I have finally resigned myself, after many years, to a certain aspect of my character. I come from a time when name calling was taken for granted, and can finally accept the fact that I’m a weirdo. I was thinking about this today because it’s my birthday. I’m not going to put any numbers down since I write young adult fiction and don’t want to lose my street cred as a really hip person. Too late, you say? No one says hip anymore? Oh, well.
Four days ago I was flying to San Diego with my daughter Michelle when I had the Weirdo revelation. I was about to board the plane when the steward asked if I was okay sitting in an exit row. I barely stopped myself from answering with this bare faced lie: ‘I’m a paramedic and can handle any situation.’ Why would I do this? Because I wanted to make myself sound better than I am. I’m short, too talkative and can come off as scatterbrained. While it’s true that I am occasionally bewildered by life, in an emergency I’m extremely cool headed. But no one who looks at me ever seems to believe this.
Michelle and I were among the first people to board. Since I knew we weren’t taking off for a while, and I hate sitting, I decided to just stand in front of my seat. I begged the pardon of the woman on my left, but tapped the young man to my right on the shoulder. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ I immediately said. ‘I touched you without asking. But it’s okay. I’m a mother.’ He gave me a look that was impossible to read. We never said a word to each other after that, but it’s when I realized that the aforementioned label fit. It’s true that I love talking to strangers, and also true that it bugs my kids. They feel its unsafe, while I feel like it’s my job to connect with all kindred spirits all around me.
I guess I’ve always been a bit weird. I was described this way by others as a kid, but almost everyone had some kind of unpleasant handle back then, and mine wasn’t such a bad one. The more I think about it, the more I realize how true it is. I talk to myself a lot, and when my husband was alive, he’d pop his head in the room and I’d have to give him a look. ‘Oh,’ he’d say when he realized what I was doing. ‘Carry on.’
When something exciting happens on TV, I will address the actors. When I’m writing and one of my characters takes me by surprise, I’ll actually shout aloud. ‘You weren’t supposed to kiss her yet!’ Or, ‘You killed him! I can’t believe it!’ (As if I’m some stranger reading the words instead of the actual author.) As I walk around my home, I will have little arguments with myself. ‘Should I go for a walk?’ (I ask this out loud.) ‘Should I vacuum?’ This is why people have pets…so they can pretend there is someone actually listening to them. I don’t care how it looks, either. Maybe its the writer in me, but I have a vast interior life that is quite entertaining to me, and I don’t mind addressing that life out loud.
I also talk at a pretty good volume to my dead husband, which is okay since I’ve been told almost everyone does it. I just hope he can hear me. Lately, I’ve been telling him how right he was about practically everything. It’s sad that someone has to die to win the argument, but its true. You won, honey. I hope you know it and get a fist bump from someone up there with you.
Anyway, the older I get, the more comfortable I am just being myself. I don’t care what strangers think of me (obviously) and my friends and family formed their opinions years ago, and likely won’t be changing them. If this is the title I carry with me until the day I die, I’m okay with it. So happy birthday, weirdo. It’s going to be a great one. (Self pep talk–also out loud!)