Keep Carrie Weird

One of the things I've been discussing with TNT lately is my self-schemas: basically those meta-terms in which I think of myself. For instance: nerdy, weird, writer, curious.

In middle and high school, I described myself as a nerd in a pretty negative sense. I liked the fact that I was smart and I didn't try to hide it, but my hard-core geekery made me a little uneasy. It wasn't cool to like science or reading, to attend random lectures or the planetarium. So I kept these likes and hobbies to myself. I wanted to like that I was nerdy, but I just wasn't there yet. Fast forward several years through college and two stints of grad school, and I can say that I've fully embraced my nerdy side. I love learning, I love esoterica, and I love science. I've turned the 13-year-old Carrie's negative view of the word "nerdy" and turned it into one of my almost-30-year-old self's favorite adjectives.

That isn't really the self-schema I've been talking with TNT about. The self-schema I really struggle with is this one: weird. I feel inexplicably, unalterably weird and different. Freakish. I conceal this under a thin veneer of decent hair days and minimal knowledge of pop culture. I always felt different than the other kids. It didn't help that I was teased a fair bit and began fearing every little difference that might possibly be made fun of (my voluminous reading habits, for instance, or the fact that I listened to totally different music, or the clothes I wore, or whatever). Psychologically and socially, too, I felt like I operated on a totally different plane. I was always more shy and inhibited, and I always felt far more comfortable around my teachers than the other kids in my class. I didn't connect that easily. Looking around, I saw the other kids in my class making friends and chatting and having fun and figured the problem was me.

Ultimately, I became rather scared of and uneasy with the rather unique parts of my personality. So I pulled back. I stopped sharing. I marinated in my perceived freakishness, which was only amplified by said endless marination. No one understood me. It was hopeless. I should grow up and be a hermit. Melodramatic statements like that really didn't help the situation. And so all of those really unusual things about myself became liabilities instead of assets.

The eating disorder was both evidence for this freakishness (I can't eat, this grain of rice will make me gain weight but not you) and an antidote to it (I bitched about my thighs with the rest of Young Female America). It was almost a culturally-acceptable way to be a little weird. Now that I'm in recovery, of course, I realize that a) an eating disorder is an illness and b) there are lots of other ways to express my uniqueness that won't kill me.

Still, I have a general negative connotation with the word "weird," and I still use it to describe myself. I read books about smallpox while listening to Celtic rock bands featuring lads in black leather kilts while enjoying my new aromatherapy candles. It's a pretty unusual combination. But the point of my discussions with TNT weren't to accept the fact that I'm probably not as weird as I think I am (though that's also true), but to embrace my weirdness.

There's a campaign in Austin, Texas called "Keep Austin Weird," which aims to keep the unique, individually-owned stores in downtown in business by keeping larger chain stores out. The idea is that the weird is a good thing for Austin, and it's something worth keeping and treasuring. So I've kind of co-opted that phrase and started my own campaign to "Keep Carrie Weird." The weird isn't going anywhere, so I may as well make the best of it, right?

I learned to embrace my nerdy side, so I figure I can learn to embrace (or at least accept) my weird side, too. It's like they always say: if you've got it, flaunt it.


Angela E. Gambrel Lackey said...

We love the nerdy side of you!!!


Cathy (UK) said...

Hallelujah! Celebrate the Nerd/Geek in us; I now do!

Of all the posts you have ever written, I maybe identify best with this one. My overwhelming fear that I was 'abnormal' (because I was a geeky kid) played a HUGE role in the development of my AN, with the latter serving as a means of hiding from a world in which I felt I didn't fit. Being bullied (by other kids) for my geekiness (alongside my red hair) exacerbated my negative sense of self, and the fact that I was not-so-good at reading people's minds and their intentions due to my Asperger characteristics made me very vulnerable to abuse.

Unlike you I didn't try to fit in by "bitching about my thighs". I didn't think I was fat, so why 'jump on the bandwagon' and lapse into girly talk about diets, fatness, make-up etc. I actually spent my teen years breeding guinea pigs, making progress charts of their growth, building runs for them so that they could play happily outside etc. I studied hard, not because I wanted to be 'the best', but because I enjoyed studying esoteric stuff. On Saturday night I didn't go out on the town; I cleaned my bike.

All along I knew people thought I was 'weird', so like you I had a negative self-schema.

Accepting myself for who/what I am has been a really big part of my recovery. I have some fabulous friends who have told me they love my quirks. They laugh with me and not at me. I attend scientific debates at the local universities, and through that I have met equally geeky people.

Embrace yourself for everything you are. I totally agree with Angela (above).

Katie said...

I am weird too. I have everything from Gregorian chants to rock to country in my CD rack, hippy skirts alongside jeans in my wardrobe, the entire DVD collection of the X Files sitting on my bookcase, and my telescope in the lounge. I am currently studying both physics and counselling skills. I am about as socially refined as an overenthusiastic labrador puppy.

Weird people unite! If everyone was the same, the world would be very boring. Great stuff :)

Special K said...

Nerdy is just another way of labeling "uniqueness" When we don't fit in the box, we're umcomfortable because we fear that makes us unworthy of love. When we are in the box, we're uncomfortable, because it makes us fear that we're unworthy of love.
That last line is a great ending to a writing piece, but it rings hollow for me. It is not about my body, the less than size 0, it is about feeling OKAY to FLAUNT it, and not be rejected by my audacity of desire and hunger.

James Clayton said...

Ace stuff!

In all these years of feeling alienated and like a freakish outsider, I've realised that what made me happy with myself was my passions and idiosyncratic eye. I love the fact that I'm a geeky nerd - I've always hated myself but got comfort from my oddness in a strange way. I'm still lost as to who I really am, but I know that part of who I am is the weirdness.

What is weird anyway? I know that I was weird because I wasn't mucho macho keeping up with the other boys (testosterone deficiency), liked obscure films and music and cared about current affairs and history more than getting wasted. The self-loathing came when I wasn't allowing myself to enjoy being myself and allowing myself to have fun.

The geek streak is what gives me enthusiasm and energy and makes it beautiful to be alive. I agree with everyone else - be proud of your personality and idiosyncracies. Your weirdness or oddness is what makes you uniquely you.

Keep on being weird... ;)

Maddi said...

there is a girl in my class who sounds exactly like you, minus the ED. And I believe she will go far in life, just like you! :) Weird is good, I have always thought that. :)

Anonymous said...

That is such a cool idea--staying weird, staying unique, staying awesome, just saying you!
I love it :)

lostgirl said...

I think we all have in inner weirdness. I was what the world thought was a pretty girl. I was thin, had long blonde hair and the right clothes. No one ever made fun of me. But I still felt so weird and so different. I was a smart girl too, and was always proud of that. I loved science and books and theater and symphonies. I hated pep rallies because they went against my feminist ideals (why are girls cheering for the boys but never vice versa!?!) I still loved alt rock and pop culture, but I always, always felt so different and weird. Even now, as a mother I feel so different from other moms. I'm the weird mom. The mom who doesn't want to be the PTA mom listening to Barney songs in the car. But that's okay. I like being weird me. And I'm glad you are embracing your weird too. I think we all have an inner weird girl (ever see the Sex and the City episode about how everyone had an inner freak?) It's all good!

Katie said...

There's nothing wrong with being a little funky. ;D It keeps things interesting.
I guess mentioning Austin got a longtime-lurker out into the light a little. I live about forty minutes away from Austin and it's one of my favorite places to go. What's funny is, the town I live in as well as some other towns near Austin have some really snobby people. And some real bad drivers, too. XD

Sarah said...

Hey, one of the best books I read in the last year was Ghost Map, about the cholera epidemic in London in the 1850s. Check it out if you've never read it! I'm weird too but I no longer care if people think I'm a bit odd. I admit to an inordinate love for oatmeal, Harry Potter, historical novels about epidemics, and all sorts of things.

Lostgirl, I'm the weird mom too! I hate Barney and my kid brought bell peppers to preschool for snack. :-(

Abigail Gonzalez said...

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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