One of my great long-distance driving Stay-Awake tools is singing along to Robbie Williams. At top volume. I can’t sing for toffee, as Keeley so graciously confirmed once. I was happily squawking along to some swing tune or other, aiming for the high notes and missing by quite a long way, trying to do the harmonies – which, to be fair, I am quite good at for some obscure reason – but getting it wrong half the time, and, not wanting Keeley to miss out on all this fun, particularly as she’s the family musician, I enthusiastically urged her to join in; I was having so much fun, I was sure she would, too.
“No, it’s fine, thank you,” she says. I implored her to chill out, join in and enjoy herself a little. I know she can sing, why doesn’t she participate in the family singalong? It’ll be fun! “Because,” she says, “it’s really annoying when you hear people try to hit the right notes but then end up singing off key.”
Right. Bemused a little by the criticism inherent in that sentence, I finally consoled myself by singing for a while. Off key, of course.
A little later, one of Kira’s favourite Robbie songs, Go Gentle, a song Robbie wrote for his daughter, came on and as the two of us belted out the second verse (probably to Keeley’s chagrin) - “Don't waste time with the eejits that think that they're heroes, They will betray you, stick with us weirdos…” - Kira paused in her operatic efforts, “We’re weirdo’s, you know, mum.” Sorry? Are we? I didn’t expect this turn of events. Why are we weirdos? In what way?
“Well, we are,” she continued, “None of my friends have families like ours. They don’t have relationships with their parents like we do, they don’t behave the way we all do, they don’t have the conversations with their parents about behaviour that we do, their parents don’t expect them to behave in the way that you expect us to behave. And the worst of it is, you expect everyone who comes to the house to behave in the same way that we do, so a lot of people [her school mates] don’t like coming round to our place because you won’t stand for any of the usual teenage behaviour.” Well, no, but isn’t that normal? I thought that was normal? I felt this need to defend my position; I’m sure I’m not weird. Or, at least, not so weird that anyone would notice. I wanted her to clarify, so I asked, “Why would anyone want to put up with tantrums and rudeness just because that person is a “hormonal teenager”? It’s not acceptable.”
“See?” Kira said, “That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Most parents believe that that’s how teenagers are meant to behave so they put up with it. You don’t accept it from anyone, even if it’s the first time you’ve met them. Do you have any idea how weird we are as a family as a result of that?” Erm, no. I was sure that she was going to tell me, though, and this was really interesting; the main reason I don’t tolerate the usual teenage crap is because, in my opinion, it’s just an excuse for appalling (and very immature) behaviour and, from my part, it’s hard work to deal with. It would be interesting to find out what the impact is on the kids with their friends and social network.
“In general, we don’t like being around kids our own age because they want to moan and bitch about how awful their parents are. We can’t relate to it. We know that we’re free to do whatever we want to do as long as we try our hardest; you’re never going to tell us that we need to do a particular thing with our lives in order to be successful or whatever. None of this is normal, Mum, we’re a bunch of weirdos.” Kira concluded.
I have to say, I was a little bit bewildered for the second time in a few minutes. First Keeley declares that she never joins in with the singalong because we all sing off key and it pains her musically sensitive ears, then Kira tells me that we’re a bunch of weirdos. I decide to do a little familial surveying, “What do you think, Keeley? Are we weirdos?” “Yes!” she snorted and rolled her eyes in a ‘duh!’ kind of way. I called Ryan and explained the conversation to him, “Ryan, are we weirdos?” Ryan was a little more diplomatic than Keeley but after several minutes of building up to the point, he finished with “Well, we’re not your normal family so if I was to be particularly blunt, I would have to say that yes, we’re weirdos.” I spoke to Jamie who was a little affronted by the fact that Kira thought we were weirdos, but it took only a couple of minutes for him to reassess everything before happily concluding, “Actually, you know what? I think she’s right: we’re a bunch of weirdos! That would explain a lot!”
I bumped into my friend and former mentor, Kat, yesterday and I remembered how she used to laugh at me for trying to fit in and comparing myself to everyone else. “But you’re not like everyone else, Karen; you’re not normal! Let’s face it, you’d be bored out of your brain if you tried to be ‘normal’!” Bored and depressed, I responded… oh, wait, that’s right, I tried to be ‘normal’ for a few years and ended up on anti-depressants. It was the saddest and darkest few years of my life. There was a lot of other things going on, for sure, but trying to fit in, trying to be ‘normal’ didn’t help at all.
I did the Hogwarts Sorting Hat quiz a few years ago (of course I did) and ended up in Slytherin. The reason being? My greatest fear is to be ordinary. Well, actually, there were a number of other things, too, but I suspect that was one of the main ones. I’ve tried to sorting ceremony under three different names now and I ALWAYS get sorted into Slytherin.
I’ve come to the conclusion – and yes, it’s taken a very long time for me to get it – that I’m not normal. I’m not ordinary and I don’t fit in. AND – get this, this is the real clincher – I don’t want to. I don’t want to be ordinary, I don’t want to be normal and I don’t want to fit in. It makes me really unhappy when I try because I spent my time constantly comparing myself to everyone else and invariably, other people are doing way better than me, possibly because that’s what they’re meant to be doing. I’m not. It’s amazing (and very comforting) how many people stick their hands up and say, “Me too!” when I talk about things like this. I’m much, much happier being a weirdo and labelling myself as one, not least because it means that people don’t expect me to do the things that ‘normal’ people do; there’s such a lot of freedom in pronouncing myself to be a weirdo. All that weight of having to conform and having to fit in and behave in a certain way, got released.
Like Robbie said, “Don't waste time with the eejits that think that they're heroes, They will betray you, stick with us weirdos…”
Share this story...
Hi! I’m Karen O’Connor, hormonally-challenged, menopausal writer, blogger, self-confessed sarcasm enthusiast, mother of 4, wife of 30 years, destroyer of souls... no, wait, that's just in the mornings...