Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quirky is the New Normal

I just love learning new things, and I so enjoyed reading this article about the first person to receive an autism diagnosis, and how his life is actually rather enviable. Which makes me smile. I thought it was pretty neat that the folks this man hangs out with on a daily basis care about and accept him, quirks and all. It really got me thinking about what makes us like people. Maybe good "social skills" isn't the only thing involved in making friends. Maybe there's a bit of quirkiness that lets others know we're being real, being ourselves. And that inspires friendship.

In middle school one summer, I got really into reading biographies. My grandma liked reading them, too, and so I borrowed several from her collection. I read such hits as the biographies of Vanna White, Katharine Hepburn, & Princess Diana. You might think these could be boring, but I actually really enjoyed them! I loved learning that Katharine Hepburn swam in a cold river each day for exercise even as a little old lady, and that because her father was a urologist, she always recommended that everyone empty their bladder immediately when they visited her house. Those little quirks are so endearing.

I'm currently reading the biography of Flannery O'Conner. Talk about quirky! As a child, she used to spend her free time sewing little outfits for her pet chickens. And as a high schooler in a home ec class, she didn't want to make an outfit for herself, so she made a tiny chicken outfit, and she got an A on the project! I also really love reading that she wasn't a very good student and was a terrible speller in school...yet her calling was to write.

I think there's something about learning the subtleties and quirks of other peoples' lives that makes us feel more connected to the world. On those days when my hair is feeling frizzy and I'm sort of awkward in a conversation with someone, it's comforting to remember that Vanna White once got locked out of her house while she was sunbathing nude (you know, to avoid tan lines), and had to wait for someone to come home and rescue her from her back yard. Sorta makes my awkward moments in conversation or frizzy hair days seem trivial. The thing is, it's those quirky moments that make me enjoy these characters. If their biographies had been all about their perfect lives and amazing accomplishments, I probably wouldn't have made it through the whole books. Their characters wouldn't have been all that interesting to me. Which makes me remember that it's ok for me to make mistakes, too, and to be goofy and strange sometimes. It might even be a little endearing!

So now I'm off to revel in my quirkiness. Or really, just to sleep. But maybe tomorrow I'll revel a bit.

What quirks do you think your friends love about you?


  1. Totally read that article last week and thought about all the stuff you've taught me about autism. Pretty awesome.

  2. Yeah, don't you just love the Atlantic? Hope your week's going well!

  3. I get pretty regular jarring moments of recognition with my college student clients. I've started saying; "welcome to the adult world. Nerds rule here." Sometimes, that's all they need to hear. i often wonder if it's media or arrested development that influences so many adults to judge others with the same criteria we used when we were 17.

    As for your final question: I've come to value about myself that I have a quirky sense of humor. I often laugh at things others take entirely seriously and get very earnest about things others make light of.

  4. Hah, Shaun, that's too funny--Nerds really do rule in adulthood, I think! And thank goodness they do! I had a coworker describe a student with ADHD recently as a child who "has great skills for being an adult, but terrible skills for being a student." And the difference between the two worlds really stood out to me in that moment. So interesting.

    And Amber, thanks!

  5. TJ... you should SO read THE NOTICER by Andy Andrews. Its a short read, but very good! Its a true story and the main point is about perspective. One of the tips an older man gave him was to read biographies/autobiographies. :) Also, last Saturday I read Mary Beth Chapman's book CHOOSING TO SEE. Another true story and it's totally awesome! I highly recommend it. Especially since we've grown up knowing of her and her family through her husband (Steven Curtis Chapman) and his music. Very powerful!

  6. Cool, Jess, I'll have to put those on my "to read" list!