Consider “weird” as a celebration of deviance and of the delight that comes with doing so, with thumbing one’s nose at conventions, norms, and expectations. Associated with the notion of quirky, the spelling of which is itself weird, even quirky, given 1) the absence of any visible ‘w’ from the word and 2) the undeniable fact that we somehow conjure a ‘whir’ right out of the middle of that word. Coo-whir-key. Weird, right?

I’m only just beginning to realize the extent to which our son has been tuning up my weird radar (quirky flavored). Weird suggests an awareness of the norms and, on some level, a willfulness with which one deviates from them. Quirky, on the other hand, feels less dependent on this prior knowledge and more focused on being attuned to one’s, well, quirks. Carefree and unencumbered. Can we confidently fold quirky into a subcategory of weird?

So much of what our son does, especially of the joyful scream and stomping feet variety, appears to be totally uninfluenced by social norms. He’s simply doing his thing, in the truest sense. Living life and loving living. Of course, not all of his behavior is without social influence — he responds to us in ways that make me more and more aware of how much we as parents shape his behavior, and this is weird in a different way. In several ways, actually.

Weird in the “we need to fix our own shit” way.

We need to fix our own shit, and urgently, to avoid passing it to him and making him the bearer of it too, and what’s worse, being unaware that he is bearing it but instead understanding said shit as the natural order of things, the way things are, which too often becomes the way things ought to be, and even, the way things must be. The illusion of inevitability.

This is the big We. All of us. In order for us to fix this, to stop the recursive spread of our own problems, our own biases, our own oppressions, our own shit into the next generation, we need first to identify this shit, and I mean really point it out. Call ourselves on it, call each other on it, and expect to be called by others on it. Be grateful to be called on it. Work together to dismantle the shit, whatever works to help us to guard against it.

Because weird, in addition to supporting the carefree and unencumbered quirky, also becomes a mechanism by which we see otherwise hidden structures within society. Society’s shit. One person’s weird-as-charmingly-idiosyncratic is another person’s weird-as-social-misfit, and how the behavior in question is interpreted, and who gets to interpret it, to categorize it, to assign the flavor of deviance, all reveal the unearned privilege that is distributed according to race, gender, sexual orientation, class, status, and so on. We’re charitable to some in ways that we aren’t to others (always ask whom the we refers to), and the fissures along which this charity is handed out reveals more about those who give than it does those who receive. Yet still we cling to unexamined notions of meritocracy and exceptionalism. Weird…