is not an attempt, on our part, to leave the reader with the impression that we are more intelligent, more normal, or better than those that believe the strange should be mocked, ridiculed, and ostracized. This arbitrary separation is designed to provide a clarification against any confusion that might exist between those that had no choice in the matter, and those that choose to be weird through the decisions they have made in life.

Being weird is a choice. 

Psychology, it could be said, is a comprehensive study of the choices we make. In that vein, it is our assumption that most weird people choose to be weird, follow weird paths, or believe in weird things, and we give ourselves license to mock those decisions. A person does not, again by the arbitrary definition of the terms lined out here, choose to be strange.

Weird people will not be afforded the same lubricated gloves that the strange are in the pieces that follow this one, for the weird have made their choices, and those choices subject them to a degree of illustrative ridicule that a nicer, more wonderful writer –say, from a squishy and indecisive school of thought– would qualify to soften their conclusions. Some of us are as weird as those we mock, some of us are just a little different, and some of us are normal and strange.

My dad did everything he could to lead me down a more normal path. He corrected my weird ideas with more sensible, normal lines of thought. “That isn’t the way,” was a phrase used so many times in our household that my refusal to abide by his norms could be viewed as rebellion. There were so many fights, arguments, and debates in our household that no observer could escape it without thinking that it was, at least, a combustible atmosphere. As the reader will later read, I am grateful for the effort he put into trying to make me as normal as possible, because I’ve met the exaggerated forms of weird, and those that ascribe to the unusual thoughts, that I only play around with, and most of those people lead scary and chaotic lives.

My dad was, at the very least, abnormal. Some would describe him as kooky, and others might say he was an odd duck. In the frame we’re creating here though, he was strange. He was either born with certain deficiencies, they resulted from various circumstances that occurred throughout his life, or they were a result of self-inflicted wounds. Whatever the case was, he was so different from those around him that he would have to fall into one of the two classifications discussed here. Being perceived as a normal man was a struggle for him, and he didn’t want his children to have to endure the outsider status he had to endure for much of his life. I rebelled to all that, because I didn’t view his efforts as noble.

I still like to dance in the flames of the weird, but once the lights come up I’m as normal, and as boring, as everyone else. As hard as my dad tried to force me to be somewhat normal, however, he couldn’t control what I watched, what I read, and listened to, and all of the artistic creations I enjoyed that were outside the norm. Weird things were out there, and I knew it, and I pursued them with near wanton lust.

When I left my dad’s normal home and ventured out into a world outside the realm of his influence, I became more attracted to the weird, oddball philosophy. I found the information they presented me so intoxicating that I had trouble keeping it in the bottle.

I had normal people littered throughout my life, and I preferred their company in the long-term, but I found myself eager to invite challenging, weird ideas into my life for a brief stay. Their brief stay would present me with different ways of thinking, weird ideas, outlandish platitudes, and oddball mentalities that shook the contents in my bottle a little bit more. I needed to know what made them tock (as opposed to the ticks I knew in my normal world). I became obsessed with the abnormal to find out what made them different, or if they were, and I had a number of friends that inform me that I should be dismissing these people. I couldn’t, I said, until I had digested all that they had to offer.

A Rebel Without a Cause

If there are any young minds reading this, engaged in a similar, passionate pursuit of all that falls under the abnormal umbrella, I want to stress one thing before we go any further. There’s nothing wrong with being an outsider. As an outsider, one can violate every rule of our culture, both spoken and unspoken, and become that greaser, with tattoos and spikes in their leather jacket, and an ever present snarl on their face. An outsider might want to consider breaking so many conventions that they are regarded as so unconventional that they attain freak status. Before doing so, might I suggest that those planning such an attack, spend some time learning the conventional rules that they plan to spend the rest of your life violating. Learning the rules provides a rule breaker a proper foundation, from which to violate. Every rebel thinks they know these rules –and they bore them– but most rebels don’t know the rules as well as they think. Violation of the rules comes with its own set of rules, if a rebel hopes to violate in a constructive and substantive manner. Failure to learn the rules, and the proper violation of them, will allow those that set the rules to dismiss a rebel as someone that doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and their goal of undermining those rules will also be dismissed with ease. A rebel that fails to abide by these tenets of proper violation might even be deemed a rebel without a cause.

A Rebel Without a Cause makes for great fodder in a movie where all of the extraneous conditions, and players, can be manipulated to enhance the qualities of the main character, but in real life there are situations and forces that a real life rebel cannot control. There are people that will hit a rebel with scenarios for which they’ll be unprepared, and if they don’t study the rules from every angle possible, their whole argument will be forgotten soon after they make it.

But James Dean was A Rebel Without a Cause, the rebel that worships Hollywood, archetype rebels will say, and James Dean was cooler than cool. For ninety minutes he was, and with all of extraneous conditions and side characters being controlled to exhibit the perfect contradictory behavior that would define the James Dean character’s rebellion, James Dean was cool. Cooler than cool. In real life, however, where all of the extraneous conditions and players cannot be manipulated to enhance a rebel’s idealized set of characteristics, a rebel without a cause is often considered a rebel without substance, and he is disregarded as uninteresting, after the initial flash of intrigue with their rebelliousness subsides. My advice would be to listen to those squares that are so normal they make a rebel throw up in their mouth a little, for they may teach a real-life rebel more about what they’re rebelling against than those that feed into their confirmation bias.

Another question that a rebel should ask themselves before they risk their personal capital in an idea, or movement, is: ‘What if they are wrong?’ I understand that a rebel’s pursuit often does not seek being correct in a traditional sense, in the traditional sense that their forebears abide, and that much of a rebel’s pursuit involves overturning the apple cart, but a rebel should ask themselves why this idea, or the movement that supports it, hasn’t achieved a broader appeal up to this point. Every modern idea might seem like one that no one has ever considered before to those living in that era, but just about every idea has been tried before, and for various reasons most of them fail. It could very well be that those cultures have not been as sophisticated as the one the rebel is currently living in, or the one the rebel seeks to support throughout their lives. It could also be that that agenda that an uninformed rebel swears allegiance involves a fundamental misreading of human nature that others have explored before, and they have found it to be wrong.

The rebel needs to consider, again before they invest so much personal capital in an idea that they are willing to be characterized by it, the idea that those that know their agenda involves a fundamental misreading of human nature, know how to allocate their resources. They know that certain demographics have prior experience with their ideas, and they know that those people are a lost cause. As a result, they litter their presentation with “cool” ideas for cool people that care more about having a “cool” presentation than they do being right or wrong in a manner the “theys” will tell one. 

My aunt was a bore, and she told me things about life that bored the ‘you know what’ out of me with her preachy presentations on “Good and honest living.” She didn’t know where it was at, as far as I was concerned. I wanted to step into that “Do what you feel” rock and roll lifestyle that left carnage in its wake. I debated her point for point. I knew my rock and roll lifestyle well. My aunt was not much of a debater. She knew her “Good and honest living” principles, but she could not debate me point for point. She had poor presentation skills, by comparison, and she was overweight and unattractive. Those in the entertainment fields had excellent presentation skills. They were attractive and thin, and they all had excellent jaw lines. They confirmed all of the beliefs I had about life. Life should be easy, judgment free, and fun. It shouldn’t involve the moral trappings of what is right and what is wrong, and as long as no one gets hurt, we should all be able to “do what you feel” like doing. Viewing all of this in retrospect, however, I now realize that the boring, pedantic, obese, and unattractive people taught me ten times as much about life as any of the entertainers. The entertainers were just better at packaging their presentations.

The crux of my rebellion was based on the idea that I wanted to be a weird guy that made the mainstream uncomfortable. I was turned on by those that did something different, and all the grownups that surrounded me were the same. My dad vied for this sameness, and he wanted the same for me, but no matter how hard he tried to make me normal, I rebelled. I wanted to explore the abbie normal side of humanity, until my experience with these ideas proved that most of that which I explored for much of my young life was wrong. Was it fun to dance in the flames of the weird? I still enjoy that, but I’ve learned that one of the keys to mental health involves dancing in the flames of the weird with a decidedly normal undershirt on.

A Weird Friend

“You actually want to be weird?” a friend asked me. “People don’t want to be weird. They either are, or they aren’t.” 

The weirdness a person displays should be more organic, was the import of her message. It should be a birthright. This was intended to be a condemnation for those of us that aren’t weird in a natural, and fundamental, sense that portray weird characteristics. My mistake may have been to discuss the idea of being weird openly. It isn’t customary to discuss being weird openly. It’s a private, often painful, state of being that has forced weird people to endure mockery and ridicule so often that any objective analysis of it can throw them off. It can lead those that may fear that they’re fundamentally weird to become so defensive that they have a ‘how dare you try to be one of us, if you’re not’ defensive posture to those that they believe want to wear a weird mask in a manner somewhat equivalent to a person wearing eyeglasses just to look sexy when they don’t otherwise need to wear them.

So, I’m not weird in a natural and fundamental sense. My dad raised me in a manner that forced me to abide by the norms, and I’m going to take a moment out of this piece to say something I didn’t say to him when he was alive: “God bless you Dad for forcing your definition of normalcy down my throat.”

This person that condemned me for being audacious in my attempts to play around in what she claimed her birthright, was weird in a natural, and fundamental, sense, but she was also sad in a natural and fundamental sense, and miserable, and angry about the manner in which life had trampled upon her. Anyone that knew her, or even held a simple conversation with her, would walk away knowing that chaos had dominated much of her life, and as a result she was well-known for being so desperate as to seek refuge in the controlled substances she found that could artificially ease her pain.

I realized through this friend, and all of the other weird characters that have graced my life, that there was weird and there was weird. There was the weird that is fun, a little obnoxious, and entertaining in a manner that tingles the area of the brain that enjoys stepping outside the norm, and there is a borderline strange definition of weird that is a little scary when one takes the time to begin spelunking through the dark caverns of their mind.

Being Weird as a Form of Superiority

As evidenced by my weird friend professing a sense of superiority over those not weird, in a more organic manner, some of us will attempt to gain whatever edge they can find against those around us. Was she weirder than me? “Who cares?” the reader and I might say in unison. She did. It may never have occurred to her –prior to our conversation on this topic– that being weird could be used as a cudgel for the purpose of attaining some form of superiority, but for that particular conversation it was for her, and she didn’t appear to feel the slight bit unusual for doing so. It appeared, in fact, to be vital to her that I acknowledge that she had me on this topic. She was weird, and I was trying to be weird. Who tries to be weird? Phony people, that’s who. Check, check, check. She wins.

The interesting import of this conversation, as it pertains to the subject of superiority and inferiority, is how long did this person search for a point of superiority? How many topics did we cover in our numerous conversations before she was able to find one aspect of her personality in which she had some level of superiority? If either of these questions wreaks of ego on my part, let’s flip it around and ask what drove this impulse to use organic weirdness as a form of superiority? I had many conversations with this woman, and I never saw this competitive side of her before. She thought she had me on this one weird, borderline strange, topic.