(originally posted 4/9/2019)
Years ago, soon after publishing the unfortunately-titled Homo sayswhaticus (which might explain my last book was “neXt”) (and, of course, a quick apology to those of you who read the last sentence too quickly and thought I said “My next book will be my last) (I didn’t mean to get your hopes up) I got an email from someone who had read it asking me if I considered myself an “outsider” as opposed to a “normie.” It was an interesting question.
I’m not sure if she intended for my first thought to be about the S.E. Hinton book The Outsiders but that’s the danger inherent when sending in questions to unknown authors (there’s a reason we’re unknown). Ponyboy was an ‘outsider’ due to his status as an orphan and his low economic status.
I am neither an orphan or poor but I’ll tell you one thing, I wish to fuck my name was Ponyboy Manion. The irony being I could have been and I blew it.
Does that allows me to consider myself an ‘outsider’ despite the fact I have loving parents and a middle-class income?
The problem as I see it is that these days everyone identifies themselves as ‘outsiders.’ Being an ‘outsider’ is cool. The only thing cooler these days to is identify yourself as a ‘victim.’ Chances are that you’re neither, although if you are reading this it’s true you are probably a ‘victim’… of having poor taste in reading material.
My point, if you can call it that, is that not everyone can be an ‘outsider.’ If everyone is an ‘outsider’ then no one is.
And don’t buy into those people covered in tattoos or piercings as being ‘outsiders’. The only thing I can say with any certainty is that ‘outsiders’ are inherently interesting and some of those dyed-hair, clothing with spikes sticking out folks are the dullest people to ever walk the Earth. If seated next to them at a dinner party you’d literally spend the entire time wondering if the knife was sharp enough to cut off your own head and end the tedious “I am such a rebel. I am so different” dialogue that you’d be subject to.
Of course, some of them are really ‘outsiders’ and are fascinating but so are some of the people that look like “normies.”
Perhaps she was asking me if I considered myself an “outsider” as it pertains to Outsider Art, i.e. art created by the mentally ill.
If you are unfamiliar with Outsider Art let me allow French artist Jean Dubuffet to give you his opinion about it:
“Those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses – where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere – are, because of these very facts, more precious than the productions of professionals. After a certain familiarity with these flourishings of an exalted feverishness, lived so fully and so intensely by their authors, we cannot avoid the feeling that in relation to these works, cultural art in its entirety appears to be the game of a futile society, a fallacious parade.”
While it can argued that I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, I don’t think I can be considered mentally ill. On the other hand, I do aspire to the lack of critical acclaim mentioned by ol’ Jean so maybe I am a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Of course, the aforementioned insight being provided by someone whose last name translates to “a meal consisting of several dishes from which guests serve themselves.” Which, in turn makes me wonder why I used Happy Meal in the proceeding sentence (Hey subconscious! McDonalds is not a Dubuffet).
Holy shit, perhaps I’m making an argument for Outsider Art status after all.
Anyway, I think The Outsiders would have been a very different book if Ponyboy and Johnny had been mentally ill. I guess S.E. Hinton gave us the option to read it like they were. Now I have a new project.
In the end, one of my favorite ways to wrap up a thought, maybe we’re all “outsiders” and “normies.” All the Socs and all the Greasers, Dally and Darry and Cherry and Bob, accountants and wannabe-freaks, are all both, each moment and every situation casting them in one role or the other. Swinging wildly between both poles. Every interaction replete in fuzzy expectations and fuzzier interpretations.
Maybe that’s why life is harder than it needs to be.
Except for me.
To finally answer the question, only a few years later, I am definitely a fucking “normie.”
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