I remember picking up my third grade daughter one day from school. On this particular day, her usual happy smile was gone as she slid open the van door, plopped in her seat and immediately burst into tears. She blubbered: “Mom, am I weird? Some girls in my class keep calling me weird. (Blubber, blubber.) Am I weird?” My heart sank, and like any good mother, I immediately began plotting my revenge. I was pretty sure I knew who “those girls” were and I was going to ma
ke them SUFFER! Ok, not really, but it felt good to at least imagine it.
Ah, that word “weird.” As a society, we tend to throw it around a lot and use it to label people who don’t fit our notions of “normal” and “right.” But let’s face it, we all have times when we feel a little weird, different, like an outsider, unsure of ourselves. It’s these very issues that Heather Havrilesky addresses in her new book: How To Be A Person In The World: Ask Polly’s Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life. Heather is the author of a weekly advice column for the New York magazine’s The Cut, and the book is a wonderful compilation of her material. Her writing is funny, in-your-face, compassionate, astute advice on all kinds of topics from being yourself, to love and relationships, to having children, to careers and the workplace. Most importantly, she reminds us that even when we feel at our lowest and at our most lost, we are not alone.
One of my faves is her column in response to a young woman who writes asking, “Am I too weird to ever find true love?” This woman goes on to describe how she’s tried at times to be more “normal,” but over time finally embraced her “weirdness,” vowing to be her own true self with no more pretending. But as“Weird Girl” gets older, she admits that while she used to feel pride that she had embraced her “unique quirkiness,” now she feels embarrassed, afraid of revealing her true self, alone, having been hurt one time too many. I love how Havrilesky responds to her. She tells her two important things:
All you really need, more than anything else, is the ability to tolerate the fact that some people are going to like you, some people are going to dislike you, some people going to hate you, and–yes!–some people are going to drop to their knees and say, “SMART, UNPREDICTABLE, SENSITIVE, UNIQUE WOMAN, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?”
A lot of people won’t be into you. You will feel the pain of that for your entire life, trust me. You really should accept it and learn to deal with it–not by shutting people out or becoming defensive or rigid, but by (paradoxically!) allowing people space to feel however they happen to feel and making small adjustments to how you move through the world based on what feels good and what doesn’t. It’s okay to be an oversensitive freak. Oversensitive freaks tend to overreact. They tend to spin in circles. But they are some of the most loyal, interesting, intense people around, and they just get better as they age. Welcome to the tribe!
Love this book. Great advice! Check out the opening one on how to be a bride. Every future bride needs to read it!!! Trust me.