The other night, I went out for Chinese food with Jena. Uncharacteristically cold for a summer night in New York, it seemed appropriate that she wear a hat.
This particular hat has often served as my accessory of choice when I’m feeling mentally fried from a day of too much writing. But I save it for indoors, not the eyes of others. I am fairly confident I don’t need to wear it outside to convince my neighbors I’m a weirdo, but I still hold onto a few fears from more insecure days. Back when I would hesitate and lie about what was playing through my headphones, not wanting to admit that I never knew the latest cool band, and instead listened to anime themes and my favorite video game jingles.
But Jena needed a hat, and here one was, and she confidently pulled it on and went outside. If I wasn’t already married to her, I would have established an immediate crush the moment I saw her happily embracing her weirdness, brave and self-assured enough not to care who knew it.
I used to love Tim Burton movies, because it felt as though they were for me. His narratives are always on the side of the “strange and unusual” characters, and I identified with that. But then I started to recognize a pattern. Inevitably, Burton movies conclude that it’s better not to ask to be accepted, that instead you should take your toys back inside because the world is too stupid to see how great the weirdos are. His oeuvre is about cultivating a sense of superiority via eccentricity, as opposed to coexistence. And I don’t buy the idea that weirdness makes you better than others – it’s the thing that makes you unique, not exceptional, and there’s definitely nothing exceptional about hiding in your own echo chamber of superiority. Besides, if being an oddball is so great, why selfishly keep that in the house, to yourself, or contained to your own headphones so that no one else will ever see it?
I think weirdness should be shared. Of course, sharing is scary. There is a pressure to conform in society, even if it’s lately been somewhat diluted by nerd culture. When you’ve spent years in a defensive crouch, hiding what makes you different, it’s a hard habit to break. But I have a dream job, I’m married to a wonderful person, I’m writing an amazing webcomic. What have I got to hide?
We walked down the street and got our food from the local Chinese grease spot. No one batted an eye, no one questioned it. Jena was just who she was and went on her way. And when she got home, she took off the hat and ate like a normal person (as opposed to a certain writer she married, who chews like a cow).
I guess in some ways weirdness is an outfit. It’s something you can put on or take off. But in the end, if it’s your favorite thing in your closet, there’s nothing wrong with wearing it with pride.
It’s just you.