I’ve been told this, in various ways, all my life and my response has perhaps changed more than I might have imagined it would when I was young. At first I hated being non-normative: I went to a lot of different schools (because my father was something of a dick is the short reason why) and the last thing you think you want at school is to stand out like a strange thumb.
Until you get sick of being known as ‘the new boy’ and begin to revel in your weirdness as you’ve worked out it means people remember your name much faster: “Have you met that guy Steve yet? He’s a fucking weirdo.”
And then puberty arrived and weirdery was a powerfully unattractive quality when being sized up as a potential boyfriend by the opposite sex. Actually even the older gay guys that tried hitting on me were slowly put off by my unorthodox brain. (If you’ve ever been a slightly awkward and youthful looking seventeen year old guy drinking underage in English bars you’ll know the experience of a guy your father’s age trying to hit on you. And hey, if you’re interested in men it might be the beginning of a whole new chapter in your life. For me it was the beginning of conversations that always concluded when I pointed out my not gayness.)
And after puberty, rock and roll. You’re sort of allowed to be weird in rock and roll. Keith Richards anyone? David Bowie? But you pretty much have to be a chameleon, fake enough to be interesting onstage but ordinary enough so record companies think there’s a chance pre-pubescent girls will fancy you and buy your music. And your tee-shirts. And the posters. And locks of your hair. And all that scarily commodified crap.
If you decide to walk away from rock and roll you realise you’re now super weird. Like so super weird you think nothing of constantly changing tenses in the same piece of writing. You are unsuited to any normal career and have a drugged-up, fairly child-like perspective on life that real grown ups utterly resent. Grown ups hate weirdos..
My search for normality led me to academia where once again I was out of step with most people, though largely because I was in my mid-thirties and they were all fresh from home teens and twenty-somethings. Which is fine, older isn’t weird. Some think it’s boring but few think it’s weird. And then a very few discover the rock and roll stuff and celebrate your weirdness by just accepting you into their cliques and circles.
But crawling into your fifties still being weird is no picnic. There are no cucumber sandwiches and some fucker has drunk all the fizzy pop. And no-one thinks your metaphors are any good.
So here I am, fifty-one for another month, weird as fuck yet quite content with the apparently normative pastimes of making food, hanging out with friends from time to time, breaking wind and blaming passing dogs, complaining about my health. Yet still I shun some of the tokens of achievement dangling like millstones round the necks of ultra-normals: unrepayable student debt, huge mortgage payments on a house that’s sunk in value since the 2008 banker’s fuckfest, two weeks a year in the Algarve, immaculately trimmed lawn…
…Oh my god, how fucking bourgeois. However much I sometimes crave normality a quick reminder that for many people it is a bourgeois blanding out of experience, a bleaching of culture, and I’m happy again to be a bloody weirdo. Anyone for buttock tennis?