Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z: Allure of the Different


Remember high school? I watched a rerun of Grey's Anatomy recently, I think from season 4 or 5, about high school, and at some point one Mc-character says to another, "we never really grow up and leave that behind." "Leave what behind?" says the other character. "The cliques."


Now ain't that the truth?

Who were you in high school? Were you part of the in-group? Were you the popular cheerleader, the quarterback that everyone had a crush on? Were you the math whiz that played Dungeons and Dragons? The teachers' pet? The kid with vegetarian parents that never got a nice "normal" lunch and hid from the others to eat tofu and salad? The kid that found the vegan other and made fun of them, taunted others into drawing an uncrossable line?

No judgment here. I was a nasty kid. I made life impossible for many people--and life was made impossible for me by many others. I was a taunter--but I was also different, and paid the price.

What is it about different people that is so un-ignorable? Think about that kid, the one no one would speak to, the one that was bullied. He or she was different, somehow--weird parents, weird hair, weird habits. They didn't fit. But why couldn't they just be left alone? Why did we feel the need to draw that line, to set ourselves apart from them?

You're thinking, "why does it matter?" It's a long time ago, isn't it? But--it isn't. Not really. Everywhere around you--around us--this same thing keeps happening. We draw lines. We set ourselves apart from people who are different, and mostly this setting apart happens in cruel and nasty ways. We even make laws for it.

It's like we can't help ourselves. We simply can't turn away from it, leave it be. Why?


Do we, in some secret recess, find this different alluring? Is that why it's threatening? Because we like it, or envy it? Because its difference challenges our carefully cultivated "normalcy", shows it up for the fake it is? Because by its simple existence this different makes us see how ordinary we are?

Like Martin Luther King Jr., I have a dream. And that dream is that one day the different will be accepted as alluring, without the threat. That its allure will be understood as the challenge it is--to be better, to be authentic and real. Because--let's face it. We are all different.

We're just terrified of admitting it.


Visit the other A to Z bloggers!

28 comments :

  1. Wow, Guilie! This really hit me... what a great start to the challenge!
    I was always the quiet one, never part of the in-group activities(who were the smokers/drinkers/party-animals...)though I mixed with them (amazingly), but was never influenced to do anything I didn't WANT to do... I never really bowed to peer pressure... always stood my ground in my own silent way!

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    1. Good for you, Michelle! Peer pressure was always hard for me to resist, especially the trends that made me "different" :D I started smoking way before any of my peers did, and I loved setting myself apart with things that no one did... But, in a twisted way, it's just another way to fit in, isn't it? Glad you were always able to keep true to yourself.

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  2. Difference without hatred would be my dream.

    Visiting from A-Z.

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    1. Yes, Mary! Difference without hatred, indeed. Thanks for the visit!

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  3. Nice thought provoking post, Guilie.

    You claim to have been a nasty kid, but you turned into a beautiful, sweet adult. Maybe like a fine wine, you just needed to age. :)

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    1. Aaaawwww... You're so sweet :) Guilie, the fine vintage--bitter when young, sweetening as she ages... I like it :D

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  4. This is the best blog I've read so far. It engaged me immediately. I was different in that I was taller and more calm than most of my peers.

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    1. Thanks, Francene! Glad you like the blog. I was also taller--markedly so, and it wasn't until I started living among all these Europeans that I stopped slouching (sort of).

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  5. An excellent introduction to A to Z! I was the tall, skinny kid in glasses, a wall flower who grew boobs before anyone else. Your entry tapped into that ugly time when being a bookworm was not always a protection but somehow got me into college where my writing was valued. I would never want to return to those days, a fearful rite of passage.

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Beth, and I'm glad you liked the post. Funny how those things that made us different and "uncool" back then turned out to be the talents that, as adults, made us successful.

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  6. Great post, Guilie! I went to a high school reunion a few years ago. I remember being struck by the idea that although everyone was fundamentally the same as they had been in high school, I spoke to people I would never have approached in high school and found I had more in common with them than I had ever previously suspected. It was a weird dichotomy. Then again, maybe it was just maturity and the ability to appreciate the differences on a new level.

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    1. Lorraine, that's so true--I haven't been to any of my high school reunions (I live far far away now), but whenever I do see people from back then, I'm amazed by the same thing: how the people I thought "uncool" are now so much more interesting and rich in personality than the ones that seemed so cool. Those, the cool ones, seem so superficial and ordinary now, haha!

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  7. Great post! I was an 'in' girl Friday nights when I danced at the football games, I was with the 'creative' types during the week when I was writing poetry and short stories. Actually, I was friends with everyone. I just couldn't blend the groups easily.

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    1. Haha--I hear you, Clara. Mixing groups, especially in HS, isn't easy. Glad you were able to participate with several of them, even if they refused to "integrate".

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  8. You were on the other side of the cafeteria from me in high school - or causing my humiliation ... But what intrigues me most from this post (besides the clarity and delightful writing voice) is the Allure of differences -- yes, that would be so much more real than the boring drudgery of conformity.

    Nice to meet you -- I'll try to stop by later this month too!

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    1. Haha--not always, Judy, not always :) I had my share of ostracism too (karma, you know?), haha. Thank you for the lovely compliment, and I'm so glad you liked the post. It's great to meet you, too!

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  9. Cool post :) I'd watched a show about people who had been bullies, and was surprised to realize how few of them seemed to realize they were harming anyone. Most of them said that they were playing or having fun, that they hadn't meant anything by it.

    Hm. Well. lol, anyway, it's nice to meet you :)

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    1. Thanks for the visit, Kara. I'm not sure how sincere that is, bullies "not realizing" they were harming others. I think at some level one does know. I also think it's hard--very hard--to admit to oneself the cruelty that lives inside, that you've at some point set loose. But the realization, the admitting, is the beginning of true compassion. We've all, at one point or another, been cruel--to other people, to animals, to ourselves. Understanding this is the only way to forgive ourselves, and to move forward into a world that doesn't shut the door but instead tries to understand, and become better.

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    2. I agree, though it works both ways; forgive the bullies--well, at least that's the route I took, I should say. Anything to move on! lol And, yes, you're exactly right re the cruelty.

      On the show, they did seem sincere, though I wonder how much self-serving rewriting or editing their egos had done to make it all okay and keep themselves as the good guys.

      I'm looking forward to your B day!

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  10. So true. I was the smart snarky kid. Still am, I guess. Partly why I write. ;-)

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    1. Love smart snarky writers :) Thanks for the visit, Misha!

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  11. Great post! My high school posse and I always considered ourselves the 'independents', a mix match of people who fit together by not really belonging anywhere else. We even started our own club! (A book club, of course.) And hey, years later we still talk to each other, I don't know many other high schoolers from my grade to do that.

    Personally, I've always found different to be fascinating. I'm a curious girl, and want to know all I can. Depending on the extremeness of different. I'll admit, if people are different in too many ways, or different as in opposite to my morals and judgment, I tend to keep emotional distance, but I won't go out of my way to ignore them. We all have stories, and I like hearing them.

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    1. I loved those "independents"! They always seemed like the coolest kids to me, somehow. I agree--differentness is challenging, especially when it's extreme. I've found, though, that it's the encounter with those challenges that deepen my understanding of human nature, though.

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  12. I liked this and I like your dream, Guilie. I am a facebook follower of Carl King. He talks about the differences between introverts and extroverts. How extroverts are considered the norm while introverts are viewed as different, hence wrong. I love his defense of the introvert. Oh, and thanks for inviting me along on this A to Z. challenge. I think it's going to be fun.

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  13. Great post. Yes, we are all different...and I feel like even within ourselves, we have different and sometimes contradictory forces. We "contain multitudes," like Whitman said. The problem with high school is everybody feels they need to fit into just one starkly defined box-- people don't really work like that.

    I just nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award. Details here: http://bit.ly/HzFmvt

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  14. So very true! New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.

    Sylvia
    http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/

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  15. I had a small group of friends, but I was still more of the lone wolf among them. I'm actually pretty shy and I have to force myself to be outgoing. When I was in college many of my friends had a hard time believing that I'm actually pretty happy in my own world. I guess that's why I want to write and live this solitary life. Terrific start to the challenge and so happy that you and the team convinced me to be part of it!

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  16. Hi Guilie – Wow… this is a pretty powerful piece. And I certainly cannot answer your questions. I don’t know why people ostracize or torment those who are different. I don’t know why people tend to gravitate toward those like themselves. I’m sure many a biologist, psychiatrist, sociologist, politician, etc. have opinions on that.

    In high school, I certainly wasn’t perfect. I had good friends in different social groups. I suppose something in each group resonated with some piece of me. I make friends from different circles. Some are closer than others. It varies.

    Anyhow, I’m visiting some of the past A-Z posts that I missed, hence this late comment on your “A” post. I hope you had a lot of fun in April!

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