I don’t remember the first time I was called a “Weirdo” but that’s probably because I was too busy protecting my body from a flurry of flying fists.
Stick and stones may break my bones but names? …well, as a society we’ve actually started to realize that names can hurt you too. Yet, the name “Weirdo” didn’t hurt me. I liked it.
I realized that when I was being beaten, tormented and ostracized by people who considered me a “Weirdo,” in my mind it meant that they must not be “Weirdos.” In that moment of realization, I understood that “Weirdos” didn’t beat people up, “Weirdos” didn’t torment people, “Weirdos” didn’t ostracize people, it’s one of the things that makes a “Weirdo” weird.
We like our stuff, we like that other people like their stuff. We think however we want to think about whatever we want to think about. We don’t mind that people think differently. We like engaging people with new ideas and being engaged with others who have ideas that differ from our own. We enjoy new ideas and building larger stranger and more creative ideas with others. Being a ‘Weirdo” means that we recognize the paradox which is that each person is different and in that difference we have a commonality.
A “Weirdo” gets Weird
Long ago I started calling myself a “Weirdo.” I owned it.
People in my school would sling “Weirdo” at me from across the lunch room and I would deflect it with a smile and a response of “Indeed!”
Later, people at my jobs would whisper “Weirdo” as I walked by and I would nod my head happy with my uniqueness.
It didn’t stop me from getting beat up or torment but it empowered me.
In the early 1990’s when I began giving public lectures I would make flyers that called out for “Weirdos” to attend. I greeted my audiences with a friendly “Hello Weirdos!” When I saw someone in public, who I knew was a “Weirdo,” even if they didn’t know they were, I approached them with a handshake, a smile, and a “Hey Weirdo.”
I took on the task of re-branding the word as much as I could.
At every opportunity, I would praise “Weirdos” and all their weirdness.
Some people didn’t like what I was doing. They didn’t understand the compliment I was giving them.
This wasn’t just a word I used while talking to people about ghosts, UFOs, Ultra-terrestrials, Time Travel or Bigfoot. This was a word I used for my friends who were musicians, painters, typographers, poets, moms, dads, weirdos glorious in all their forms.
I knew there were other weirdos out there and they were doing their best at re-branding the word too.
Coming of the Age of Weirdos
In the late 1990’s a commercial for Apple Computers came out and although it didn’t say “Weirdos” the voice in the commercial spoke to them “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…”
They were talking about “Weirdos.”
A few years later a man named Red Wassenich said “Keep Austin Weird”
He was talking about a whole city, and the city loved it. Soon, other cities joined in.
Who is a Weirdo?
When I call people “Weirdos” I mean they’re weird, but what do I really mean?
The etymology of the word “weird” comes from a word in the 1400’s that word is “Wyrd.”
Wyrd can be translated a few ways, it can mean “that which arrives” or “that which it does”. It can also mean “to turn in its own direction” or “to determine its own fate.”
The word “Wyrd” was used all those centuries ago to describe people who were unlike everyone else. People who did what they wanted to do; people who rejected the norms of the day. Then too the word was meant as an insult. It was meant to make those who rebelled against authority feel weak or those who chose their own destiny against the tides of “normalcy” to feel “unnatural.”
When I call someone a “Weirdo” I’m saying I appreciate what you’ve done to be you.
When I call someone a “Weirdo” I’m saying I appreciate the hardships that you’ve encountered by being the master of your own mind.
When I call someone a “Weirdo” I’m saying I appreciate all the unique ideas, thoughts and passions that you sometimes often struggle with because, I know, it’s difficult to be different.
For a long time, and for many people the word “Weirdo” was an insult, a literal fist to the stomach or a slap in the face.
Now, though it can be a hug. It can be an embrace that reaffirms, to you, in a cosmos of infinite possibilities you are beautiful and unique and so am I.
Calling someone a “Weirdo” is one of the greatest compliments I, or you, can give to someone.
Now get out there and be weird, Weirdo.