Saturday, September 22, 2007
Being a Freak
I've always been the different one in the family but for the most part I wasn't too bothered by this as a child or even much aware of it. The fact that I had my nose buried in a book during most hours of the day and night (except when I was outside rough-housing with the boys, leading the army or the navy or the calvary, or getting into stone fights with the "foreigners" who lived across the alley) was something they pretty much ignored. It was just who I was, and they loved me anyway. As I got older I gravitated to others who shared my same interests and I had an easy time through school - I was not teased, I was not bullied. Today I guess I'd be called a "geek" but back then we were called "collegiates," "hoods" and "brains." Because I was pretty I was popular enough despite being "a brain." "Prettiness" is the grand panacea for nerdiness. I was one of the few girls in my graduating class who didn't either marry within a year out of high school or go on to college to get a nursing or teaching degree (those were the options most women considered back then). I wanted a "career" and I went out and made one for myself. Eventually I worked my way through college and then law school. Through the years I have been blessed in having acquired a close group of friends of like mind and interests. I usually don't think much about being "different." It crops up though, sometimes. It happened a few days ago when I went out to lunch with a group of women from the office. There were nine of us, gathered around two circular tables shoved together, and it was a congenial group. Several of the women were talking about work, a natural-enough topic, and several were talking about details of their personal lives, also a natural-enough topic given that women tend to be more open about these things with each other, although I wouldn't think about discussing some of these topics with anyone except the most intimate friend, and certainly not in a public setting. (Does this mean I'm not much of a woman?) And what was I talking about? I raised the issue of our distressed public transportation system which has been all over the local news lately. No interest - all these women drive to and from the office or get driven there by their accomodating mates. Since I don't drive, don't have a license, don't know how to drive, and will never own a car in this lifetime, this is an interesting topic to me, but only one other woman in the group had ever been on a public bus and she rides it primarily because she doesn't want to pay for expensive downtown parking. Strike One. I tried to discuss the leadership vacuum at the local level and the deteriorating infrastructure in our city despite sky-high taxes and our obvious "social" problems - all prominently featured in the local news for the past couple months. No interest whatsoever. Judging from some of the looks I got I knew at least some of the ladies were wondering "why does she want to talk about THAT? Strike Two. I then mentioned the story I'd read about Jolee Mohr, who died after being injected with a virus designed to carry a genetically altered gene to a certain part of her body in a medical trial to test this new technology. One of the ladies had read the same short article in our local newspaper, so we were able to discuss it a little, but even this story generated only mild interest in what I thought was an absolutely absorbing (and horrifying) subject. Not quite Strike Three, but close. I then pretty much stayed silent for the remainder of the meal and concentrated on my food (which was very good Mexican). I didn't want to push my luck, and so I shut up. After I got home that evening I conducted research on a number of different rather esoteric subjects and did some posts here at the blog - all on subjects that the ladies would probably not have any interest in and, on some, would probably think I was quite weird for even thinking about! It occurred to me this morning that I really am something of a freak - not so well-disguised these days, I guess, since the looks are fading, fading, fading into the depths of middleagedom. I spend hours on end researching the most obscure topics online, devouring books on history and I watch Top Model. Not one of the ladies understand why I like Top Model! More troubling to me, it seems they either don't read the local newspaper or if they do, they restrict themselves to Dear Abby, the t.v. listings, and on Wednesdays the recipes in the Food Section, and they don't watch t.v. news either. No one wanted to talk about the major news stories in our local newspaper. I found this strange and very disturbing. If these women, who work for a living, are moms, girlfriends, sisters and aunts, who are not silly or stupid, don't bother to inform themselves on the events of the day, what hope is there for this city and, more importantly, what hope is there for this country? If people aren't informed about the issues of the day, how do they form opinions - do they even have opinions? I don't expect people to understand my interest in subjects like the Amber Room, female infanticide in China and India and particle physics, but I am amazed at how naive I continue to be about how uninformed people are in this day and age, when there is no excuse to be ignorant of what is going on in the world around us! I don't get it. I don't understand this. How can people not be interested in what's going on? How can people not be interested in all the fascinating things going on all around them? I guess I'm even more freaky than I ever knew.