“Has it ever occurred to you,” my mother used to ask, “that perhaps, just perhaps, if the rest of the world disagrees with you it might not be everyone else who is in the wrong?”
Periodically I’ve wondered about this.
I did find it odd, for example, when I was in Canada people seemed to think that not only did I have a bizarre accent, but they had none at all. This was in complete contrast to my own opinion.
I’ve always found the idea of wearing football shirts when you’re not playing football a bit strange too. Especially when people wearing one kind of shirt feel obliged to intimidate or beat to a pulp, someone wearing a different coloured shirt.
Nationalism has always been an enigma to me. Why wave a flag to say I was born on this bit of rock rather than that bit of rock. And what’s that? You think we should go over to other people’s bits of rock and shoot them? No, no, I’m afraid your reasoning escapes me.
And even more peculiar, I am expected to show my support for athletes, pop stars or other famous people because they were born on the same bit of rock as me, even though I don’t know them at all.
Not to mention I was supposed to support the school rugby/ football/ cricket teams, despite the fact the aggressive bullies who were out to make my life a misery usually populated them.
Religion is a bit surprising too. There are far more people in the world who have some kind of unprovable metaphysical belief system than atheists. Indeed, more people in the world believe in reincarnation than don’t. If sanity is governed by majority reasoning, then all who do not believe they will be reborn must be insane.
Then there’s TV. Soap operas, game shows and “reality TV” all leave me cold, and yet they are the most popular forms of television in the country.
What about beauty? Why do so many people cling to one, narrowly defined definition of attractiveness, when we are surrounded by such exquisite diversity?
Having pets always seemed a bit weird to me. Oh I can fully understand using animals for work - sheep dogs, cart-horses, huskies etc - but parrots, hamsters and snakes? As I write this, a family have just walked past the window with a huge Irish wolfhound on a lead. I have to say they didn’t look much like Irish wolf hunters to me; the dad was wearing a Manchester United football shirt for one thing (and he didn’t look like he plays for Manchester United either).
Why would anyone want to buy an incredibly lifelike baby doll that “looks, feels and even smells like a real baby,” for £95?
Who collects Cliff Richard plates, “rimmed with precious 22ct gold”?
And do dog owners really have no sense of poetry?
The world out there rarely seems to make much sense.
Mind you, I’m the kind of person who tends to assume everyone has mental health problems, and anyone who says otherwise is just in denial. For that matter, I’m also always surprised to find anyone over the age of 34 who has never considered suicide as a rational option.
To me, of course, all my reactions are perfectly ordinary; they don’t seem weird, bizarre, peculiar, strange, mysterious, unusual, outlandish or eccentric. But in so many ways they appear to be at odds with general consensuses.
I daresay anyone reading this will agree with some and disagree with others, but very few will consider all my viewpoints exactly as their own.
This can lead so easily lead to a sense of isolation, alienation and even a fear of being found out to be different.
But that seems pretty universal: just about everyone feels they don’t quite fit in. And those who fear discovery the most are often those who shout the loudest about the need for conformity.
The fact is we all feel pain, excitement, fear, love, anger, happiness and despondency. What provokes any of these emotions is different for each of us, but we all feel them nevertheless.
So while I can go through times when I’m convinced I must have been exchanged at birth by aliens doing some kind of experiment to see if I’d notice, I content myself with the fact everyone feels this way at some point in their lives.