Stay Weird, Kids

Harry Potter 7 release party in 2007.

The youth section in your library is likely the most wholesome place in your community. Forget holier-than-thou churches, critical farmers’ markets or judgmental gyms. Kids and teens in their section of the library prance around with unbridled passion for their favorite fairytales, off-beat heroes, dystopian universes, talking cats, and mystical mages. Library kids aren’t embarrassed to love stories about vampiric bunnies or Japanese comic books. Why should they feel shame about liking these harmless pastimes?

Normal is relative. If you’re my genre of human, watching artsy movies on purpose, making stories in my head, scheming grand adventures, reading kids-books for pleasure, having existential crises in good company, drinking copious amounts of craft beer, playing outside, chatting to cute ladies at bars, these all constitute normal. The guy next to me at the coffee shop? His normal might be living with moderate to heavy anxiety, drinking tea with milk in it, loving opera, hiking in the woods on the weekend, and writing limericks to his husband, who is away on business. We both probably like Netflix and obviously we’re both fans of local coffee. To the rest of the world, though, do we fall into that not-normal category? Who’s to say?

My personal experience as a weirdo-who-fits-in has been pretty consistent when interacting with people who might once have been The Popular Kid. Typical, normal, It-Girl, would be other qualifiers. Often, after I express a deep love for Harry Potter, engage in a serious conversation about the state of the art market or the impact of rock-salt on specters, you’ll hear that person say in a sing-song voice, “Leann, you’re so funny!” or equally insincerely, “ohmygod I love you” followed by a tempered laugh. They tolerate me because I’m funny enough to keep around, confident enough not to take their shit, and just barely creative enough that I might accidentally qualify as cool. It’s a very blurry line, you see.

Real life LARPers from LA.

There are plenty of people out there weirder than me. Live-action-role-players, crystal wearers, vegans, you know the type. We all have humans we think are just a little too weird. Different is fine, but only within a certain margin of error. Survival instincts: if that one is really different, they’re a threat. I learned how to mold my weird into the more acceptable, “creative,” early on, and I’m glad. How else does one survive high school? As long as you aren’t the weirdest kid in the room, you’re probably going to survive. Weirdos who manage to temper and mold their weird, their nerd, their abnormal, just enough, become innovative, creative, successful adults

If this is the case – and it is, Google it – why do adults shame children for liking weird books, movies, genres, games, pastimes? We all want kids to adjust and succeed, but does being passionate about something that might not fit our personal definition of normal really put that success in jeopardy?  If you think Superman comics are okay, then why not Manga? Most people have a certain degree of weird in them, thank goodness. What I can’t figure out is what makes someone too weird. Where is the line? If you’re pretty and have a good job, are you then allowed to unabashedly like vampire fiction? As long as you’re really smart can you then also really care about Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, at 30?

It’s not as if I’ll be walking up to the next LARPing session I see on the Oval to make a bunch of new friends. (Though, to be honest, they’re living all of our medieval fantasies so shame on me for not being brave enough.) Frankly, a lot of people with really incredible passions about things I don’t care about (math, business, designer clothes) scare and bore me in equal measure. I’m human. People who have drastically different interests and are real excited about it, we’re probably not meant to be bosom buddies. While I can’t fathom caring about how the dow-jones is doing today, or how much money someone spent on their shoes, I applaud anyone with a passion. Maybe it’s craft beer, maybe it’s dragons, whatever your passion, stay weird, kids.


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