In high school I was hardly the cool kid – a trend which still follows me. I read too much and that made me weird. I laughed at what I read, and that furthered my strangeness. Let’s just face it, I laughed too “easily.”

I also suffered from just blurting out whatever I thought. Well, wait, I still do. Considering my mind was often skipping way ahead of a subject to a completely new topic, what I blurted out tended to not look remotely related to what everyone was discussing.

I didn’t dress in style, but I really didn’t dress with my own style either because my clothes were what my mom picked. My clothes were ridiculed, even my socks!

I wish I could say I rose above such thinking, but I often let it guide my opinions of myself. So, I left for college with this vision of “weird” in my mind, determined to be a lot cooler. That is when I met Claire.

Claire was a girl on my dorm floor at the University of Kentucky. She was positively obsessed with Lord of the Rings, talked way too much and her mannerisms just seemed strange. She had basically already been deemed the outcast of the floor, and most people barely concealed their distaste when she came around.

One night I was sitting in the common area of our floor reading when out pranced Claire. She saw me and began talking about some Lord of the Rings costume she had made – which she later brought out and I was secretly impressed with. While I am not obsessed with Tolkein’s writings, I do like the books, so I indulged her conversation.

I noticed that even though I was talking to her, I had much the same expression and attitude toward her as the other girls on the floor. Claire was wearing just a bathrobe, that wasn’t closed. This caused discomfort and her total disregard for exposing herself furthered my awkwardness.

One time I went into the bathroom to brush my teeth and heard raucous laughter from the showers. I peeked around the corner and found Claire sitting on the floor of the tub with her mouth open, giggling maniacally.

I informed Adam, then just a friend, of this extremely weird behavior. I couldn’t believe how “weird” Claire was. Adam was absolutely disgusted with me. He had listened to my ravings all through high school of people’s condemnation of me and now I was doing the same thing. Who could honestly decide what was weird or normal anyway? And what made me think I was too good to talk to her?

Chastised, I considered this and how hypocritical I was behaving. Later that week, I invited Claire to hang out with me. I would see Claire once or twice a week and sometimes call her, even through the summer. People would look at me and say, “But don’t you think she’s weird?” This would be said the same way some might say, “But don’t you find mange disgusting?”

Yes, she was weird, but Claire is one of those few individuals I have met who I felt was genuine. She didn’t try to hide who she was, or conform to some idea for what made you normal; she delighted in her uniqueness. She was confident and caring. She didn’t judge people. Basically, she was everything I should have been that year.

I have since lost contact with Claire because I lost the number when my cell phone broke. I still wonder how she is though. Maybe she was just a bit unbalanced, but the Leaning Tower of Pisa is unbalanced too, and it’s famous for that reason.

Tourists travel from thousands of miles just to see this cherished, but hardly normal, building. I don’t know why, but people seem to have more respect for that building’s uniqueness than for an individual’s character.

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