I’m trying here in Denver, I really am. I’ve been signing up for random social groups, clubs, activities, botanic gardens, film societies, whatever. I’m Marcia friggin’ Brady over here in the square state but developing a new network from scratch doesn’t happen overnight.
I attended one of my first ‘singles events’ this afternoon – a Broncos game in a bar – and had a revelation of sorts. Everyone there was perfectly nice - like me, a bit shy (ha!) and looking to meet new people. As more folks arrived, however, I started to feel more and more detached. Not just the usual girl-in-a-bubble sensation that I feel in daily life, this was something else. The feeling was that I’d somehow wandered into the wrong tribe.
Most of the other folks in the group were either much older than me or had just given up early, hard to tell. Mind you, I’m the most immature 40-year-old you’d ever want to meet, a source of pride, I don’t mind sayin’. Nearly every woman I met (yup, always plenty of those) had short, conservative haircuts and wore those non-descript Mom Jeans. They mostly lived in the suburbs and try as I might, I could not develop a connection with anyone. I remember thinking, “The first person who says the word ‘fuck’ I am buying a drink.”
I know plenty of rocking mamas so it really has nothing to do with whether someone has kids or not, it’s more about a vague resignation or an immense desire for safety that makes me impatient and fidgety. There is a stiffness there that makes me stiff as well and I should know to avoid it at this point in my life.
Right about the time I heard the woman next to me say, “I do not like horses,” my phone rang. It was a new friend, Bliss, a vivacious gal with a heavy Mississippi accent. “Girl! Carlie just got a new puppy! Ya’ll gotta meet us over at her place!” Something in my head clicked and after contemplating this for two minutes, I hopped off my barstool and left. It was still the first quarter.
Driving over to Carlie’s house, I had to admit that the perfectly nice people at the bar were simply not my people. Again, lovely folks but something about them all screamed, “NORMAL!” I always forget this and have to re-learn it over and over again. I try to fit in with NORMAL and I can never fully choke it down. My people are the FREAKS, I am so proud to say. Thankfully, Bliss, Carlie and others in their world are nowhere near NORMAL. There is drama, there is art, there is funky shit on the walls and plenty of mistakes out there for all to see; I find great comfort in this atmosphere.
I’ve always envied people who were committed to one distinction or another. I have lots of NORMAL friends and I have lots of FREAK friends and love them both dearly. Keep in mind that FREAKS can look perfectly NORMAL and certainly even sound that way but in their heart of hearts, that Freak Flag is ready to fly at a moment’s notice.
My pal, Court, is a perfect example: Blue-blood Boston-bred, pearl-wearing, blonde, blue-eyed wife works corporate PR in Manhattan but lives “in the country.” Among other freaky items she would kill me to divulge, that girl knows everything there is to know about rap and hip-hop. Together, we were once privately serenaded by Cypress Hill and I had to bring her with me to a Snoop Dogg concert so she could explain the music to me. While Courtney appears NORMAL (and may, in fact, be) she speaks FREAK fluently and that’s really all I need.
I remember being a cheerleader in high school (I know, I know but they gave me free audiences, matching outfits and all the boys I could eat – what’s an opportunistic girl supposed to do?) and secretly wanting to be in the band or do stage crew - something darker and lower profile. I should have realized it when my brother’s friends (shiny, happy, surfers) and my friends (conflicted, struggling artists) accidentally collided one day, the difference was notable.
I had a boyfriend say to me once (he was the most beautiful FREAK of all) “Yeah, the thing is, you can pass for NORMAL but you’re a FREAK inside.” It was pretty crystal clear after that. He’s right though, I can move undercover without much pushback but for the love of god, I certainly couldn’t keep it up full-time.
Takes one to know one. Years ago, I was in North Dakota visiting family and was meeting the wife of a cousin for the first time. When I stepped into Kim’s living room, my jaw dropped. I had been in enough North Dakota farmhouses decorated in family quilts and country ducks to know that Kim was interested in a different route.
The carpet was deep purple and in the middle of the room was a bright red baby grand piano. On the stark white wall below sun-lit cathedral ceilings was a beautiful art rendering of Disney villains – powerful and slightly disturbing. I was impressed with her chutzpah and quite sure the tiny farm town was scandalized by her inspired decor. All that was missing was a needlepoint satanic pentagram and a paisley octi-bong and they would have been obligated to run her out of town.
I looked this farm wife in the eye, with her blonde perky haircut and perfect white teeth, and noted something behind her eyes that said, “By god, this is who I am and I will not conform.” We recognized one another instantly and struck an immediate bond. Sadly, my cousin divorced her and she moved back to Fargo, where she died of breast cancer at the age of 42. She was too much of a lady to ever utter the F-bomb, I'm sure, but I know she could've used a drink.
I still see that twinkle in her eye and am so glad we got the chance to confirm our FREAK-kinship, albeit silently.