It seems no teenager wants to be normal these days. Tell a 16 year old they seem normal, sensible and well adjusted and they’ll be insulted or tell you that they’re actually like, totally random. Craaaazzeeee. Twitter is full of proclamations that the tweeter is that weird kid who doesn’t fit in. And has 1000+ followers. “You are so weird,” is said to friends as a sign of affection, with a laugh and a “I know, right!”.
But if you’re properly ‘weird’, for example, you count to yourself under your breath, can’t make eye contact, get scared in crowds or worry about germs, in a way that you can’t speak about because you feel too ashamed, the chance is, you won’t be sitting in a crowd of friends laughing at your weird ways. It is more likely that you will sit in a corner of the library, buried in a book, hoping no one notices you and terrified someone might start a conversation. It won’t always have been this way, but as your peer group get older and develop more and more socially, you fall behind and decide it’s not worth the effort. Because those cool girls laughing about how weird they are, aren’t really interested in genuine weird. They won’t want to spend the time sitting with you in silence waiting for you to get used to their presence or understand that every word you say is replayed back in your head, cursing yourself for being an idiot. Real weird isn’t Tumblr or Instagram friendly. Real weird is when you would give everything you possess and more to be normal. Real weird is the loneliest place in the world.
I wrote this not about K, but about people like K. And many others. About that guy in accounts who always eats the same sandwiches in grease proof paper and goes red when people ask him things. About the woman who gets tearful and slams doors, making her colleagues roll their eyes. About the man on the bus who whistles and shrieks yet no one can hear and everyone looks away. Being weird, being different is diagnosed not by their behaviour alone, but by the distance from ours. We, the Normals. Being a little bit different, fine, as long as you learn our basic social lessons, exchanging pleasantries, getting our jokes. We’ll tolerate you. Being quite different, not coping with day to day tasks, well, we feel sorry for you, but you see, we’re really busy and your anxiety, it makes us feel kind of uncomfortable. So we won’t be actively unkind, not to your face, but we don’t really want to make the effort. And as for being the whistler and the shrieker, that’s not weird that’s plain freaky and we’d be grateful if you’d keep away and when we can’t avoid you, we’ll pretend you don’t exist.
Imagine the loneliness of the man in accounts, who has never formed a friendship and finds the world confusing. The isolation of the whistler on the bus, desperately seeking to interact and engage with a world that blanks him completely. Those people that we see as a bit odd, what is it that makes them odd? It’s because they’re not like us. That’s it. They may be kind, helpful, but they’re not like us and they’re not entertaining enough, so we shun them. So we can sit and laugh with our friends about how totally bonkers we all are.