I’m a weirdo. But in a good way.
When i read the first two sentences of this recent blog by Richard Carrier, i was instantly hooked. i long ago embraced the label of “weirdo” to describe myself (though i’d often use the word “quirky” instead, much like many choose to use the words “secular humanist” or “freethinker” rather than atheist), because i have been cheerfully flouting social norms for the majority of my life… much to the chagrin of my very socially-conscious mother (and the rest of my family to somewhat lesser degree)…
i am a science fiction/fantasy fanatic. i play pencil and paper RPGs, and i’ve even been known to LARP occasionally (though probably not in the way you, dear reader, are familiar with from certain viral videos). During high school i chose to interpret “Come As You Are Day” as a statement of personality rather than attire of the moment and came to school dressed in a full Starfleet uniform. That being said, i think it’s rather obvious that i cosplay. On nice days, i roll down the windows in my car and blast classical music and film scores. i am an atheist and a skeptic (which, sadly, are considered weird by current social standards). i am a submissive and a masochist with many different fetishes. i don’t capitalize self-referential subjective case pronouns in informal writing. i am a weirdo. And even though it generally takes the form of quiet self-satisfaction because of the nature of the environs in which i find myself during 95% of my existence, i am PROUD to be one.
But am i a good weirdo?
Dr. Carrier’s blog divides people into three basic groups, which he envisions being spaced out along a bell curve (and which include the gradations between that such a bell curve implies). At one end of the curve are the good kind of weirdos, among whom Dr. Carrier counts himself and those whose company and association he generally enjoys. In the large center of the curve, of course, are the “normal people,” who Dr. Carrier describes with the chuckle-eliciting term “fuddy duddies.” Finally, at the opposite narrow end of the curve are the bad weirdos.
Dr. Carrier spends a good deal of time describing the delineations between good and bad sorts of weirdos. He finally settles on four traits that tend to occur in common among the bad weirdos:
(1) delusionality (false beliefs, held with extreme certainty, despite weak or even falsifying evidence),
(2) poor self-reflectivity (they do not know themselves well, aren’t aware of their flaws or limitations or quirks, and may even be keen on denying them, big fans of the ego-defense, and likewise are not reasonably self-critical nor handle external criticism well even when it’s reasonable and fact-based),
(3) insensitivity (even when they are hyper-concerned about others, it typically isn’t other people in the room, with the result that they have low situational empathy and do not show an interest in others that they expect others to show in them)
(4) dysfunctional communicativity (when they are hurt or annoyed or disagree or have an important opinion or knowledge, they fail to communicate it, or do so in ways so oblique or inobvious they may as well not be communicating it, or communicate it but in an alarmingly emotional way that’s oblivious to the social dynamics of a conversation),
or (and this is the worst) both.
Now i’ll be the first to admit that i’m not always the most communicative person. i’m an introvert, and i don’t speak much. i also tend to be rather shy, especially when it comes to people who i’ve just met, or who i admire. When i met John Williams, all i could do was stammer a couple of words and hand him the program from the concert he had just conducted to get his autograph. i would have liked to actually talk to him about his composition style… or just at least said a complete sentence to him. Not so much. i run into the same problem as a submissive when approaching potential dominants for the first time (or sometimes two). It’s like my tongue just sort of locks up in my head, and it takes a tremendous force of will to get it to start moving again so that i can communicate and negotiate effectively before a scene.
i know that this shyness can be offputing and has a tendency to hold me back from some great social opportunities. It’s something i’ve been trying to work on in myself, both inside and outside the BDSM context… and perhaps this very fact proves that i am not one of the bad weirdos. i engage in self-reflection regularly, and i very enthusiastically subscribe to the ideal of “know thyself.” Perhaps the simple fact that i am aware of my shortcomings, much less the fact that i am actively working on them, is a sign that i am a good weirdo. As Dr. Carrier says…
Good weirdos are not any of that. And I think that’s why I like them so much. They are communicative, sensitive, self-reflective (and thus self-knowing), and harbor very few delusions, and rarely any that are extreme. In fact, I suspect this is why they are weirdos and not “normal” (as society at large would define it). It’s certainly true for me. We have all been outcasts and nonconformists, because we were always skeptical, always critical of social norms and expectations, and self-reflective enough to know we were being asked to change ourselves (really, in fact, to deny or even destroy ourselves) to fit in, and we didn’t want to, because we liked who we are, or at least liked many of the things society didn’t like about us (we were still happy to fix or improve on everything else about ourselves as much as we were able).
In other words, we’re weirdos because we wouldn’t want to be anything else. Which means we are aware of what makes us weird, we are aware of how that doesn’t “fit in,” and we have done the math on that and concluded we’re better off that way. (I’ve found that the bad weirdos often are not aware of their weirdness and haven’t rationally or self-reflectively chosen it, and even when they have, it has been on the basis of delusions, or egotism or narcissism.) We merry few love each other’s company despite our differences, often because of them, because we all share these four features in common (communicativity, sensitivity, self-reflectivity, and low delusionality), and we feel reassured, our sanity restored, to know there are other such people out there in the world. They give us hope. And we enjoy getting to know them, counting on them, helping them, learning from them.
i often have trouble saying good things about myself, because i’m afraid of being egotistical or conceited (and we can probably thank my mother, at least in part, for the development of that particular bit of irrationality), but i truly feel that those two paragraphs describe me. i’m a weirdo because i choose to be. i embrace my quirks despite the scorn of those who would uphold the norms. And i love being in the company of others who feel the same, even if our quirks are different.
So as far as i can tell, i’m a good weirdo. And i love it.