When I was in junior high, I used be called "weird" a lot by the other kids in school -- usually at least once a day. No matter how hard I tried to be just like everyone else, whatever came out of my mouth was never quite right to have me fit in. I used SAT words in normal conversation. I made strange observations. I had a passion for learning and was highly ambitious about getting good grades, competing in speech and debate and preparing to apply to the best colleges. All this despite the fact that I had virtually no pressure from my parents to succeed academically. I guess I was kind of like Lisa on the The Simpsons. My whole family was different. Sometimes I imagined that we were The Munsters of The Addams Family. I remember one of my brothers exclaiming in frustration, "It's our family that makes us weird!" At home, we could draw on the walls of our rooms if we felt like it. We could wear whatever we wanted. We were never grounded. One summer we took off from school and drove across country in our VW van; my parents and their brood of little elvin half-breeds. My mother was an artist who encouraged us to be free of convention and rules. The problem was that we were so free of these things that we couldn't even figure out how to fake it and pretend to be "normal." And of course, being weird was the most uncool thing to be in school.
Now, everyone tries so hard to be weird it makes me laugh. It seems like everyone and their brother is tattooed, pierced, dyed and dreaded to prove their anti-establishment credits. But if everyone does it, isn't that just another uniform and not so different from a suit and tie? Some of my friends say I look so much more conventional than I am. I suppose that's been a little victory for me, to have finally conquered the art of appearing completely normal. And I've found that there's a certain power to keeping things on the inside. Like a secret weapon. Clark Kent having his Superman costume hidden underneath his work clothes. There's a titillation to being in the closet. When I used to work in offices, it was especially fun to think about the crazy, kinky fun I would have on my own time when I was at my desk dressed in a mousy cardigan and studious-looking glasses while others boasted loudly of their drunken, frat-boy excesses. Little did they know. . .