Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is all about being an outsider. This one’s such an omnipresent theme in my life (and probably in everyone’s in some respects), it’s harder to pinpoint parts where I’m not an outsider. You know how every family has that one strange relative? The one you always shake your head at and tell stories about during holiday dinners? Yeah, that’s me. I’m the weird one. On both sides. On one side, I’m the second oldest in my generation, and the only one with a university degree and who reads, writes, and studies regularly. On the other, I’m one of the older, quieter kids with an apparently rebellious, anti-religious streak. Never mind all that fancy know-how about science and the arts; why don’t I do all the stuff normal guys do? Family gatherings and birthday parties are ripe for awkward questions and confused stares. Conversations typically include gems like:
- Sooo…do you have a girlfriend? Boyfriend? Any romance whatsoever? No?…Oh.
- Uh, are you gay? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
- When are you going to get married and have kids?
- You still go to church…right?
- Did you see what so-and-so posted on Facebook?!
- Ugh, you still have that long hair? I’m gonna cut it while you sleep!
- Whatcha reading? …Oh, never heard of that. I loved Twilight, though!
- Still doing that writing thing, eh?
- See any good movies lately?…Who the Hell is Hayao Miyazaki?
- Traveling again, huh? I…um, went to Las Vegas recently.
- You still play video games?
- You don’t watch football?! Uh, what sports do you watch?
- Whatcha doing here in this room all by yourself? It’s too quiet! Don’t you want to chat with everyone?
- What do you mean, you don’t drink alcohol?!
- Hey, I can’t figure out this puzzle! Let’s see YOU do it!…showoff...
- Oh…hi, cousin! Didn’t know you were here! I’ll be, uh, over there with everyone else. Bye!
Yeah, it’s so much fun being the weird one.
I think it has a lot to do with the way us kids are grouped together. Both sides of my family have always had their own little cliques based on siblings, proximity, age, and petty drama. I’m older than most of them, and I live pretty far away. I’m also the lone one raised as an only child, which means I didn’t get the benefits of sibling interaction or anything like that. Many of them attended the same schools and made the same friends – they’ve literally had the identical groomsmen and bridesmaids for their weddings – so they’ve already had years to build strong foundations. As for me, I’m the quiet loner from out of town that shows up maybe once or twice a year. Since I’m the clever and artsy one, I’m apparently too strange for normal interaction. At least some of the kids think I’m cool.
It’s not limited to just family, either. There are people at church who won’t even look me in the eye. I’ve been nearly excommunicated a couple of times. I could regale you with dozens of stories about being the “strange” one at the office. Apparently, bringing my homemade lunch is absurd when I can spend dozens of dollars per week on local fast food. And that there’s something inherently wrong with not owning a smart phone and checking its messages every free second. And that not going out for drinks on Friday nights is a sign of mental instability. Someone incredulously asked what planet I was from. It was very surreal being the only one on the staff who bothered to read books, news, and anything at all. I once had to explain to a college-aged worker that yes, Germany is, in fact, a country.
No, seriously. That conversation happened.
I wish I was exaggerating. I really do. Maybe I really am just too weird for people to accept. I know that I’m part of the problem, too. I’m shy and introverted, so it’s not like I’m going out of my way to talk to people. I should probably cultivate more mainstream interests. It’s just that I’m so much more used to doing and experiencing things alone. It’s not about superiority or anything like that. I just have different interests. And I usually enjoy being the mysterious loner…until the awkwardness sets in. I guess I should keep looking. Maybe I just haven’t found the right place yet.