Are you a bit weird? How would you know for sure? How does one even define such a term?
The OED defines it thus:
Weirdo: A person whose dress or behaviour seems strange or eccentric.”
Okay, so we have a working definition, which is a start. But things may not be quite so simple. Because you see there are so many other categories that seem to impinge on this one: oddballs, eccentrics, characters, visionaries, freaks, outsiders, introverts, writers..
It’s a fine line between eccentric and bonkers, between visionary genius and delusional crackpot. Stay just on the right side of it, and you might find yourself lauded, loved and sung about (although maybe not in your lifetime). Wander across that imaginary line too far though and you might find yourself mocked, attacked or even taking up residence in a locked room with heavily padded walls and terrible room service.
Picture source: Musicfeeds.com.au
Of course how you are seen by society is often closely linked with your status, sex or occupation. Being male and a bit posh for example usually invites the epithet eccentric. Especially so if you are an artist, writer or musician. Coming from a more humble background and / or being female on the other hand is more likely to see you labelled as a barking mad menace to society.
It’s interesting how we as a culture tend to celebrate all that is unusual and out of this world, while at the same time, most of us prefer to follow the crowd and remain well within the safe boundaries of some invisible rule-book. We may secretly want to say ‘screw it’ and rebel, but the pressure to conform is very powerful indeed. And we are often blissfully unaware of just how much those pressures shape our everyday lives and decisions.
So we have special, officially-sanctioned opportunities to be a bit nutty. We can express ourselves at fancy-dress parties and go mad with make-up for Halloween. You might let your hair down on holiday and try something a bit different, feeling a sense of greater freedom outside your everyday boundaries. Music festivals or parades also offer the chance to loosen the straps on those inhibitions and dance like no one is watching. Especially where there is plenty of liquid courage on hand.
Who hasn’t drunkenly unicycled through a busy shopping mall dressed as a moose, after having one too many at the office Christmas party? Or woken up in a women’s prison in North Korea dressed as a penguin, and carrying a life-size rubber shark? We’ve all been there, right?
It’s worth remembering that many manifestations of ‘weird’ behaviour are really quite harmless: wearing odd socks, talking to yourself or obsessively checking to see if the door is definitely locked nine times before leaving the house or going to bed are not signs of impending breakdown. Indeed there are some claims that conversing with yourself can be a sign of genius. Of course arguing with yourself violently, throwing things and then ringing the police to have yourself arrested maybe be over that line.
Picture source: BBC.com
Clearly a British chap called Simeon Ellerton was rather eccentric, if not downright weird. But he found a way to work his weirdness into a lifestyle that suited him:
“Simeon lived in the 18th century and was a fitness fanatic. Because he loved to walk long distances, he was often employed to carry out errands or act as a courier for the locals. On his many frequent journeys he would gather up stones from the roadside and carry them on his head. His aim was to gather sufficient stones to build his own house. Eventually he had enough stones and he made a little cottage for himself. Having spent so many years carrying extra weight, he felt uncomfortable without it, so for the rest of his life he walked around with a bag of stones on his head.”
Here’s another example:
“Annie Edison Taylor wasn’t an explorer, or an heiress, or even particularly brave. She was just a woman who decide to do something nobody had ever done before. On her 63rd birthday, October 14 1901, she was the first person to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel, in which she’d been packed with her lucky pillow. She did it to make money, but the publicity didn’t last, and she died in obscurity — and the barrel was lost after her manager stole it.”
Naturally we all have our own little eccentricities, even if they are perhaps not quite as extreme as the examples above. And many of us would probably enjoy a bit more freedom to express our inner weirdo. Maybe you’d like to sport a monocle, travel to work by camel or change your name to Beezow Doo-Doo Zopittybop-Bop-Bop. Or maybe not..
I believe we should all learn to embrace our weirdness, love our uniqueness and tear up the rulebook, at least once in a while. Now I’m off to polish a walrus, enjoy your week. And never forget the words of the late, great Spike Milligan:
My Father had a profound influence on me. He was a lunatic”
Do you have any little quirks that might be seen as weird?
Text © copyright Jason Lennick 2016. All rights reserved.