When I was young, I was attracted to people who looked interesting and weird to me. There’s a time in your life when you chafe at what you’ve always seen and been around. You want to fit in with the cool kids, the interesting people, the early adopters of – certain hair styles, certain clothes, certain practices. These folks who were wearing their eccentricity on their sleeves, I was drawn to them like metal to a magnet.
If they were proclaiming loudly their ethnic pride – count me in. If they said, “and yellow is mellow, too, baby,” after having shouted “say it loud, I’m Black and I’m proud,” I swooned. (They included me and I was so pleased!)
It took me a long time to realize that looking interesting and being interesting are entirely distinct things. Some people looked provocative but were conservative. Some people had found a look along a narrowly prescribed definition of whatever ethnocentric place they’d identified as their likely ancestral home and they grabbed it, often before examining if it was authentic, more than a few times sticking to an era that the people of the particular tribe with whom they were enamored had deserted.
I found that a lot of people talked about Malcolm X, but had never read The Autobiography of Malcolm X cover-to-cover. Very few of the people I met who talked about “the continent” had ever actually gone there.
- played weird but weren’t weird
- visited weirdness but settle there forever.
- is just weird
- eccentric is just odd with no redeeming qualities
- both can be dangerous
When you are young, you often try on ideas that are new (to you) and philosophies that you stumble upon in life’s dressing rooms. If you are lucky and strong, you outgrow your experiments, generational snobbery, while keeping some new values to the fundamental ones you were given from your family.
I’m around a lot of young people because of my jobs and I watch with delight and concern some of the wackier things they say and do. I’ve wanted to hold up a few caution signs and, on one occasion, wanted to spirit a young woman away from the man she had just married. (It was clear to these seasoned eyes that he was a fool and an ideologue who was not the prince she imagined him to be and certainly not the king he longed to be.) “Run!” I wanted to say. I couldn’t say that. It wouldn’t have been heard and I don’t know her well enough to issue a warning. I did say a silent prayer for her well-being. (I had been attracted to more than one ideologue, more than one fool in my day.)
I repeat – sometimes weird is just weird.
I’ve also been around several members of the not-hardly=young set who are still trying to be the same kind of interesting they started being when we were in college and in our twenties. The ideologue clothes no longer fit them and they haven’t moved forward, preferring to stay stuck on stupid, committed to a tiny sliver of time when they were “it”. This made me sad.
Luckily, I grew and learned to try to see beyond how people appeared and look for what they did and not just what they said they were going to do. I also decided that there’s an advantage to being an undercover brother.
“My story ends as stories do, reality steps into view, no longer living life in paradise or fairy tales.”(Song: Fairy Tales – Lyrics written by William Joseph Rietz, performed by the incomparable Anita Baker.)