Quirkiness as a lifestyle choice (or not) /s

4 minute read

What does it mean to be quirky? Let’s operationalize:

From Urban Dictionary:

what basic bitches call themselves

Someone who thinks they’re doing something special and DiFfErEnT but in reality they are just annoying

An adjective to describe someone who is acting ‘different’ by saying edgy things, or someone who thinks they’re being special and different, but just ends up acting like everyone else. Can be used to describe someones humor that is mostly generic

Oof, doesn’t sound great. Self-describing as quirky is, in my own opinion, kind of cringe. Yet here I am, pyjamas and all, writing about what quirkiness is to me: an ideology, a lifestyle, a form of self-definition, a way for me to feel safe in a world that has repeatedly screamed at me that I am not to be accepted. But hahaha, we’re just being quirky, everything’s okay, we’re all the same in the end aren’t we :)

From Merriam-Webster:

having many quirks : unusual in especially an interesting or appealing way

Ooh, much better.

To me, acting quirky (and talking about quirk) is a way to act weird without being judged. It’s about creating spaces and means of expression that allow me not to act quirky, but to act like I want to, to make a weird noise at 1 am when I’m chatting with my friend, to eat raw tomatoes at midnight, or to troll without getting judged, because I’m just “being quirky”.

But more than just excusing the use of silly behavior, quirkiness also describes a way of viewing myself always with distance, always with some light tinge of irony and sarcasm. Look at this blog post: I’m hiding everything by saying opposite things at different places in the post, as a way of protecting myself and only letting the astute reader who knows me to figure out what I’m saying. Being quirky is the same: I can show you a real, vulnerable part of my soul and then just shrug it off with a sly smile: “I’m just being quirky, I’m just trolling :)”. I’ll throw out some fake signals and say this when I’m actually trolling too, and you won’t know, unless you know me and you deserve to.

So yeah, being quirky as a lifestyle choice is kind of cringe. But what if I’m just using quirky as some convenient portmanteau, a convenient mask to hide what it means for me to be myself, a way to constantly have plausible deniability and say, you know what, I was just being quirky, I was just trolling.

Maybe I should consider that constantly holding myself away like this means I’ll lose who I am myself. Faced with a certain nihilistic reality regarding my own belief that if I think too hard about anything, there’s no clear-cut answer, I’ll just dissolve into a mercurial and confusing shape-shifter you can never trust.

Maybe this constant performative game can tear away at someone’s sense of self, make them lose a special part that allows them to say I, but maybe also it’s what allows you to bring nuance into your perspective on the world, to embrace your difference and feel like you are someone who can be a part of something.

Who am I? Am I quirky?

What am I looking for? Can people see who I am? I’m not special, I’m just me, quirks and all.

Addendum: I firmly believe one of the big ways MIT is staying relevant as an institution is setting itself up to be quirky. It seems that, whatever that means, some of the highest-performing individuals in the world are qUirKY, and want to find a place where that’s embraced. MIT admissions blogging, hacking culture, east side culture, these are ways for MIT to stand out and say here’s a place where anyone can be themselves, whatever that means to them. And that’s why I think this place can be great, but it’s also a stance to be wary of. Being too different means you might be alone, and humans need commonality to connect. Figure out who you are, realize you’re unique, but don’t let that kill your appeal for others.

Poem:

Quirky, oh quirky, what do you mean? A mask to hide, a way to be seen? A shield from judgment, a form of expression, Or just a way to avoid confession?

You’re weird, you’re different, you’re not like the rest, But is that really what makes you the best? Or are you just hiding, afraid to be seen, Afraid to be vulnerable, afraid to be mean?

Quirky, oh quirky, you’re a paradox, A way to be free, a way to be boxed. You’re a form of protection, a way to be safe, But are you really yourself, or just a fake?

You’re vulnerable, you’re real, you’re full of quirks, But are you really happy, or just a jerk? You’re unique, you’re special, you’re one of a kind, But are you really yourself, or just a state of mind?

Quirky, oh quirky, what do you mean? A way to be free, a way to be seen? Or just a way to hide, a way to be safe, But not a way to be brave.

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