Although it’s unspoken, I can tell I’ve been identified as “odd” in several public places now. Harrowingly, I don’t think it’s the kind of odd that Hello Giggles might refer to as “quirky” or “snowflake-like” even if they did reply to my emails.
Growing up, I was desperate to be different. But it never panned out the way I intended it to- I wanted to be the girl that boys looked at from afar in the library and secretly fancied, but were far too intimidated to approach, lest they die of erection overdose. For this to actually happen in reality, I would have needed to know real life boys. I was far too invested in my long-term-long-distance relationship with Hunter, an overweight Alaskan boy I met on Runescape for that. If you’ve got the time, online gaming can profoundly fill the void where self esteem or a personality might go in your formative years.
In actively trying hard to be “different” I just became weird, which even in itself sounds self-congratulatory, so I’ll go with odd. This was confirmed by my family this summer, when we went on an activities weekend and all had to wear helmets, but for some reason it looked like I’d arrived already in the helmet. The helmet looked as though it was integral to my survival as a human being. In fact, I struggle to think of another instance where a specific garment that has suited me quite as well as a helmet did.
Don’t get me wrong; this ‘odd’ assumption has some benefits. People tend to give me a wide birth in queues, which is pretty handy, especially when I’m rehearsing my order before it’s time to shine, or counting my change out loud.
People also speak slowly to me, which is nice because it eradicates the stress from the all too allegro pacing of most conversations. Similarly, the surprise on people’s faces when I prove myself capable of responding in full sentences often feels quite nice, like I’m being praised for skills often overlooked by the general public.
But I’m often left wondering; what are people seeing in me that suggests this? Clues today, for example, that suggest I might not be entirely socially capable:
- Walking around with the flashlight on my phone switched on all day in broad daylight because I’ve been too eager to reply to a text and mashed all the keys with my hands
- The shaky way I hand hot, sweaty change over to the person behind the till in Cancer Research as I buy a tie-dye throw to wear in Nero because I have to get a plug socket which is always by the door and subsequently, a bit nippy
- The fact I’ve been watching a video about a braless woman desperately looking for a lost ferret, and keep looking around to see if anyone else is watching my screen from afar and laughing too, and maybe whether we could talk about it later
- The way I’m not really sure how to laugh where it’s like I’m always the last one laughing and it doesn’t even sound like a laugh it sounds like a moan and my expression looks like I know I should be responding to something witty someone has said and I’m trying really hard to do it and I’m copying how most people are meant to laugh but the way my eyes manically dart from person to person to check if it’s time to stop laughing gives away my secret
- The fact I was just midway through a conversation with my boss for work and then all of a sudden it got too stressful so I just hung up when she was in the middle of speaking and then blamed it on the heavy traffic
- The way I ordered a tea and she asked what size and I said regular even though it’s the same price for a regular and a large
- The very short, thin strand of hair that is hanging down my forehead that looks like I gelled it to look that way
- I’ve just smiled at a stranger and in doing so split the spot on my lip open like a cork popping out of a bottle of foamy champagne and now I can feel pus on my chin
- D) A combination of all of the above
I’m not offended, but having this “weirdo” look about me can sometimes be rather cumbersome. The actual weirdos in the street tend to seek me out- I’m not sure whether they’re testing me or want to initiate me into their club. I had a man approach me whilst I was waiting for the bus, getting right up in my face and screaming at me if I’d “seen his girls” and when I said no he said “are you afraid of me?” but I felt embarrassed that I was afraid of the man for shouting at me so I sort of apologised and asked if he needed help looking, before realising my flashlight was still on and then realised that I must have looked like a really sarcastic Nancy Drew.
I also seem to have developed an unintentional camaraderie with our mascot, the Wizard Man of Sutton, who does this nod when I walk past him, like we have a profound unspoken connection between us that not even me trying to avoid eye contact for the past year can sever.
There is also a man in a wheelchair who wears leopard print leggings and blue brothel creepers who stops me when I’m walking and asks me to help him get up the hill to Sutton, as he keeps rolling back, but I know he can do it and he’s just pretending because I’ve seen him go up the hill on his own.
It’s nice to be different but I’m scared that without having to abide by social norms I’m becoming lazy. I’m torn between trying not to care what people think, and caring a significant amount about how people think I think. I’m finding myself trying to prove something to everyone- talking about Celebrity In the Jungle a lot even though it’s already finished and I had no idea, asking a friend loudly on the tube which stop was the one where someone got stabbed there, going into Poundland and pointing out that the deal on three Mars bars for a pound is actually a swizz as they’re only the fun sized ones because I heard my mum say that once, and crowbarring big words into unnecessary public repartee.
But in doing all of these normal things normal people do, I think I might be making myself seem like I have something to prove. Do I? Do you? Does anybody? Should I accept that bit of hair that is hanging down my face as a new fringe? Will it make me look like Zooey Deschanel?
“You have to be odd to be number one” Dr Seuss
“Don’t get mad, get even” – Kennedy (!?)
“Thank you for making me realise I was gay” –Hunter (aka Shadowhut), in a hate email he sent after we broke up