I’ve been reading an old open thread post on Ask A Manager (AAM) in which Alison asks about people’s weirdest coworkers. It’s been amusing, but it’s also been informative. In the back of my mind as I was reading was, “What if I’m the weirdo?” Or, more to the point, I *know* I’m the weirdo. When I used to work in an office, I was definitely the weirdo. In the first place I worked (day treatment for juvies*), I felt out of place for so many reasons. The first month I was there, they had their annual retreat on which I had to go. It was awkward, obviously, and then one night, everyone got hammered and decided to play, “Never Have I” when it came to drugs. After alcohol and marijuana, I was done, and I watched incredulously as the rest of my coworkers kept raising their hands. Not only did I feel weird and out of place, but I was like, “You guys work with kids who struggle with these issues.” It was hypocritical as most of them seemed proud of the shit they’d done.
At the same place, there was a woman in the other program (for truant kids, not actual juvies) who spackled on makeup with a spatula. I mention this because one day, she looked at me through heavily-encrusted eyes and said, “You would be the perfect poster child for a makeover.” I didn’t wear any makeup and didn’t give a shit about my hair (other than to brush it and make sure it was neat) and clothes (clean and no holes), and when she said that, I thought to myself, “I’d rather be that than look like an over-sized Kewpie doll.” I could tell story after story about that place, but my point is that I did not fit into the culture. At all.
The reason I like to read advice columns isn’t just because they have stories that are unbelievable and entertaining (although, many times, heartbreaking as well), but it’s because with the ones I have carefully curated, there is always a few people who are similar to me. It helps me feel like less of a weirdo. In the particular thread I mentioned in the first paragraph, there was one woman, bearcat (fairly sure it’s a woman) who declared that she was the weird coworker. Reading what she wrote, I thought, “Except for the aromatherapy scentball, you’re the COOL coworker” (which is exactly what someone else wrote). I mean, she freaking hula-hooped at work. How cool is that?
It got me thinking how someone’s weird is someone else’s cool. Maybe I could just own my weirdness, but I’m not there yet. I’m not ashamed of it for the most part, but I’m not proud of it, either. What makes me weird? So. Many. Things.
One: The basics. Bisexual Taiwanese American fat agnostic woman who is gleefully childfree. Not married (doesn’t want to be). Not living with anyone (doesn’t want to be). Not coupled (not sure I want to be). Better at sex than romance. Likes cats better than people most of the time, especially black cats.
Two: My hobbies. Reading is normal, though less so these days. Mysteries, which have become super popular. Back in the day, though, mysteries were considered firmly niche and pooh-poohed by high society. Video gaming is normal within some societies, but still not society in general. Or rather, Facebook games are pretty common, but ‘hardcore’ gaming is not. Especially not for an older woman. Even within gaming culture, I’m a weirdo because I don’t multi (except in MHW, which isn’t like other multiplayer). I adore Dark Souls to the point of distraction, although, PSA: Do not try to go back to the Souls series in the midst of serious Monster Huntering. It will not go well. I’m further strange in this matter because I play one game at a time, almost exclusively. Most people, I’m guessing, dabble or have several games going. Or, if they only play one game, it’s a multiplayer game like WoW or LoL.
My other main hobby is taiji. That’s strange enough in and of itself, but it goes further than that. Americans have fetishized the health aspect of taiji to the point of irritation for me. My classmate sent me an article about taiji written by Jane Brody (whom I respect), and she was trying to sell taiji to people who don’t exercise, so she was emphasizing the gentleness of taiji. She even said something like, “Don’t be scared away be it being called an ancient martial art. It’s not like karate or a Jackie Chan movie.” And, yes, there are many health benefits to taiji, physical, mental, and emotional. However, it is still a fucking martial art. It’s main purpose is self-defense. There are sparring and weapons and even a weight-bearing set (which I need to do again). There was a post in AAM in which the letter writer was forced to do taiji at work. She had physical reasons for not wanting to do it, and there were people in the comments saying shit like, “Oh, it’s so gentle, anyone can do it!”, and, “It’s basically just standing still!”
It makes me want to rip my hair out. To the first, a qualified yes. It depends on the kind of taiji and the teacher, and there’s nothing that ‘everyone’ can do it. My teacher emphasizes the mental health/health benefits in the beginning as a way to lure in people who are wary about the martial arts aspects, and I can understand and respect that. However, that part is fucking boring to me. More on that in a second. As to the second statement, even with the ‘gentle’ part of taiji, it’s not just standing still. There is a lot of movement, albeit it at a slow and smooth pace. And, you can do the Solo Form (the gentlest of the gentle) at a brisk pace if you so choose.
More to the point, as I said earlier, it’s a martial art. I mean, it’s right there in the name. I’m glad to have the health benefits, but it’s not something I focus on. I come alive for the weapons, especially the sword. I’ve talked about that before, so I won’t belabor the point, but I’ll just say, it’s an extension of my hand. But, because of how Americans have defanged taiji, any time I wax poetic about my love of blades on social media, I get major pushback from women. Only from women, might I add. My theory is because women are so socialized to be nice and nonthreatening, anything that even hints of aggression or what could be deemed as violence is verboten. So, yeah. I’m the freakazoid woman who likes bladed weapons. Except in games. For whatever weird reason, I’m an axe gal when it comes to video games. Probably because I was a Pyromancer the first time I played Dark Souls, and she starts with the Hand Axe.
Other ways I’m weird. I don’t give a shit about makeup, hair, or clothing. As long as I’m neat and presentable, that’s the extent of it. I don’t watch TV shows that other people watch. In fact, I don’t watch much TV at all. I don’t like movies that much, and I would prefer to read a book any day of the week. I could go on and on, but it just depresses me and makes me feel more alienated.
Back to my main point–maybe I should be more like bearcat and embrace my inner (and outer) weirdness. It heartened me to read other people who cheerfully declared they were the weird coworker. I mean, someone has to be, right? And, more importantly, I don’t want to be ‘normal’. I was talking about tradition with my taiji teacher, and I said my mom once asked in exasperation, “Why are you so against traditions?” I said I wasn’t against traditions, per se, but I was against thoughtlessly following traditions because many times, that’s how inequity is reinforced. It’s the same thing when someone says I’m a contrarian. I am, but it’s with a reason. Sometimes, yes, tradition is the way to go, but I’d rather it be a belief that is examined than one that is unthinkingly embraced.
*Juvenile delinquents. My fond nickname for them. I liked most of my clients–I wish I could say the same about my coworkers.