The Weird and the Strange

Some people are strange, some are different, and some people are just plain weird. What’s the difference? One of the best ways to define a relative term like weird is to define what it is not. It is not, for the purpose of this discussion, strange. The term strange, by our arbitrary definition, concerns those affected by a more natural malady. Through no fault of their own, they have had a variance inflicted upon them that they cannot escape. We don’t define this separation to be nice, though we do deem it mean-spirited to mock, insult, or denigrate those people that arrived at their differences in a natural manner. We don’t create this separation so that our readers might consider us more understanding, wonderful, or compassionate, but we deem those that would go out of their way to poke fun at the strange to be lacking in basic compassion. We also don’t want to leave the reader with the impression that we might be more normal, or more intelligent, than the subjects we will discuss. We design this arbitrary separation to provide a clarification on any confusion that might exists between those that had no choice in the matter, and those that choose to be weird through the odd decisions they make in life.

Being weird is a choice. 

Some say that Psychology 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. It is our belief, however, that no one chooses to be strange.

We will not afford weird people the same lubricated gloves that we will the strange. Weird people have made their choices, and those choices subject them to a degree of illustrative ridicule that a nicer, more wonderful writer –say, from the 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 different, some of us are normal, and some of us are weird, and strange.

My dad did everything he could to guide me to a more normal path. He corrected my weird ideas with sensible, normal lines of thought. “That isn’t the way,” was something he said so many times, and in so many ways, that one could view my refusal to accept his norms 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. Before we explore the ways in which the old man was strange, I would like to take a moment to thank my dad for the effort he put into trying to make me normal. I’ve since met the exaggerated forms of weird, and those that ascribe to the unusual thoughts as their truth. Most of those people lead chaotic lives, and some of them are a little scary.

My dad was, at the very least, abnormal. Some would say kooky, and others might say he was an odd duck. In the frame we’re creating here though, he was strange. Either he was born with certain deficiencies, or they were a result of self-inflicted wounds. One could say that those self-inflicted wounds were choices he made along the way, and that is true, but those choices derived from some of the deficiencies he had. Whatever the case was, he was different from those around him. He wanted people to perceive him as a normal man, and he put forth a great deal of effort in that regard. As such, he didn’t want his children to have to go through that, so he tried to teach us what he knew about having others consider us normal. I rebelled to those teachings, because I couldn’t see his efforts for what they were.

I still like to dance in the flames of the weird, but once the lights come up I’m as normal now, and as boring, as everyone else. As hard as my dad tried to force normalcy on me, however, he couldn’t control the impulses I had to watch, read, and listened to artistic creations that glorified life outside the norm. Weird things were out there, and I knew it. I pursued these ideas 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 attracted to weird, oddball philosophy. I found the information they presented me so intoxicating that I had trouble keeping it in the bottle.

I have had normal people peppered throughout my life, and I prefer 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 and weird ideas of thinking, weird 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 all too well). I became obsessed with the abnormal to find out what made them different, or if they were, and I had to deal with the friends telling me that I should be dismissing these people on the basis that they were weird. I couldn’t, I said, not until I had digested all that they had to offer.

A Piece of Advice to the Young Ones

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 proceed. Pursue the life of a freak, become that rebel that makes every square in the room uncomfortable, violate every spoken and unspoken rule of our culture, and become that person everyone in the room regards as an oddball. Before doing that, however, an aspiring rebel will want to consider learning everything they can about the conventional rules that they plan to spend the rest of their life violating. Learning the rules gives one a proper foundation, from which to violate. Conventional ways of thinking are boring, and the rebel might think they know them so well that there is little point in studying them, but if there’s one thing I learned in my tenure as an aspiring rebel, and from my discussion with other rebels, it’s that a rebel needs to know the rules better than the squares do. The violation of rules comes with its own set of rules, for those that hope 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 the rebel as one that doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and a rebel without a cause.

A Rebel Without a Cause makes for great fodder on whatever screen they appear, in which the moviemakers manipulate the extraneous conditions, and players, to enhance the qualities of the main character, but in real life there are situations and forces that a rebel with conviction cannot control. There are people that will hit the rebel with scenarios for which they’re be unprepared, and a failure to study the conventional rules from every angle possible, will lead the audience of the rebel’s argument to forget it soon after they make it.

James Dean was A Rebel Without a Cause, though, and James Dean was cooler than cool. For ninety minutes, he was, and with all of extraneous conditions and side characters portraying the perfect contradictory behavior that would define the James Dean character’s rebellion, James Dean was cool. Cooler than cool. In real life, however, a rebel cannot manipulate his extraneous conditions and players to enhance their character. In that environment, the extraneous players consider a rebel without a cause, a rebel without substance. They may regard him as uninteresting, after the initial flash of intrigue with his rebelliousness subsides. My advice would be to listen to those squares that are so normal they make you throw up in your mouth a little, for they may teach a rebel more about what they’re rebelling against than those that feed into their confirmation bias.

My aunt was a bore. She told me things about life that bored the ‘fill in the blank’ 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 persona 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, a person should 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 that I wanted to be a weird guy that made the mainstream uncomfortable. Those that did something different turned me on, and all the grownups that surrounded me had a boring sameness about them. 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 wanted to explore the abbie normal side of humanity.

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

Weirdness should be natural and organic, was the import of her message. It should be a birthright. The weird intend this to be a condemnation for those of us that aren’t weird in a natural, and fundamental, sense. It was a ‘how dare you try to be one of us, if you’re not’ reaction to those that hold the organic nature of being weird as a birthright. She regarded this as equivalent to a person that wears bifocals to look sexier when they don’t have to wear them, an act that ticks off those that are required to wear glasses.

Therefore, I’m not weird in a natural and organic sense. My dad raised me in a manner that forced me to accept 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 a foundation 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 to ease that 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 the borderline strange, weird that is a little scary when one takes a moment to spelunk through their dark caves and caverns of their mind.

***

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 we can find against those around us. Was she weirder than I was? “Who cares?” you and I might say in unison. She did. It may never have occurred to her –prior to our conversation on this topic– that the idea of being weird could be a cudgel she could use to attain some form of superiority, but for that particular conversation, it was for her, and she didn’t appear to feel 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 aspect of this conversation, as it pertains to the subject of superiority and inferiority, is how long did she search for that point of superiority? How many topics did we cover, in our numerous conversations, before she was able to spot one aspect of her personality in which she had some 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 strange, or weird, topic.

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