A portrait of Mikayla, the author Mikayla, who is not your manic pixie dream girl. Do you ever have that thing where you momentarily lose sense of time? The other day, I was supposed to meet a guy out on a first date at 9 p.m., which made me think, Oh good, I should leave at 9 then. So I got there around 9:40, a little sweaty because I realized I had completely lost my mind, and tried to explain the situation to him. I started making little side remarks like, Oh I shouldn’t have taken a shower, I just jumped right in that shower, it’s definitely not like I’m stress-sweating or anything… and to my absolute not-surprise at all, it seemed like he just wasn’t getting it. So I shrugged my shoulders in defeat and said what I usually say when someone seems like they aren’t getting me: I’m weird. And that’s when he replied, dismissively, disturbingly: Sure, that’s what every girl says.

After grilling him about this for a too-long period of time, I discovered he really meant what he was saying. Like, that’s what every girl says to him, that they all call themselves "weird," and most of them aren’t, but that on a scale of 1-10, he’d put me at "getting pretty weird," especially after I refused to let the topic go.

What is happening here?  I started thinking about all the "weird girls" we see in pop culture and what the very concept of being a "weird girl" has become, all kooky-glasses and charming clumsiness and awkward conversation and scarves, oh-so-many scarves. I started thinking about all the manic pixie dream girls who flutter in and out of poor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s life.

A bunch of pixies in kooky tights and scarves fluttering around Joseph Gordon-Levitt's head. Sorry, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. / Illustration by the author, Mikayla Park.

Have we lost sight of what is truly weird?

When I think about the normalization of weirdness, I think of Natalie Portman in Garden State, a movie everyone I know assumes I love because it’s about a weird girl—like me!—but I actually hate with an oversize passion. I remember being in my teens watching that movie, and wanting so badly to identify with Natalie Portman’s character. She was so offbeat, so quirky… but she did it all so elegantly and effortlessly. She was charming and neat and tidy and pretty and small, qualities I have never felt I embodied, not once, not ever. No, my weirdness doesn’t come in a pretty, small package; it’s big and cumbersome, inopportune, and miscommunicated. It doesn’t adorably trip over itself on a rainy spring sidewalk, spilling an armful of gerbera daisies everywhere, so that some lost boy can help her up and she can, in turn, save him from himself!

Our weirdness should come from real qualities that make us uniquely who we are, not the things that make us uniquely Zooey Deschanel. 

If my weirdness trips, it falls legitimately flat on its face, and gets sort of actually hurt—like maybe there’s blood involved—then it chokes out I’m OK and rushes to the car in shame. Weird isn’t something we need to wear on our sleeves or our legs (oh, all those "weird girl" characters whose weirdness is expressed by naught but funky tights!) or our necks (seriously, all those wacky scarves). And weird isn’t a front, something we present in order to make the less-easily-loveable aspects of our personalities fall under the more acceptable umbrella of "offbeat yet charming quirks." Our weirdness should come from real qualities that make us uniquely who we are, not the things that make us uniquely Zooey Deschanel.

An illustration by the author, Mikayla, of her serenading her dog, Toast, with a rendition of "Pudding Treat." Puuuuuuddin' treat, oh so goooood to eat... / Illustration by the author, Mikayla Park

Weird are the songs we sing to our dogs when no one is around, like Pudding Treat (which is sung to the tune of "Dancing Queen": Pudding treat, nice and sweet, oh so good to eat!) Weird is that dress you absolutely love, that appears to have been made of umbrella material, with the giant ruffle on top and too many pockets. Weird is meticulously cataloguing every skin irregularity with a photo, so there’s proof just in case anything ever happens to you, which means that your phone is filled with land mines of strange, gross pictures people sometimes see when you are trying to show off one of the five million images of your dogs.

Weird is that time you invited that guy you absolutely, secretly adored to an imaginary birthday party for yourself you had invented as a conversation-starter, and when he accepted, had to actually make happen in real life, which was absolutely insane because you hate parties and, most of all, parties for yourself. Weird are the people you ended up inviting, because you don’t have enough friends for a party, so you had to include some outliers you don’t know very well. Weird is the entire night that ensued, because clearly you weren’t equipped to handle both the boy you adored and a bevy of strangers you were trying to pass off as your squad.

An illustration of the author at her birthday party, surrounded by friend-pixies. Hey, everybody's here. I guess we have cake now? / Illustration by the author, Mikayla Park.

Weird is not Facebook-stalking your date. Stop calling that weird. We all do that.

Weird is when you’re sitting next to a hot guy, and he asks you a question, and you literally answer in something that starts in English and ends in a sort of muttered gibberish, and he turns red because you’ve embarrassed him by embarrassing yourself. Weird is when you extend your crush an offer of friendship (We should be real-life friends, right?) and then immediately rescind it before he can respond (Or maybe not… I mean, we don’t have to decide right now. We can table it). Weird is then backtracking to the door, tripping over a lamp, stumbling outside, and yelling Auf Wiedersehen! on your way out (needless to say, you did not become real-life friends.) Weird is big and traumatizing and only very occasionally cute. Weird is laugh-crying as you remember all the insane sh*t you’ve done, because it’s really funny and awful and you

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It’s time to reclaim our weird, and celebrate it. Not the weird that’s cute and intended to charm guys, but the weird that can scare them off. Next time you go on a date, don’t wear those quirky tights and that flippin scarf. Wear some sensible loafers and that dress you adore that looks like it’s made of umbrella material, with the big ruffle and so many pockets you can leave your bag at home. Don’t stumble. Don’t awkwardly yet charmingly offer your hand. Stroll up there with confidence, humming "Pudding Treat" to yourself, explain that you’re late because sometimes you forget how to tell time, and wipe the sweat off your brow in a manner that does not seem embarrassed by the fact that you, like many other mammals, sweat. Tell him you like him in the strangest way possible.

You don’t need funky glasses to make the rest of your stranger qualities seem more OK. You don’t need to dress your eccentricities. Get down with your weird self. The next time I ask a date if girls are weird, I want him to say HELL YES.

Mikayla Park is a teacher/nonprofit creative person residing in the slums of Beverly Hills. Find her, and her two charming rescue dogs, everywhere at @mikaylapark.
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