106. Weirdness

Sometimes a child seems to take pride and pleasure in being different from other children. This attitude (the old meaning of “attitude”) can be exactly what it seems to be; it can be the child’s style of self-esteem. Since everyone is different, it’s good to accept and celebrate the differences. So a child can be proud of being “weird,” and know that he/she means nothing negative by the word. Other children say, “He’s/she’s weird,” and may mean it affectionately (and be heard affectionately), or not be the ones whose opinions count to this child.
But weirdness can also be a disguise. It can cover up feelings the child is not able to reveal to others. The child may desperately want to connect with other children, but feel unable to do it. So the child decides, instead, to develop a reputation for being different. That way, it’s easier to explain being rejected or excluded by other children: I’m different, and that’s why people don’t like me. I’d rather be the weird person I am than follow the crowd just so I can have friends. And the loneliness lives and grows.
As a teacher, every Halloween, I wore a three-piece suit to school. People grew to expect it of me, and I enjoyed the reputation that went with this expectation. To me, a three-piece suit is a costume. People in other places had to wear this costume every day, and teachers didn’t. The statement I was making by wearing this costume was that it is indeed a costume. Every uniform or fashion is a costume, to some degree. It’s a way to look like other people when, in fact, you may be different.
But I wore a costume every day. While I enjoyed a certain degree of weirdness, I didn’t wear then what I wear now. I wore corduroy pants and a flannel shirt in the winter, and non-corduroy cotton pants and a short-sleeve cotton shirt in the spring and fall. I may not have followed the fashions, but I did not want to be too different. In the summer, I wore what I wanted, and here in Amherst, I wear what I want. It’s a college town, and what is labelled “weird” in other places is somewhat the norm here.
The child who takes pride in her/his weirdness may be doing exactly what she/he appears to be doing. The child may be daring to be different, and that’s good practice for times when the crowd is doing something the child really doesn’t want to do. The uniform is a costume. But once in a while, it’s useful to take a close look, to see whether the refusal to wear the uniform is also a costume.

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