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To The Girl Calling Herself “Quirky” And “Awkward”

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You are not “quirky.” You are not “awkward.” I’m sorry. You were in a sorority–a group that is defined by appraisal and judgement. The older girls didn’t pick you because they thought, “Let’s shake things up and bring in that autistic girl.” You came to recruitment wearing your favorite dress, you only ate a few bites of the pizza, and you lied when you told that one girl with the French braid she looked cute. You know who else did that? Every other girl.

You say things like, “I just can’t,” stopping yourself before saying the very things that could possibly make you “quirky” and “awkward.” You know who is quirky and awkward? The girl who finishes that sentence. She yells, “I just can’t use this yarn for my cat sweaters anymore!” or the girl who whispers to herself, “I just can’t with that supermarket–it never has seeded grapes.” You don’t play an instrument. You’ve never played dominos the real way. You cook, but only because the recipe looked good on You even had a nice conversation with a person at the drugstore as you got your birth control prescription filled. I know you wore a ponytail to class that was kind of messy, you ate lunch alone without your headphones, you once hooked up with a guy and didn’t get his number, and your Instagram quotes Avril Lavigne. None of those things make you “quirky” or “awkward.” You are just like every other person. I’m sorry.

Of course, you want to be quirky and awkward. We all want to be special. It’s how we were raised. We grew up during an economic boom. We had Game Boys and Power Wheels. “I’ll take a spin in the ‘vette as soon as I get past this Tetris level,” you would say as you took a draw from your Capri Sun. Our parents encouraged it. “You can be anything you want to be,” they’d say as they dreamt of you performing brain surgery and you pictured yourself doing whatever it is a communications major does. We all push for individuality. We take to the Internet, an endless canvas for our thoughts, opinions, and penis pictures. There’s an audience of millions waiting for our every keystroke, and we all take every advantage of it as much as we can. We write lists and columns and Facebook posts and tweets and host podcasts and do stand up comedy (okay maybe just a couple of us). It’s our childhood of endless compliments blurred into an adulthood of endless “likes,” and we are emboldened in our stances.

It’s too late to label yourself as “quirky” and “awkward” because you’re an adult. Nobody chooses those descriptions. They are childhood labels given at the weakest time of our lives. The girl at Penn State who talks to squirrels and goes on local access TV to talk about it is quirky. The kid at recess who poked at dead birds in the parking lot was awkward. Jeans to baseball practice. Severe dandruff problems. Extreme obesity. Talking to ghosts. These are the things of quirk, not your lack of coordination at Zumba. You professing to be quirky and awkward is like seeing the bandwagon of individuality drive by and chasing after it, yelling, “Oh me too, me too!” I’m sorry, but that train of contradiction already left the station. Your blog about fashion isn’t the first, your app idea already exists, your tweet was already written, that Justin Timberlake “It’s gonna be May” meme was already posted (by your aunt), and each and every one of us looks at our phone all day, going from email to Twitter to Facebook to Instagram to Tinder (that’s the official order). We are all very much the same, so screaming from the rooftops about how quirky or awkward you are just feels a little forced, a little try-hard, and a little elitist.

The difficult fact of growing up is realizing that everyone is very much the same. Ironically, it’s the reason BuzzFeed lists exist–they postpone that reality while owing their success to it. They hit on something ostensibly specific to our lives, while being universal enough to share. We wouldn’t pass them around if our childhoods didn’t resemble the next person’s, yet the very reason we share them is to further define our individuality. If you couldn’t tell already, I’m bothered by this. It encourages this state of arrested development where we believe we are unique–and therefore superior–to the person next to us. But that belief holds us back because inherent in it is the idea that we don’t need to improve. Our lack of accomplishments aren’t indicative of our many talents. We are great already.

The only way to fix all this is to do something. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good meme, and by all means, send me that video of the baby panda falling over (Oh, and share this article!). But these acts should be the stuff of simple human interaction, not the ever expanding curation of your individuality. Here’s a truth: if you talk about what you’re going to do, you are only further delaying the thing that needs to be done. Let’s expand on that. If you’re constantly telling me the kind of person you are, you’re delaying the person you’ll naturally become. You think you’re awkward and quirky? Keep it to yourself. Your false modesty is the height of arrogance, and the very act of telling me defies itself. I just can’t right now.

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Jared Freid (@jtrain56) is a New York City-based comedian who has been featured on MTV’s Failosophy and is the host of The JTrain Podcast presented by TFM.

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