My son is a weirdo, and that depends hugely on your level of self-consciousness. He does weird noises when he is uncomfortable, he wears hats cause they make him feel safe, and he is obsessed with wearing pjs. They need to be included into our daily program, so if I were to say “first we go to the nursery, then mom will pick you up, and you will go home,” he will quickly reply “and I can wear my pajama?”
If a drop of water comes on his t-shirt, including a tear if he were crying, he throws a fit to have it changed, cause anything wet irritates him, but he is obsessed with having baths, sometimes even twice a day, the irony I know! He doesn’t know how to deal with attention, so he makes sounds, faces, gestures and grunts in public. He is a 4 year old, acting like a 4 year old. I find myself at times pressuring him to stop acting like so, and the words leaving my lips, impulsively, are “stop that, or people will laugh at you”.
Reflecting back at my childhood, a lesson I learned sometime around high school, and one as old as the hills: trendiness is coinage in popularity. A lot of parents traded in that currency no different, insecurities, like genetics, passed down. Somewhere between milestone comparisons, and awkward laughs at our peculiarity in public, we were being programmed to learn to conform. Slowly, we were being pushed to fit into stackable boxes, despite being born as bubbles.
Like accessories on their list of life achievements, I felt as an extension of who my parents’ were as individuals, and in mouthfuls I was fed the lesson of not being too different, just being a better version of everyone else. The fear of public ridicule so vividly pointed out that it seemed everything I did was a pretext to the ultimate question: what will people say?
This mentality of conformity was evident in everything growing up, not only on how we are expected to look and act, but also on how we manage our own life, around expectations and norms. It was so common, so normal, so expected, many actions we do, cultural or otherwise, that nobody paused to ask, why?
Why the turmoil, the inefficiency, the waste of time and space, and mental effort? How we dress, how our furniture is organized, what we eat and so forth. It is expected and so it is. Which begs the question, if everyone is doing what everyone is expecting, then who is really living? The overindulgence of materialism comes to mind, many of that we own is not utilized. Just things around the house to give us a false sense of security, or maybe even importance. Lest we forget, one discovers their need of things in their absence, not their presence.
It took a few times for me to actually hear the words I was telling my son, “people will laugh at you”, that I started questioning what is it that I am really teaching him? A few years ago when my eldest wanted to wear her winter boots in the scorching hot summer we were screaming at the top of our lungs me and her, she begging, me forbidding. It was because of how ridiculous she looked and how that would make me feel. I mean honestly, is my self worth so weak that walking with a gleaming child’s face wearing boots in the summer going to scratch it? Must I, in the fear of how it may make me look, take away from my daughter’s exploration or creativity?
I realized the other day at an exhilarating social gathering that there were 3 ladies who walked in carrying the same purse. Of course, it wasn’t until they left and each held the other’s purse and exchanged them that I noticed they were all the same. I am pretty sure they are fashionable, and do reflect a sense of class or wealth the owner is trying to attain or reflect, and I am not going to even go into how the whole consumerist fashion industry is built on the notion of feeding on consumers’ self-esteem and inadequacy, but you cannot stand out by fitting it. You cannot be different by being the same.
I join in when my son makes sounds to express his awkwardness when meeting strangers. I really hope he continues to make everyone around him uncomfortable, cause if anything, we need more weirdoes around us. They are the ones that drive change.