Who decides what is ‘weird’ anyway?
Quite a few years ago, my friend John and I went to see a play in the upstairs room of a bar in Montrose. This is when Montrose was still weird and wonderful and we were just starting an experimental theater together. We were scouting out the bar for a play we were going to create. It was a black comedy that had incest, cannibalism, bondage and murder in it. Basically it was him emptying his head of all kinds of demons, and me relating to it enough to want to direct/produce it (and I added plenty of weirdness to it, too). The play we had just seen was also very weird, and we loved it. We felt like we’d found the perfect weird place to do it.
As we were leaving, we had to walk past a row of people in green, red or blue mohawks, facial piercings and tattoos. They were all dressed up for some concert that was happening in the space after the play. As we passed, one of them said loudly, looking down his nose at us with total disdain, “look at the cookie cutter people!” Obviously, he said that because we both had natural hair, no visible tattoos (I don’t think he has any. I don’t), no facial piercings, and we both were wearing pretty mainstream, gender-specific clothes. However, we didn’t look as much like each other as all those people looked alike, so I just laughed at the guy who said it. Inside, I was a little offended, though. To be honest, I thought.. “you would be shaking in your fake combat boots if you knew how scary we are.” I didn’t say it, because there were a lot of them and only 2 of us.
But as I always do after I’ve gotten mad at someone for hurting my feelings, I went back and thought about what it was about me would make someone react that way, and what about that other person would make them want to be mean like that towards me. I knew that John and I were quite possibly among the strangest people I knew. We had both been odd our whole lives. We both had difficult, traumatic childhoods and had become the kind of people who made art as a necessity because it was the only thing that kept us tethered to the world. We didn’t need costumes to prove to anyone we were bizarro freaks. In fact, you could say we had spent our whole lives trying to disguise ourselves as ‘normal people’ in a desperate attempt to blend in.
I wondered if the people in those goth/punk costumes felt ordinary on the inside, so they had to be as expressive as possible on the outside so they could feel unique? Or was this just another way of blending in, but just blending in with specific people? Or were they all just really so bold that they didn’t mind showing an outward expression of their weirdness to the world, like they were flipping the bird to everyone else? I don’t know for sure what is in someone else’s heart, but I wondered why someone who seemed to want to embrace the right to be who they wanted to be would judge anyone else so harshly for the way they dressed. I only know that if I had tried to do that goth thing, I most definitely would have gotten it wrong. It was too specific for me in its rules to ever be able to pull it off. I also would have gotten really freaked out if people had stared at me because of the way I looked. I would worry they could see the inside of my head.
Also.. if they were trying to be ‘unique’, they totally failed, because they were the true cookie cutter people that day. They were just like the ‘cool kids’ in high school who taunt the weirdos. We were the weirdos, like we always are.
It’s like that SOUTHPARK episode, when Stan is depressed and makes friends with the goth kids, and one of them tells him: “If you wanna be one of the non-conformists, all you have to do is dress just like us and listen to the same music we do.”
Anyway, just a story of an epiphany I had one time. Everyone’s just trying to find a way to be special. Maybe we’re all weird inside and nobody is weird, and we all just do different things about it.
Here’s some pictures of the art John and I made together, with other weirdos helping us, of course. We all find each other eventually. Photos courtesy of Mildred’s Umbrella Theater Company (www.mildredsumbrella.com)