Sunday 28 March 2021

Nerd Church - Outside of The Norm

(Warning: this post references Covid 19/Coronavirus, and Depression/Anxiety)

'Outside of the Norm' written in funky writing on a multi-coloured tile-patterned background

"How old are you then?" the adult asks; she's jolly, I do not appreciate forced jolliness. It's inauthentic.

"Six," I say... only it comes out 'thickth' because I've lost some of my baby teeth, and I have a decent gap between my front teeth anyway.

"Thickth," the adult responds, laughing.

I really do not approve of this mocking.

"What's your favourite pop band?" she asks.

I look entirely blank, I'm sure.

"Spice Girls? Steps? Boyzone?"

I do not know how to answer this question. I'm not supposed to be rude, and adults find lots of things rude which I do not.

I feel like if I tell her that those bands sing about themes which are highly inappropriate (a word and phrasing that, yes, I would have used at age 6,) for a child of my age, she will feel judged. I know she has a child of my age.

Adults who feel judged call you rude. I have learnt this. I do not want to be rude, rude is bad.

But if I tell her that pop music is silly nonsense, with no depth (6 year old me was very snobbish, tbh,) and no meaning to the lyrics, let alone the composition, she'll probably still call me rude.

And I can't lie and tell her I like those bands, because I don't (although a few years later I did get into Steps.)

I can't lie and tell her another band - because I actually don't know any other names of pop bands... all I know is that nobody in them wrote Fรผr Elise, or Moonlight Sonata, or Swan Lake, or Chopin's Nocturnes.

And besides that, I'm not supposed to lie - lying is bad. 

Lying is naughty. And I am not naughty.

I'm 6 and I'm me and I'm not naughty except when I fight with my brother or throw a full-on tantrum (which... I do eventually grow out of, for the record.)

I think I went somewhat deer-in-the-headlights (possibly complete with teary eyes, I was always good at that,) because my dad rescued me and explained I preferred Beethoven to Boyzone, in general.

And the woman got that look on her face - the look I'd get used to, over the years. 

It's a look that people give you when you step outside The Norm™.

It's a look that makes me want to curl up and hide, and it's a look that I still get, even today.

It's hard to explain it to someone who isn't on the receiving end of it on a regular basis -

but it's kind of what happens when you mix 'WTF?', 'I literally can't even', a tiny edge of amusement (if you're lucky,) some 'snooty little so-and-so thinks she's better than me' and a butt-tonne of 'dear Lord, kill it with fire!'

It's strangely specific, and I get it a lot.

dividing line

I am 14 years old, and facing down that look.

Apparently "so I was in the graveyard and..." is not a regular sentence starter (honestly, who knew?) even amongst our admittedly slightly odd friend group.

N has a version of the look which doesn't blink, and I trail off.

She lets me know, at length, how weird that was, how ghoulish, how freaky, and then she changes the subject.

(She was not a good friend - as I mentioned in-depth here and here)

dividing line

I am 17, maybe 18, years old, and the headteacher is giving me that look.

Only this time, it's actually hilarious - I think I may've made him doubt reality for a minute there. ๐Ÿ˜…

We are at a volunteering programme in the school canteen where we run a lunch club for elderly people.

The headteacher has dropped in because someone from the local press is here to do a puff piece... at least, I think that's what it was. I wasn't really paying attention. 

We haven't seen the headteacher all year - maybe longer. He is not an active member of the school staff. He is an active glory hog.

The meals are served, the tea is made, all the cleaning is done. We are biding time until it's time to bus the tables.

The Bestie is politely nodding as the headteacher rambles. He is talking utter b*llsh**, so I am understandably not even slightly interested.

As usual, I'm wearing high-heels. Because I'm short, and the heels mean I don't get mistaken for a 12-year-old... or, not as much, anyway.

Now, the great thing about high-heels and polished floors is that if you lean backwards and put your weight on the heels, you can get an awesome spin-motion going.

(If you try that at home, please be careful, the risk of falling over is real.)

So I find myself a nice clear patch of floor next to The Bestie and the headteacher, and without giving it much thought at all, I start to spin on my heels.

At the end of every spin there is a little 'clop' noise as my feet hit the floor.

After a while, I notice that the head is talking to The Bestie, but glancing over at me roughly every 2 seconds, shooting me that 'outside of The Norm™, what do?' look, and then looking away.

The Bestie, utter legend that she is, carries on speaking as if I'm not doing anything even slightly unusual.

The teacher who supervises the lunch club isn't bothered either - she got all of her bemusement out within the first month or so of me volunteering, and now just ignores me.

Ditto, the elderly people don't give a sh** - actually, they never have. A lot of elderly people are pretty cool, really.

So the headteacher is the only person who seems to notice anything weird going on - 

and the expression on his face as he sees the utter lack of reaction from this room of 20+ people is totally worth it!

...he never did confront me on it, come to think of it. ๐Ÿ˜…

dividing line

I am in my late 20s, and there is a global pandemic. Nothing about this situation is normal.

I'm on a zoom call with my knitting club in Lockdown when everything suddenly goes quiet - awkward silence to the max.

I look up from what I'm working on, and people are giving me that look. 

(Not The Bestie, of course, she just carries on merrily with her knitting - utter legend.)

"Sorry," I mumble automatically, while my brain anxiously pages through what I've just said, looking for The Weird.

The Bestie asks someone a question about knitting technique, and breaks the spell, as the others answer her and stop staring at me (told ya - legend.)

Even with my overthinking on overdrive (courtesy of Depression/Anxiety) ...I honestly can't figure out what I said that was weird, or unusual, or just somehow not normal.

As far as I'm concerned, I was making boring-a** small-talk - nothing like when me and The Bestie were arguing over which names are better for cows and which for sheep, which earned us both a similar look.

(...Did I mention she's a legend?)

Nope, I was being entirely normal. ...At least, I think I was. As far as I could tell, I was being normal and about as social as I get.

And did I mention we were knitting on a video link in the middle of a pandemic? Nothing could possibly have made that weirder.

And still I got that look, and the awkward silence.

It hurt less than it used to, and more than I'd like it to.

I know that I'm never going to fit neatly into anyone's boxes or fixed ideas. But it stings to be confronted with that, sometimes.

It's hard to be OK with being myself when everyone stares at me, y'know?

Still, I've done the 'pretend you are/try to be 100% conforming to society's expectations' thing. 

And I think I'll take a little sting every now and then over the agony of trying to fit yourself into society's mold.* 

That sh** hurts.

*Note to self: remember that. You have a tendency of forgetting it. Repeatedly ๐Ÿ˜…

Cos dulling your shine, dearest nerdlets? It's never worth it.

Burn bright.

Are you familiar with the look I'm talking about?

Or is there another expression that people make that makes you feel like the odd one out?

Or do you never feel like the odd one out?

Talk to me! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ’ฌ

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Previous Nerd Church Posts:

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  1. I loved this post, Cee! I feel like my sister and I usually operate outside of the norm. Now especially in this pandemic, we find weirdness in everything. I have a Baby Yoda plush that we let watch tv with us and my mother thinks we are so bizarre. But, it's how we find joy amidst all of the weirdness that is this pandemic! And there's nothing wrong with that.

    1. ...I don't find the Baby Yoda thing weird, and I'm not sure whether it's cos it's *not* weird, or whether it's cos I *am* weird.

      Either way, sounds cute! XD

      I always tell my parents that there was no way I could possibly be normal with them around, anyway - living with them is kind of like having toddlers, only they're in their 60s! <3

  2. Another reason to not stand on just the heel part of shoes: I once actually broke a heel by leaning on it lol.

    I love the headteacher story. But I'm sorry you have to deal with this *look* from people.

    1. Ha, luckily that's never happened to me! (fingers crossed!) I did once kick one of my shoes through the gap in the stairs, and have to hop down on one foot to go get it.

      Thanks - it's one of my better memories of that look because it was followed with such utter confusion when no-one else gave a sh**!

      Yeah... like I said, it's a weirdly specific look. And you'd think that it wouldn't be repeated but... apparently people naturally know how to pull this face when I do something weird *shrugs* <3

  3. This one could be a short story in an anthology, it's so well written. At least you would feel vindicated for the look!


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