I’ve been different my whole fucking life, never quite finding a home in the categories that other people seem to fit into. Not with my sexual orientation, my hobbies, my personal aesthetics, my personality, my physical appearance, or even my physiological make-up. I do shit doctors have never seen, things they say are impossible, and I do it on a disturbingly frequent basis. (And then they tell me I’m lying to them. It’s more annoying than a flea infestation.)
I’ve never been one to cave in to peer pressure. I’m sure part of this is because of that never-quite-fitting-in thing. If you’re always a little different from the rest, know that you are, know you always will be, and are comfortable in that fact, it’s hard for other people to manipulate you into doing what they want so you’ll fit in or be cool or whatever. Because you know that you’re never really going to be any of those things anyway, and you’re fine with that, which neutralizes a lot of the pressure.
Now, completely aside from being different simply by virtue of my genetics, upbringing, etc., I’ve got a rebellious nature. I don’t like stereotypes or labels. I don’t like other people trying to put me into a little box that I can’t breathe in just so they’re more comfortable in their dealings with me. Fuck that noise. And, to me, stereotypes, clichés, pigeon-holes and categories don’t seem authentic. If you’re trying to live up to something, you’re not living as you. And I like me. I want to be me. I want to be the best version of me, and that requires change and hard work and self-reflection, but what it does not require is trying to live up to anyone else’s standards.
But the flip side of that coin is that stereotypes exist for a reason. Labels and categories make life easy, because they are shorthand. They’re the sign that connects to a wide range of meaning which could take hours to explain. And clichés contain a nugget of truth in them, somewhere, or they could never have become clichés in the first place.
I have spent years fighting against those things, against being them. So imagine my expression when I slammed into the reality that, um, actually . . . one stereotype does apply. Just a little bit.
I immediately felt guilty—like I was betraying my own principles. I was angry—at the stereotype for existing in the first place, and at myself for being it, and at the world for all the judgement and bullshit I could feel starting to creep towards me. I wanted to find some way to distance myself from it, to make myself different, to not have to deal with all that bullshit.
Because it’s easy to be unique. In some ways, it’s actually kind of freeing to be misjudged. If everyone consistently doesn’t get you, you are in no way obliged to care about what they say—what they think doesn’t matter, because they don’t really know you. But when all of a sudden you are not unique, when suddenly you realize that you fall into a category or pigeon-hole or stereotype . . . that’s terrifying. Because now, now when people throw judgements your way, you have to examine them a little more closely. You can’t just toss them out on principle because you’re a unique little snowflake. Now you have to see if someone actually managed to fling some truth in your general direction.
And then I shook my head and asked myself what the righteous fuck I thought I was doing.
If I really don’t care what other people think of me, then this doesn’t matter. This one, itty-bitty aspect of conformity in one little corner of my life does not negate all the other ways in which I am different. This doesn’t change who I am, or impede my efforts at becoming a better version of myself. All this does is make me a complex human being, one that contains some surprising facets. And while everything I’ve been taught implies that conformity is a bad thing, creating a hive mentality that robs people of independent thought and happiness and any kind of intellectual freedom, I’ve come to realize that that’s not true. Yes, conformity can be an evil. But it doesn’t have to be. We don’t consider those who conform to the law or competently engage in basic social interactions as evil/mindless drones/miserable saps. We consider them functional human beings and law-abiding citizens.
Conformity, like so many other things, is only what you make it. And as long as the stereotype fits me rather than me fitting the stereotype, nothing really changes. I’m still me, and still doing what I do. I’m just a little more self-aware—but isn’t that the point?
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.