A quick but, I hope, bolstering post. (With some help from marvellous Victorian photographs – some edited later.)
I am just back from the primary school run. Ah, it’s a conservative place. I have, over many years’ parenting (my boys are 8-18 but also, at various times, there’s been partial care of others’ children), been introduced as ‘the crazy one’, ‘the mad one,’ ‘the nutter’ and, best of all, ‘the weird one (I was telling you about’ – thereby revealing that they’ve been talking about your particular weird behind your back). I used to get very upset about this. It’s because I have been described in this way my entire life and, despite parts of my brain wanting just to be me, weirdo, the other parts yearned for acceptance. This is not a comfortable thing. However, what does fitting in mean? If it means suppressing your character, oddities, imagination, beliefs and those things that make you you, then this is sad. You should be you. Certainly, you ought to reflect on others’ responses and needs; check your language and outlook are broad and inclusive – and you ought to self reflect because from that stems greater kindness to others. However, if you have earnestly done those things, then come as you are.
Because, other than that attention to kindness, detail and community, FUCK OFF, basically. Weird is great.
So, I am thinking I have grown into my weird a bit better. I think I might have raised slightly weird children. Actually, one of my offspring was described critically as ‘weird’ by a teacher and it was not meant in a positive way. So I quietly said, ‘And with that I am going to leave and maybe we can talk again at a later time while we consider what might be positive about weird?’
Woo. I was being that tough, but of course I cried all the way home.
Come off it, though; we are all weird. And I like the weirder end of weird. Here are some facts about me:
- I had a catalogue of imaginary friends well into my teens. This is (forgive me – but you see weird is also a response to trauma so we are going a bit dark suddenly) because I was beaten and scared and gaslit. I made myself into Frida from ABBA because I liked her red hair – my parents had ABBA albums – and my best friend was Agneta who had awesome counselling skills.
- When I was 16 my best friend was 88. She got me. She was weird too and liked bird skulls, tarot and Irish myths and legends. She was a storyteller, God rest her soul.
- I am really into Jesus but I swear a lot. Though not in church. Or when I am reading Mother Julian of Norwich because I can’t sleep and need a revelation of divine love.
- I am shit at mum groups. Always have been, but it took me a long time to admit it and see that this didn’t mean I was a social maladept, a bit boring or a bit of a wanker. I get restless and I don’t know how to keep it going. After 18 years of parenting I haven’t learned. The last one I attended, we somehow got onto sex and who was gay or not – and I ended up saying, ‘Well I’d identify as queer but I haven’t mentioned it because I’ve been married to a man for twenty years so it’s a relevant as fuck in that way. I married a man because that’s who I was in love with.’ There was an awkward silence. Then, ‘OH MY GOD YOU ARE EVEN WEIRDER THAN I THOUGHT’. To which I said, ‘I SAID QUEER AND QUEER IS NOT WEIRD, BABY.’ Whatsapp dismissal.
- I am an introvert but I just sang songs from Annie on the KS2 field at the top of my voice to make it easier for some reluctant pupils to go in. They were embarrassed. But they were happy. A child in KS1 recently said to me, ‘My mum says you’re weird but I really like you.’ Think about that sentence. There was another time when someone said to me (I remember it; I was outside the school office, attempting to partially conceal myself behind the bin while trying to hoick my tights up), ‘You are clinically insane.’ That was someone’s ma too. I was dumbfounded on this occasion because she was smiling and I was a bit struck on the word ‘clinically’ because as far as I knew she was an interior designer. It might have been the fact I was partially concealed behind the bin that prompted the comment, but more likely a sense, after having made various observations and tours of me, of having to express a dislike of something…off; odd; eldritch. To spit it out; like, if you thought you’d put a Minstrel in your mouth and realised it was a rock or some poo.
- I dress in a funny mixture of Victoriana and sports kit and my tattoo is in Latin.
- I carry my chickens about, crooning to them. They are totally into it. I can’t wait to start a conversation with the man who whispers and gurgles to his rooks, the lady who has a tiny glittering altar outside her house or the man who crosses the road every time he sees the local priest. I have a theory, which is that maybe, if you’re a bit odd, you notice more. And maybe – even more radically – you notice people who might be a bit marginalised but with whom you could have a great chat and suddenly everyone there is having a better day. What do you think?
- My thinking goes rat a tat rat a tat all day long; allusive; solving problems with quotations; snatches of song if need be. It is how I manage things but also I am always making stories and seeing links. I wish I had had the confidence to write books earlier – but it’s all coming out now. That’s because of the weird, you see. It’s liberated.
- I am fascinated by all things morbid and moribund and always have been. I have day trips to see particularly fetching memento mori. I am really fascinated by undertakers and embalming. It keeps coming up as a theme. In fact, the fascination just created a whole second volume of stories (we will see about that!)
- Here’s the thing: we are all a patchwork of oddities and everyone really is an outsider in their questing and difficult experience. It is natural to stick with a herd – and I am not rejecting being in groups of people – but I do think we could question such if we stick because we are scared of being on our own or because we are suppressing our oddities in favour of something that makes us more socially palatable.
So find your weird. Explore it in writing, as I have done and will continue to do. Ultimately, just be you: perfect and as you were meant to be, memento, spoon collecting, fancy dress you.