What’s So Wrong With Being Different?

Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Freedom.

The only bad part—to me, anyway—about being “different” is that I sometimes get lonely for other people who are “different” like me. But here I am in the Bible Belt, in suburbia, in the midst of Republicans, conservatives, and a scary variety of fundamentalists. Sometimes I feel like I’m pretty much alone here on my little island of “different.”

I don’t mind being called “different.” It beats most of the other things I’ve been called. I tend to like the word unique. It’s usually said with a certain degree of respect and fascination, and that’s usually a welcome change for those who are drawn to me for my eccentricities and immediately set about trying to change me into someone I don’t want to be, usually someone from the same cookie-cutter mold.

“Different” people tend to be easy to spot, even before you get to know their personalities. Self-expression usually comes first in one of three ways—or all three: appearance, home décor, and music.

I’m a bit bothered right now by an episode of What Not To Wear that I saw with the girls while vegging in the room during our Christmas trip. The victim’s husband and best friends as well as her family had joined forces to change her style, her hair, and her makeup into something they thought would be more appropriate. Oh, and they set up her as a fashion-don’t without telling her, thus decimating her self-esteem. She was repeatedly told she looked trashy, cheap, and like a porn queen.

Okay, so I wasn’t that fond of her makeup or hair myself, and I wasn’t that thrilled by every garment she owned, but I felt terrible for her. She tried to explain that she liked sparkles and it was part of her way of expressing her individuality…which they promptly squashed. And yes, they put her into suits. I have about 50 suits in my closet that I don’t intend to wear, ever again. She could have had those!

If my family and friends wanted to insult me by trying to force me to change into something suited and dull, I’d be happy to accept the $5,000 in free clothes of my choice and the trip to NYC. Of course, I’d call Maggie Shayne to meet me in NYC and we’d hit all the Goth shops and thumb our noses at those fashionista twits.Flying By Night novel

And then there’s home décor. Some of my colleagues seem to think it’s prestigious to have a home decorator come in and redo their walls and floors with little or no input from them. Not me. I want my living quarters to reflect me, not the nearest furniture store. I took it as a huge compliment when my kids told me that Disney World reminded them of home—all the unusual blends of ethnic touches…from Celtic to brass to spears on the walls to curtained doorways to beads and balls hanging in the air to drums and candles and tapestries and shiny things.

And then there’s music.

I’d all but stopped listening to the radio until I happened on an alternative station in Gainesville, playing oldies like the Cure and New Order and newer groups like Postal Service, Panic! At the Disco, Death Cab for Cutie, and vibrator commercials. I’d been heavily into alternative back in the days when alternative got half a shelf at the local music stores and I had to go to L.A. to find a Danielle Dax import or The Dead Can Dance. I used to listen to a CD for a year before it hit the mainstream—at which time I promptly lost interest because then everyone else blindly followed along and bought their music because everyone else was.

The funny thing is, my daughters have discovered—on their own—the alternative music scene. And I’m pulling out my Darlin’ Buds and Concrete Blonde cassettes from years ago to share with them, not to mention all those Cure CDs they’ve walked past umpteen times a day for their entire lives.

And here I was wondering if I’d have to move away to find someone else with my tastes in clothes, décor, and music. I didn’t have to go search for people who are different like me….I just needed time to grow my own.