How many of us fly our freak flag at half mast? How many of us keep our freak flag stuffed in the back of our closet for fear of what other people might think? If, like me, you fall in to one of those two categories then I’m afraid you, me, and old Kermit here share something in common. All too often we hide the very things that make us unique, that make us who we are, that set us apart from the masses because we’re so desperate to be one of the masses. We don’t want to feel like aliens on our own planet, we want to fit in and so we shrink ourselves, we stifle our voice, we try to get rid of the parts of us that society tells us aren’t acceptable, we try to blend in.
The Curse of Conformity
If you’re a lover of all things alcoholic then you may want to cover your eyes for a bit while I confess to not liking alcohol. Not only that but alcohol definitely does not like me. I remember one time at university having three vodka’s and then spending the remainder of the evening with my head down the toilet looking much the same colour as our friend Kermit. In the ensuing years, I had the odd drink here or there but my liver very quickly voiced its unhappiness until I decided that I quite like being on good terms with my liver and that being green was quite frankly just not my colour.
Not drinking alcohol seems like a rather benign, rather boring topic of conversation to me but apparently non-drinkers are still classified as a rare species and my continual requests for ‘just water with some lemon please’ tend to be met with a tilted head, raised eyebrows, a quizzical expression and responses that range from ‘are you sure? just water? really? you don’t want just a small glass of wine?’ to my all-time personal favourite ‘have you tried to persevere? My body didn’t like it either when I first started but it got used to it.’
Society loves people that fit in. The more you blend in, the more that you conform, the more you keep your freak flag under wraps, the more that society loves you. Do you know who society doesn’t love? People who let their freak flag fly:
- Single at forty? We’re so sorry you got left on the shelf
- Childless at forty-five? We worry about the loneliness we’ve decided you’ll inevitably face in your golden years
- Occasionally pop to the supermarket in your onesie and slippers? Clearl,y there is something wrong with you
- Like to launch in toa spontaneous song when you’re on the bus? Either you’re mentally deranged or just plain weird, either way, you’re to be avoided
- Enjoy skipping along the beach without a care in the world? Fun is best left to children thank you very much
- Having a blast rocking those multi-coloured dreadlocks? She must be one of those ‘hippie’ folk
Might I just ask why we have decided that wearing a onesie and slippers to the supermarket, singing on a bus, and skipping on a beach, are activities only to be enjoyed by children? When did we decide that children doing these things warrant a smile and adults doing them requires an immediate mental health referral? I have decided that as adults we have completely sucked all the fun out of life. See here’s the thing. I absolutely LOVE skipping, I absolutely LOVE jumping on a swing at a children’s playground, riding merry-go-rounds, blowing bubbles, dancing to happy upbeat music, and when holding my partner’s hand, swinging our arms so high that I risk dislocating our shoulders. I rarely do any of these things. Why? Because apparently, you’re ‘weird’ if this stuff makes you smile at the age of thirty-five.
Oh No You Didn’t!
She did WHAT?!! He said THAT?!! You literally saw THIS?!! In the words of our friend Kermit, ‘it’s not easy being green’. As human beings, we’re on the whole a pretty judgmental bunch. We tend to favour routines, safety, comfort and predictability in life so we’re generally not all that keen on people who veer slightly left of centre, who we define as odd or different or weird or quirky, in other words, while we may think we’re a very tolerant bunch, we don’t tend to be all that keen on people who proudly fly their freak flag.
You know who I mean, the hippie with the multi coloured dreadlocks who also decided that her dog would benefit from a bit of the all over rainbow treatment as well, the young girl who recently got a face tattoo of Harry Styles, Jonathan Van Ness from Queer Eye rocking a dress on the red carpet at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards, ok, so those are perhaps slightly extreme examples but even my preferring a cup of peppermint tea to a mojito incites opinion. Society may encourage us to express our individuality but at the end of the day, that’s not what it really wants. No, it wants you to put away your freak flag and fit in to the box its created for you, a box that we are far too quick to jump into and that is getting far too crowded.
Stressed and Repressed
So where does all that judging and towing the line get us? Stressed, repressed, and weighed down by the heaviness of societal expectations. We end up in jobs we don’t like, living lives we don’t want, surrounded by things we don’t need, wasting time we don’t have. Why? Because society tells us that’s what will make us happy and we think okay well hey, if that’s what everyone else is doing then I guess that’s what I should be doing to be happy. Of course hiding away our freak flag doesn’t make us happy it just makes us mental and emotional wrecks who follow in Kermit’s little green footsteps and either come to see consuming vast quantities of wine as counting towards their 5+ a day fruit and vegetable intake or spend vast amounts of money engaging in weekly therapy sessions.
There is a freak flag wielding inner child in me that is desperate to get out. She wants to play, to laugh, to have fun, to ask questions, to speak her truth uninhibited by the world. She wants to let her kooky, goofy, quirky, weird side out. She wants to be able to say no, guilt-free, to all those social gatherings she does not want to go to. She wants to say no to hanging out with people she’s not that fond of. She wants to say yes to quiet days curled up with a good book and long periods of alone time. She wants to be free to be herself unencumbered by the weight of the life society wants her to live.
Fly Your Freak Flag and Fly it with Pride
For what it’s worth here’s what I think we need to do. We need to start dancing to our own beat, bopping to our own groove, flying our freak flag with pride. We need to stop repressing our weirdness, our quirkiness, our goofiness and start embracing it. If we want to skip down a beach or frolic in the autumn leaves like our friend Kermit here then why should we miss out on that just because we’re over the age of 10? Why does adulthood have to equal boring-hood? All this stress and hum-drum living is surely harming our mental health more than singing on a bus in front of strangers right?
Our time is limited, we can’t waste it living a cardboard cut-out life, the template for which we seem to get given the day we’re born. No, we can’t risk lying on our death-beds cursing our lack of courage for fear of what other’s might have thought of us if we’d been true to ourselves. Besides, all the perplexed, disapproving, furrowed brows out there who look at you like you’re in need of medication when you attempt to moonwalk like Michael Jackson across the wooden floors of your home? They’re secretly in awe of how you broke free from the box and silently ponder if perhaps life beyond the four walls might be worth the risk after all.