February 15, 2011

Being Weird

unt G
My Grandpa Stan
Olah Momma! prompts, and I answer...

For me, strangeness is a proud family tradition that has been passed down through generations.  My father's family, for example.  There were some weirdos.  My late grandfather was a man of epic bizarrity, he was known to carry around a rubber change purse that looked like a vagina.  His eyebrows melded seamlessly with his hair.  He was sure that he had a perfect solution to create peace in the Middle East- just open up an amusement park on the west bank.  My father joked that you could call it "Jihad Land."  And that just scratches the surface of his oddness.

I have some of his voicemail messages saved on my computer.  His messages were epic.  This one was odd, in that he didn't repeat, "This is Stan," at lest twice.

  PinkPussy by leargrover

My father graduating... in antennae.
My father and his brothers all went on to be very strange people.  My father in particular prided himself on it.

Then there's my mother's family.  To be frank, my father's family was out-weirded without even putting up a fight.  The joke is that my mother's family was the Addams Family, complete with a Lurch and a cousin It.  And they all had a bit of a knack for the macabre and unusual.  One of the things my parents bonded on when they met was that they had both convinced their classmates that they were actually aliens from another planet.  They were both vegetarians, and I believe that they met because my mother stood up for homosexual equality when another boy accused him of being gay.

My mother and her siblings
My granddaddy would have been an Olympic gymnast, if that had been a lucrative career in the 50's and 60's.  Instead, he got dual Ph.D.s in physics and math.  He had a grad student who would hang around, a tiny guy with a high pitched voice that nobody could get rid of.  He was cousin It.  One of her brothers went bald at 16, started wearing a cloak, and made a bit of a side business selling amulets to the other boys at his boarding school.  He was very much Lurch.  My aunt joined a band in Hawaii and followed the Grateful Dead.  She also painted some lovely (and fairly trippy) paintings that I had hanging in my bedroom for a while.  My favorite was a landscape of a hillside, overlooking the planet earth.  My granny is a fabulous lady.  I love her like crazy.  And she is a little bit mad.  She has no sense of modesty or awkwardness, spins a marvelous yarn.  My other uncle is a Filker.  His big hit is a lullabye called, "The Demons Underneath Your Bed."  Then there's my mother.  My mother who kept a tub full of pet worms named "Squiggly," who collects rocks and lizards, who we would give millipedes and tarantulas for Mother's Day.  My mother, who has filled her living room with mounted stuffed animal heads (moose, lion, walrus, hunter...) of her own creation.  My mother is a weird lady.

So it's no wonder that their kids turned out to be just plain weird.

Aunt Something Funny and Aunt Genocide as teenagers
First, there's my older sister.  While she was in jail (for walking in front of a police station in the nude on a bet) she would write me from jail about harnessing methane from cows to power my grandfather's amusement park.  Her letters were filled with sentiments that she was, "the only one in here for something funny."  When we were little, she created a Barbie sized guillotine to teach my younger sister and I about the French Revolution.  Several dolls were lost to The Terror.

My younger sister, well, she's a Master of Genocide.  She's a die-hard comic geek.  She knows every single word of Harry Potter (read by Jim Dale) backwards and forwards.  As a teenager, she covered her walls in polka dot fleece fabric and photographed protests for a local gay newspaper.

Yours truly at age 7
Then there's me.  I'm not even sure where to begin.  First of all, just being a vegetarian with gigantic glasses and big hair in suburban New Jersey made me pretty weird as a little kid.  I started writing horror stories in elementary school- while I was in third and fourth grade I spent a lot of my free time working on a novel called, "The Globe," about an eeeevil high school teacher who used a gigantic, ornate globe in his classroom to incite horrific natural disasters.  It had a lot of the teen-gore genre failings, including the murder of all characters who got too hormonal and sexual.  I printed a book of one ghost story about my classmates being haunted by a ghost Trick-Or-Treater on Halloween.  My horror poems started getting published when I was in 5th grade (although generally only locally) and I begin writing short horror stories (much better than "The Globe," I'm happy to say) when I was in middle school.  At the same time, I began covering my bedroom wall with eyes cut out of magazines.  This continued for five years, until the entire thing was one massive collage.

My Eye Wall (me age 16)
I was a goth teenager, but I didn't really know that at the time.  I had eschewed all color in my wardrobe, and would wear layer upon layer of black and white skirts, slips, and other assorted lacy garments.  I dyed my hair black, wore heavy black eyeliner, and would occasionally tell my classmates that if they kept pestering me, "The halls of the school would run with the blood of the wicked and the obnoxious."  I had up to eight rescued ferrets at a time, living in my increasingly schizophrenic bedroom with me.  For a year or so I made my bed on a big pile of pillows on the floor, before my mother helped me construct a loft bed with a hidden reading nook on the inside.  It was awesome.

My brands of weirdness changed drastically when I started going to college, which I did at 14.  I learned to embrace colors, ALL of them.  When I was 18, I transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the only transfer student on my floor, and definitely the only one my age.

I took a few master's level writing classes, and spent much of my tenure in the role of Kramer to a friend and neighbor's Seinfeld.  I even had my own Newman.

"Dream Interpretation" 2003
I started making both close friends and bitter enemies of my art teachers.  I was intentionally antagonistic at times.  When my collage professor insisted that a good collage was small by definition, I would turn in mural sized assignments.  I got in shouting matches with my portraiture professor for making all the model's breasts green (which I still insist is the best color for breasts).  I alienated other students by taking assignments far too literally- in a mixed media class we had the homework of creating a box that visually represented what was inside.  People brought in shoeboxes covered in shells (with shells inside) and ceramic boxes in the shape of a butterfly (with a dead butterfly inside).  I made a vaguely boat-shaped contraption out of broken guitar strings, blank manuscript paper, and a shattered violin.  It was filled with silence.  Nobody but the professor got it

Now I'm essentially an adult.  Once again, I find that I'm weird by different definitions.  I'm a new mom in my mid-20s who's working on their degree.  I don't meet very many of those.  I'm pretty much a crunchy mama, but I vaccinate and I don't do the family bed thing.  I try to recycle and garden and use cloth diapers, but throw away a full trash bag nearly every day.  I'm a vegetarian chef, but I cook meat (very well, I'm told) for my husband and guests.  I sew as much of my own clothes as I can, but I'm a total fashion snob.  I'm an artist and a free thinker, and I'm in school to become a career bureaucrat.  I cultivate a love of horror films and musicals, that somehow manage to come together in such works of genius as, "Cannibal! The Musical."

I have a neurological disorder that causes synesthesia and phantom sensations.  My favorite foods are kik alicha and marzipan.  I'm Jewish and married to a Lutheran.  I often fantasize about cutting off my toes (even bought the tools once) but cultivate my toe hair.  I hate most things that might be considered girly, but I never wear pants.

I sometimes muse that the thing that I like least about being a mom is that I won't get to ride on any roller coasters for a few years.

I'm allergic to Swiss cheese and pretty much nothing else.

I'm afraid of butterflies.  Seriously.

My Droogies on their first Halloween
And M is pretty much weird, too.  He's a sci-fi and fantasy geek, he's a brain cancer survivor, and he's got a crazy sense of humor.  His family also has their share of weirdness in it, but that's not my story to tell.

Suffice to say, my daughters stand to inherit the family tradition of being strange.  Good thing, too.  I'm not sure I'd know how to relate to them if they weren't weirdos.

So there you have it.  That's my weirdness, mostly laid out for you.

Take it as you will.


  1. Oh my, I wish you could write your life's story in a book -- I would read them all! Your fan here. You rock!

    Thanks for sharing this again at Olah Momma!



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