Odd is a word we often use and we use it in various ways.
odd one out,
and the very famous Odd Couple
Dictionaries offer several definitions that adequately explain those usages above and the word all by itself. They also seem to describe me!
- Different from what is usual or expected; strange; peculiar; weird: funny
- Numbers that cannot be divided exactly by the number two without having one left over
- Separated from a usual pair or set and therefore out of place or mismatched; unpaired; single; lone; solitary; extra
- Strange or unusual as in odd-looking, odd-sounding
- Peculiar as in “a very odd way to…”
- Being without a corresponding mate
- Left over after others are paired or grouped
In my dictionary, if you look up “odd” you see this definition:
And it makes sense looking at the definitions. I’m single. When everyone pairs up, I’m the extra. That’s just a matter of math, and all my math teachers told me that math is very cut-and-dry, there is only one answer. Sometimes that doesn’t matter to me at all, and at other times, it is my sole focus.
I’m the odd [wo]man out. Have been all my life. I’m the one sitting at the fringes of the Girl Scout troop because none of these girls were my friends. I didn’t even really know them. The odd one at church camp – no one there I knew and all of the other kids had done this before. And on top of it, the counselor was openly flirting with my dad because she said she thought he was my brother. This was my one and only camp experience. I don’t reach out and make friends easily and confidently.
I was always the last one chosen for any team at recess or in gym – and the last one wanting to play any sport (could be a correlation). All of my family are devoted sports fans. Not just one sport. Not just one team. No, they have teams in every sport and they all play or played some sport: golf, football, wrestling, soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, rugby, gymnastics, running. One of them runs marathons. My exercise comes from jumping to conclusions and running late.
I have always felt that I must be strange, peculiar, weird – although I’m not sure how. When I found groups that I chose to join or I was let in, it never seemed to last long. I mean, my book club quit me! At least I think they must have since I no longer get any notice of the book choices or meetings. I’ve always felt like I was trying to put my square self into their round organizations. I’m too liberal for some groups and too conservative for others.
While I am often categorized by others, their assessment doesn’t feel right either. I’m a Christian woman who has a tradition in evangelical churches but I’m not a registered Republican, I don’t see eye-to-eye with them on their treatment of women or of people of color, or of LGBTQ people. I often don’t agree with them on issues they see as black and white because I see lots of gray. In another group, I’m odd because I’m not a registered Democrat and I often see shades of gray where they see black and white too. That leaves me – the odd one out.
I don’t mind being the odd ball when it comes to opinions I have that are on moral issues. I believe that Black lives matter. I understand that people of color have often been treated as if they don’t matter. What they are trying to point out is that their lives matter too. I understand the idea that “all lives matter,” but I understand that no one has to tell white people that their lives matter. We’ve always been told that in many tacit ways. I also understand that many of those same people saying “all lives matter” are ready and willing to discriminate against anyone different than them whether because of color, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, or their sports teams. They don’t really mean ALL lives – just the ones like them. That’s a moral position in my mind. If I don’t fit into a group because I feel this way, then it isn’t a group I want to belong in.
I have opinions on behaviors that I grew up being taught were sinful. I don’t think that what behaviors are wrong and right have changed. I still believe it’s sinful to take things that don’t belong to you. It’s sinful to harm others. It’s sinful to commit adultery and inflict pain on someone. It’s sinful to do whatever you have to do in order to get ahead no matter the cost or method – the ends don’t always justify the means. I don’t care if you have a billion dollars or twenty-two cents to your name: wrong is wrong.
Am I really that odd in those beliefs? They seem very basic to me. So there must be something else that is making me an odd duck. But what is it? I read an article today in Plough about Mr. Collins the “awkward vicar of Pride and Prejudice” (https://tinyurl.com/2p845pd9). One of the points author Joy Clarkson makes is about how unaware Mr. Collins seems to be that he is so truly awkward. He cannot “read the room” enough to realize when he is not fitting in, when people are deriding him, mocking him, laughing at him. Can the same be said of me? Is anyone aware enough of self to see what others’ perceptions of you are?
I have a few very good friends and we have been friends for many years. I was never part of the “in” crowd, the popular people. I talk too loud and too much sometimes, and in other situations I can’t find a word to say. I am completely intimidated by a party crowd, a large gathering, and become totally tongue-tied. I wander and finally sit in a corner. I don’t dance because I was always sure I looked like a dork. My taste in music is quite eclectic but hasn’t included a lot of the top songs for many years. My interests are varied so I’m not someone who bores others with my one-note conversations on bat guano or something, but I’m not very good at small talk in situations where there are crowds or where I’m the newbie.
In these days of such deep division and polarization in society, I’ve come to see that I have isolated and hidden part of myself from lots of people including close friends and family because I don’t know if it’s okay that I don’t agree with them or see things the way they do. I’ve known for a long time that there are places I’d like to go and things I would like to do or see that no one else is interested in, no one else will just go along to join me. That’s okay. I go alone or try to find someone else to go with or throw away tickets purchased as gifts in some cases. We have lots of shared interests and I find new things at times by going along with what they want to do. But what happens if we get into the weeds of our differences in core beliefs. What happens if I allow myself to be vulnerable?
Sometimes I feel like I’m wearing a mask everywhere and still stand out as the odd one. So why the mask? I mean, it must not be working so well. Would revealing my heart leave me wide-open to be completely shunned or would it make me more liked? I don’t know. I just know that I was raised to worry about what people think and that in many ways fear of turmoil or ridicule keeps me quiet and the mask in place. While talking to my cousin this morning we discussed being who you are without regard to what others think. We talked about our parents who instilled in us the belief that we should always consider “what the neighbors will think” as we lived. He’s become a pro at being himself and not worrying about it. I’m working on it and improving, but vulnerability is scary.