I was at a big theater party a couple years ago for the closing night of the Minnesota Fringe Festival (the largest non-juried festival in North America – 160 shows, 13 Stages, 10 days. It’s boss).
Anyway, I was at the closing party, which was as wild as one might imagine, when I noticed across the room there was this guy. He was bigger, bearded, wearing a leather fringe vest and a top hat and lots of shoulder hair. In his left hand was a drink, and on his right hand was a weasel puppet.
The guy wasn’t doing much, but that weasel was clearly scoping out the room for who knows what purpose.
Now I had absolutely no desire to suffer the conversational nut punch of actually interacting with neither man nor weasel, but dammit, I was glad they were there.
Because somebody has to bring the weird.
I’d shouldered this burden valiantly for the first 18 years of my life, and I still know how to throw down. I was a weird kid. I was the weird kid.
Granted I grew up in small-town Iowa, so it didn’t take much. A lack of interest in professional sports alone put me well on the way to social ostracism.
In a world of New Kids on various blocks, in a time when Achy Breaky Heart wasn’t yet a punchline (well, okay, it was a punchline then, too) I was discovering Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart. When the Fresh Prince of Bel Air hadn’t yet become a method of trolling, I was reveling in Ren & Stimpy and old Bullwinkle cartoons. While my peers we’re discovering alcohol and sex I was discovering kung fu movies and live action role playing.
The reason I bring all this up is that I’ve been watching my son, and lately I can see the signs. My boy’s gonna be a weird kid, too. Sure, he’ll watch Curious George, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and sundry other mass market drivel, but the shows he mimics are Pocoyo and Peppa Pig; British cartoons closer to Charlie Chaplain than Dora.
Yes, he likes “Wheels on the Bus” and “This Old Man,” but he also requests Jonathon Coulton and They Might Be Giants. Plus, at almost-three, he’s doing character voices.
A father knows.
And any nerd will tell you, being weird doesn’t make High School any easier. But though a leisurely HS tenure may be a parenting goal for some, I, personally, could give a Gamorrean’s used fur breech-cloth about it.
I want my son to be passionate and curious, I want him to think deeply, to feel free to explore, and to carry the sense of wonder he has now throughout his life. In short, I want him to be weird.
Humanity is advanced by the unique, not the normal. Just ask Magneto. But honestly, I don’t really care if he advances humanity or uses his power for evil, I just want to be able to talk to him in 14 years and not be bored.