In the last twenty-four hours I’ve been told I must be an alien, advised to start Vlogging so I can be a female version of Karl Pilkington in Idiot Abroad and been lectured on not crawling through the x-ray machine thing at airports because they’re dangerous and apparently a woman in China died doing that.
I’ve had faces crumple up with puzzlement when I speak, eyebrows raise when they see what I’m wearing and voices heckle me with pantomime “it’s behind you” shouts as I walk on by.
…eccentric, I keep getting called eccentric.
She’s Done Things I Never Expected
Before I go on I’d just like to point out that I was never planning on putting myself in a grey plastic tray and gliding down the conveyor belt at Manchester Terminal 1, so I’m not quite sure why I was given this unnecessary piece of advice.
Anyway, to get better acquainted with my eccentric, alien self, I decided to do a little bit of etymological digging:
Eccentric: a person of unconventional and slightly strange views or behaviour.
Unconventional: not based on or conforming to what is generally done or believed.
Strange: unusual or surprising; difficult to understand or explain.
Eccentricity comes in so many guises; it can be what you say, what you do or even what you wear. It’s something that strays away from that invisible line of what’s considered normal and makes you stand out a little.
Over the years, scientists have given LSD to elephants, tried to work out whether rats prefer Beethoven or Miles Davies and spent hours watching tortoises yawn – yet they’ve done very little to understand the mind of an eccentric.
That was until David Weeks came along.
For ten years he studied 1,000 decidedly peculiar people – including a Chippewa Indian who walks everywhere backwards and two Californians who hypnotise frogs.
He found that eccentrics are positive in nature and by freeing themselves from the battles of conformity, they stress less. Less stress means less suffering from mental disorders such as depression, a reduction in substance abuse with drugs or alcohol and fewer visits to the doctor – 20 times less than most.
Eccentrics are “optimistic people with a highly developed, mischievous sense of humour, childlike curiosity and a drive to make the world a better place”.
I’ll Be You And You Be Me
I actually find it more mind-blowingly bizarre and totally fascinating when people aren’t eccentric.
Societies have evolved to condition our thinking and our behavioural patterns, and how these patterns affect your thinking will vary depending on which plot of earth you live on.
It’s like our planet is wrapped in a patchwork quilt of societal norms and each one is woven tight with thousands of years of tradition that make us who we are today. They’re norms that have developed from behaviours of the past to shape behaviours of the present and play a huge part in our evolution.
We’re scared that without them societies would crumble into disarray and dysfunction would take over – and so the vast majority of us don’t really question any of it at all.
We daren’t speak out or say what we’re thinking for fear of sounding silly. We wouldn’t want to wear something that draws attention to ourselves and we couldn’t bare the thought of looking foolish if we burst into song, or did a little dance on our way to the supermarket.
When I think of what it would be like if all of us lived our lives like nodding dogs – following traditions never questioning the unwritten rules of conformity, my body slumps and I sigh with sadness.
Because if I look back over the years and think about the characters that have never really played more than the role of an extra in my life but have somehow remained memorable, it’s those people.
The ones who were a little bit different.
Can I Be Eccentric Too?
It’s the rogues, the rebels, the eccentrics and the aliens. The ones who bend the rules of reality and ask questions you’ve never been asked before. It’s the writers, the artists, the poets, the dreamers and the believers. The ones who wear what they’re feeling on the inside in art that drapes over their bodies.
It’s the tall, skinny teacher with huge black curly hair and her witchy way of conducting classes that would set our creativity free. It’s the man in the sweet shop who lets us put our own pick ‘n’ mix in our white paper bags while he fervently told us crazy stories that were probably only half made of truth.
It’s the shop owner in a tweed cap and matching jacket that welcomes you in with a big hug like he’s welcoming in a long-lost friend. Before you know it he’s reeling off one of his latest and wildy inappropriate poems in his thick Scouse accent before voluntarily offering up some sort of prophecy from the angels.
It’s the man who eats at Food Cycle every Wednesday and always brings a pack of cards so he can do magic tricks for the other diners to put a smile on their lonely faces.
It’s homeless man on Bold Street who always heckles out compliments on how much he loves my velvet jackets and fury backpacks, who always asks me out on a date knowing I’ll just smile and walk away.
It’s everybody who drinks at Keith’s on Lark Lane and it’s Uri Geller trying to stop Brexit, telepathically.
It’s the ones you fail to remember but never forget, and I’m magnetised towards them.
And I guess that’s why All My Heroes Are Weirdos.