What would you have said had I told you that I left the house naked this morning, that I painted my face like a clown for my flight, or that I plan to go about the streets of Atlanta kissing random people? Would you have thought that I was bizarre or brave? special or strange? or maybe simply certifiably insane? We live in a socially hyper-aware world, and I doubt these sorts of behavior would be readily accepted even by my most accepting of friends.
I once heard a story about a young man who attempted suicide by shooting himself in the head. He did not die, but the bullet hit him right in that center of the brain which handles inhibition. When I heard the story, a few years ago, the young man was still in a hospital. He engaged in behaviors which I would dread to commit in front of everyone like pee in the middle of the dining room, take his clothes off at unexpected moments, and other unimaginable acts of social transgression. And so, though healthy, he was not let loose in the world.
This is perhaps an extreme example, but I think there are many like me, who live on the cusp of what is acceptable in the world. I don’t quite fit the box, but I’d like to think that once in a while I make the world, at least for the people around me, a more interesting place to live.
I am a weirdo in social situations. I don’t quite know how to talk or act, how to fit in. If I have to engage with more than one person at a time I become either the clown or the invisible woman. Either way, I don’t feel too happy with myself afterwards. Talking to friends and family about this subject in the last few days unearthed many stories like mine about others who did not fit it, tried to run away, felt different or lonely.
How alone we are all together! All struggling to fit in this box self-society imposed. Each of us in our own heads, homes, cubicles, computers, cars. Seems to me like we put all these barriers between us, when we just long to connect, and then we invent ways of reconnecting impersonally: facebook, twitter, goodreads, pinterest, texting.
I came to write at a coffee shop this morning. Behind me, a homeless woman shuffled in. I had seen her around before. I longed to reach out, to offer help, but did not know how. She seemed to me the ultimate example of rebellion, the unwillingness to fit in the box, to give in to the arbitrary rules we live with as a society. Yet she is, I felt, trapped in her own box as a result.
Resisting the box never brought me relief. Nor did giving in. Perhaps accepting my differences, corners, and curves — the ways in which I don’t fit the box — as they are, is the way to breaking out of the box, or at least stretching a hand for a moment to touch freedom without (or is it within?).