I’ve been told plenty of times, past and present, that I’m “odd”.
As a child, being different was largely frowned upon, or so it seemed to me.
I wasn’t the girl that carried around a smartly dressed doll, mothering it and dreaming of the day the stork would bring her a live one. I didn’t nurture anything but my waistline. Plants died on my watch, pets were known to miss meals and plastic arms and legs were often found sticking out of a freshly dug grave, tattooed with Bic pen symbols best left unexplained. My female counterparts were always a bit more caring, a bit more responsible and subdued.
I was a bookish and insolent child, a winning combination. I preferred interacting with adults because I found them more accepting. I didn’t generally like other children, whether they were male or female, and they couldn’t often tolerate me.
I never was one to keep things simple. If I found myself in a confrontation that didn’t require I run away to avoid injury or the unwilling confiscation of my snacks, I’d purposefully make things worse (a regular heckler in the making). Rather than use an insult they’d understand like “your mom”, I’d use “that hag your (air quotes) biological father was fornicating with”, leaning forward as I air quoted with an Oh Snap! expression on my face. By gawd they might not be able to define biological or fornicating, but they could guess at hag, and air quotes were the Elementary school equivalent of a dodge ball to the genitals. Thus I ended up turning a simple argument into the very confrontation I would usually attempt to run from in the first place. But man, I loved air quotes.
I did have a few things in common with the rest of the germ breeding population, though. Imagination was one. What child didn’t like to play pretend?
While they were imagining hitting home runs, walking down aisles in white, cooing at a real live newborn or becoming a ninja turtle, I was imagining far more intricate, often strange, scenarios. A lot of it was due to reading. I didn’t watch nearly as much television as the average kid.
I used to imagine that I was Hester Prynne from The Scarlet Letter (a slightly altered version, of course). I would walk around the house in a sedate manner, quietly accepting the coldness of my family as my due. I considered her a martyr, just like myself, a slave to the indignities of social compliance. It was all very odd, I’m sure. I never actually told my parents that I was pretending to be a modern day version of a fictional adulterer. They probably just thought I’d eaten something that didn’t agree with me.
I also imagined I was an English girl. I had an affinity for accents even then and would make an effort to speak and think in an English accent at the oddest of times. (I was never very good at Irish, though I loved it too.) I would have long, random conversations with imaginary people and say thing like “jolly good” or “bloody” this or that. My cousin once caught me at it and I had to bribe him with a book report to keep his mouth shut. I could just hear the insults of my peers had he ever told. “Lookit, chee tanks cheez ferin.” (That’s southern for: Check it out, she thinks she’s foreign.)
Another thing we had in common: I was gullible.
Children are gullible creatures, no matter how smart they are. If you can’t recall being duped when you were a child, I suspect you’ve had head trauma. My spawn is only 4 ¾ years old and I’ve tricked her enough to last a lifetime, yet have no intention of stopping.
My Papa was the most prominent duper during my younger years. He could make me believe the most ludicrous stories simply because he was Papa. He was very earnest, but in the most visibly insincere way. When I watch him pull the wool over my kid’s (and my cousin’s kid’s) eyes now, I think, “How the fuck did I ever believe that fat bastard?”
He used to tell me that my mother wore combat boots, holey underwear, and didn’t love Jesus. I was very upset about it all until my grandmother (on the other side) explained that if Jesus didn’t love anybody it would be Papa and my father’s uncouth side of the family, not any daughter of hers. I was placated and resolved to set him straight when he decided to heckle me again. He did, of course, and I gave him the spiel my grandmother gave me. He laughed uproariously and went on about his business.
A few days later I was watching my mom get dressed. I was bouncing up and down on the bed, going on about something or other, when she pulled a pair of underwear out of her drawer. They were full of holes. I stopped bouncing. She pulled out another pair, looked them over, shrugged and pulled them on. They had a tiny hole on one cheek.
“You have holey underwear!”
I immediately burst into tears. I was horrified that my Papa knew my mother had holey underwear. Hell, I was horrified that she would wear them, much less show them to anyone. I was also sure that she was going to hell. While we hadn’t gone through our “church phase” yet, my grandmother was still a strict driller of the “you could go to hell” speech. And if my mom had holey underwear that meant she didn’t love Jesus, and that meant she was going to hell.
When I explained all that to my mom, she laughed so hard she cried. When I went to my Papa’s house (next door) shortly thereafter, she must have goaded him into saying something behind my back because he immediately shouted, “Hey artist! You know what?”
Sour expression firmly in place I replied, “What?”
“Yer mama wears holey underwear, combat boots, and don’t love Jesus.”
“BUT HOW DOES HE KNOW, MAMA”, I wailed.
My Papa still delights in telling that story to people. In truth, he delights in telling any story that makes me sound like an ass or an idiot.
Anyway, now that I’m an adult and a parent, I find I haven’t changed as much as I expected I would.
I’m still insolent, probably more so. Children still can’t stand me and the feeling is still completely mutual. I still have a tendency to egg on an argument when it’s not in my best interests. I’m still not quite the feminine nurturer I hear you’re supposed to turn into once you’ve reproduced. I’m still odd.
There’s one thing, though, that I realized has changed. Where I once was innocent, I am now guilty.
Because oddness is obviously hereditary.
1 week ago