One of my favorite pre-children pastimes was attending midnight premiere movie showings and feigning obsessive interest. I AM VERY GOOD AT BEING EXCITED, even if I’m not sure why I’m excited. Mainly, I love move premieres because I get jazzed seeing people fully embrace things they love. Screaming at the sight of the full moon at the beginning of Twilight: New Moon, stretching out my hand to 3-D Justin Bieber, spending hours perfecting my Katniss braid—all things done in the name of hysteria participation. In a shrieking crowd united over one weird thing or another, I am a happy camper. In fact, this sums up a lot about me: Around shrieking, I am a happy camper, and around camping, I am unhappily shrieking.
So yeah, I’m an advocate of the indoors, of being excitable, and of weirdness. The first is a character flaw, and I’m working on it (no I’m not), but the latter two are pretty life-giving. Especially weirdness—the best things are always a little weird, and really, when people appear too “normal,” it’s probably a sign that they have a giant jar of toenail clippings in their closet.
But though I am only mildly troubled by toenail clipping collections (I mean, we’d all probably watch that TLC show, right?), I am tremendously troubled by this uglier-than-toenail-clippings thing I’ve been noticing. It’s been happening as long as I can remember, and I’ve been involved more often than I’d like to admit. The ugly thing bothers me because now I’m a parenting some people, and I want to raise my people to be the little weirdos God created them to be. But they’re growing up in a world, as did I, that loves to do this ugly thing: stomp on weirdos.
Sometimes I forget about my love for weirdos and premiere-goers. Sometimes I'm the stomper. About a month ago, my husband and I were in Madewell. It’s a super cool store full of chill, fashionable clothes and the people that belong in them, and I was basically just trying to keep my voice down, so as not to taint the coolness and beauty of the place. Luke was not—in fact, he was playing PokemonGo. POKEMON IN MADEWELL! This is such a violation of the Madewell cool girl vibe, and I just cannot emphasize this enough. “You cannot catch Pokemon in Madewell, Luke! This is MADEWELL,” I hissed, like a thirteen year old who can’t believe her dad is wearing cargo shorts. (“Don’t write that,” says Luke. “People will think I wear cargo shorts.”)
Luke’s response to my thirteen-year-old girl hissing: “I got one!” (A Pokemon. Ugh.)
One thing to know about Luke is that he has a big voice. Another thing to know about Luke is that he doesn’t know that he has a big voice. Luke was basically yelling about Pokemon in Madewell, and though this was a welcome break from his "I hope this is made well," joke, the midi skirts were still coiling in disgust.
First I contemplated hiding behind the cognac leather bucket bags, and then I decided too be mature and accept my reality, like, “Ugh, in sickness and in health, y’all. Guess I’m stuck with this loser forever.” But later I read something Sarah Bessey wrote about Pokemon and Pokemon haters, and it reminded me: Weirdo-stomping is not a good fit for the person I want to be. She said, “Feeling superior to other people is tempting, I know; it's even more tempting than being angry. It's fun to think we're better because of the games we play, the books we read, the songs we sing, the music we listen to, the doctrines we believe, whatever. I've learned by now to be a little wary of my own sense of superiority. I see it in myself and it's always gross. Snobbery is never a good address. Because we all have weird stuff we enjoy and we should let people love what they love.”
Yep. I got called out. I loved it. Because getting on to your husband for doing something weird seems like a silly issue on the surface, but it’s not really that silly. It means on some level I cared more about the way we looked to strangers than him doing his fun thing. I let the presence of a few flannel shirts and jumpsuits and ankle boots turn me into a big fat fun squasher, and I DO NOT WANT TO BE A FUN SQUASHER. I’ve got to let Luke be Luke, to love what he loves, do his little weird things, even if it’s wearing camo crocs here and there (NO NO NO I TAKE IT BACK I CANNOT DO THIS PRAY FOR ME). But camo crocs notwithstanding, we’ve got to let people love what they love. We’ve got to be brave enough to be weird ourselves, but we’ve got to be kind and patient enough to let other people do the same thing, even when we don't understand their brand of weird.
Do I understand Star Wars? Not really. Space stuff of any kind is not really my cup of tea (although I have taken several of my best naps in planetariums), unless we are talking space ice cream (Dippin’ Dots), in which case I will take several cups, thank you. But I officially support your Star Wars t-shirt/DVD/figurine/whatever collection (can you tell I have no idea what I’m talking about?), and you should definitely rock Leia or Rey or wookiee hair, even if t's not Halloween, even if you go into Madewell, and really we should all work the word “wookiee” into our vocabulary a bit more because it makes our ears happy. Does my husband understand my need to give everything we own a name? Ms. Nancy Bobo the blender and Peter the pan and Ida the iPhone and what not? No, this gets on his nerves. Especially when it's hard for me to get rid of my old iPod Nano because her name is Nanette, and what if Nanette develops abandonment issues? And yeah, maybe I have spent a significant portion of both my childhood and adult life trying to figure out how to make my room look like the inside of the bottle on I Dream of Jeannie. IS THAT A CRIME? No it is not, and if anyone feels called to find me some round purple pillows and renovate my house so that the rooms are circular, that would be great.
So, look, you little weirdos, live long and prosper and catch those Pokemon and maybe even some toenail clippings. Be weird in Madewell, be weird at your house, be weird wherever you go, and do not fear stomping from me. I've given it up.
In conclusion, please picture me rolling down my van window in future car line and yelling, "Be yourself!" and then picture how much this will mortify my children. The end.