Are You the Cool Kid or the Smelly Kid?

Or Why I’m No Longer Welcome at Most Social Events

When you’re a kid all you have to do is look, sound, act, or in some unfortunate cases, smell different, to become a target of derision. However, as an adult, being disliked tends to also involve the holding and expressing of unpopular opinions.

Though, contrary to what Axe Body Spray may tell you, being smelly is still a bad idea.

And while some of the same awkward traits that were social drawbacks in childhood may impede your ascension to whatever the adult equivalent to prom king is (hint: it’s not Assistant Vice-Principal), under the right circumstances, these “liabilities” may actually be of benefit. In some especially special cases, standing out with an eccentric and puerile trademark may even be a key advantage.

Think anyone with a reality show or, as as they’re now known, politicians.*

* Coincidentally, I’m in the process of writing a very poorly written book about US politics, tentatively titled: The Hindenberg.

My point is: unpopular opinions and ideas can be far more disruptive when you’re an adult than in the simplistic microcosm of the schoolyard. When we’re young it’s generally not our opinions that make us stand out, because in most instances our views aren’t fully formed.

For example, I remember having a very crude political debate with a friend in 3rd grade regarding then President Reagan (she loved her country wrong or more wrong and I was an unregistered Democrat). No one would’ve mistaken our exchange for an intellectual discussion unless they’d suffered a head trauma that left them unable to distinguish between “Nuh-uh…Yeah-huh” and the Vidal vs. Buckley debates.

As much as I wish I had an actual transcript of our disagreement, I feel fairly confident that I can recreate the essence of the argument:

Me: “He’s sooo not a good president.”

Her: “HE’S AMAZING AND HE LOVES ‘MERICA!” *

*I imagine that whenever someone sincerely shouts “‘Merica!” the Battle Hymn of the Republic plays and an asshole loses some fingers in a drunken fireworks mishap.

Yet, despite the airing of our (naive) political attitudes, neither one of us suffered ostraczation by our peers. Because, for the most part, we weren’t smelly.

That’s not to say that sharing controversial attitudes as a kid is never detrimental to one’s reputation. For instance, during my freshman year in high school, two of my friends each started dating “bad boys.” As the five of us hung out late one evening, they invited me to go play something called “mailbox baseball.”

To which I earnestly responded, “I’m not very good at sports.”

Once I was clear on the objective of mailbox baseball, I simply responded, “Oh hell no.”

This reply was directly responsible for me being condemned as a “Buzz kill, goody-two-shoes,” for most of my teens. And my early twenties.

Hello, my name is Buzz-Kill Goody-Two-Shoes. I graduated from high school WITHOUT a criminal record, bitches!

I like to think I was more of a low-profile, rule-questioning, nonconforming, upstanding citizen.

Though this reputation chased me for years, I never truly ran from it. Except for that one time when I awkwardly dangled a lit cigarette from my lips while pretending I could totally inhale if I wanted to, because I was trying to impress a really hot drummer with a Danzig tattoo. But then, what gal hasn’t feigned a raging nicotine addiction and a fondness for lung cancer in order to attract the attention of a dirty slacker? Right?

Hey! I’m not dirty. I use Axe Body Wash!

Of course, as we grow older, we formulate our beliefs more concretely. At which point we either start dressing like the guy who cuts the sleeves off his Nascar t-shirts and smells like gas station taquitos, or we continue to subject ourselves to new ideas and challenge our limited paradigm. Either way, we all eventually embrace certain philosophies and, if those philosophies tend toward the atypical — and we then share these with our coworkers, family, and friends — we run the risk of once again facing ridicule. Or, under the most extreme circumstances, shunning.

And who says shunning is a bad thing? Isn’t that the point? Shunning should be a deterrent — assuming of course, you’re not like me and happily practicing some sort of self-imposed, hermitic, societal shunning, brought about by your introversion/mild social-antipathy (every time the doorbell rings I drop to the floor like one of those inflatable tube people at the used car lot). I’m referring to the shunning of others who do and say intolerant and repugnant things.

Nobody’s home.

When you think about it, how is some occasional banishment really all that different from being sent to your room when you’re a kid? Usually mom sends you to your room so you can “think about what you’ve done.” Which really just means, “I can’t deal with your bullshit right now, so go away.” And how many adults do you know that you’d genuinely like to send to their room with the instruction that they can’t come out until they quit they’re bullshit?

Exactly.

Or perhaps shunning is all-wrong and we need to engage with others more. I dunno. I had more pro-shunning jokes than anti-shunning.

A Couple of Important Points Regarding the Sharing of Opinions:

1. The audience to which we deliver our beliefs/ideas, can be—and most often is—persuaded by our level of power (i.e., MOOLA).

For instance: If I’m working as a low-level IT guy and I decide to tell my coworkers that consuming only butter and Viagra for a week will optimize human performance, everyone will probably just tell me to go back to fondling the server (and likely, as a group, complain to HR).

But if I own the company, there’s a good chance that my employees will diligently attend my company-wide meeting on the subject and the vast majority will submissively cup and stroke my figurative balls for the remainder of their tenure. I’ll also get the cover of Fast Company under the heading, “Most Innovative, Inspiring, Creative, & Sexy CEO to Ever Grace Us with His Presence.”

Which is just another way of saying: know your audience.

So…sexy.

2. As mentioned previously, sometimes opinions are justifiably unpopular because they’re flat-out reprehensible and repellant.

In such cases, airing your unpopular stance and having them rebuffed by the majority of not-sociopaths is a very good, very necessary feature of maintaining, at least the illusion, of a civil society. Just don’t expect a portion of that majority to do anything beyond clicking the “unlike” button to reject such offensive ideas. (Or compose blog posts… but that’s, uh… totally different).

With the rise of social media we’ve found a two-sided coin: the very resources that can strengthen and bolster groups and activities for the public good also have the perverse ability to build alliances among those with ill intent. Sadly, as a result, the ability for assholes to locate, connect with, and empower one another, has created a sort of social and political Frankenstein monster, which threatens the very institutions once established to keep them in check.

But Enough About Society, Let’s Talk About Me.

As I’ve gotten older, my opinions have become more comprehensive. Age and experience has allowed me to question some rather basic assumptions — the sort of assumptions that many people take for granted. One such issue that has long haunted me involves a much-beloved custom one dare not disparage:

Baby showers. Frankly, I’m just not that into ’em.

*Prepares for shunning*

The infant-worshipping. The horrifying birth stories. The cultish assumption that every woman longs to sabotage her downstairs so she can spend a couple years changing poopy diapers — only to eventually deal with a teenager.

Just as I answered the invitation to mailbox baseball, I’d like to extend a heartfelt, “Oh hell no.”

And no offense to mothers. I have a mother. She’s awesome. I am grateful for mothers. I just don’t want to play “baby shower word scramble” or pretend that the stroller with built-in teething toy is even mildly interesting. Trust me, I’ve tried feigning interest. It just comes across like I’m a Speak-N-Spell struggling to sound-out the alphabet, “Aaa…uUu…OOo…tHat’s… H…hanDy…? IS thAt aN appropRiate RESponSe to thIS huMAN riTUuaL?”

So, unless the hostess plans to spike the iced tea with morphine, I’d prefer to mail my gift.

Or at least let me sleep through that toilet paper diaper game.

Now granted, no one has ever thrown me a baby shower, and if they did… I’d still be against it. Mostly because if everyone else knew I was pregnant before I did, it’d be a Rosemary’s Baby type situation and though I’m sure a devil-baby shower is genuinely unique, I’d be too busy shrieking to have any fun.

Another opinion I generally don’t share concerns an even more sacred institution than baby showers.

Yeah, you guessed it: Game of Thrones.

Wait. Let me be clear. I’ve never seen an entire episode. I watched maybe 30 minutes about five years ago and I remember only this: I was bored.

I imagine that some people were very tempted to punch their computer screens just now. And a few more are currently penning lengthy arguments as to why I should be ejected from society for placing the word “bored” anywhere near a reference to GoT. The rest of you simply shook your head and feel nothing but pity for me now.

But I’m sincerely not trying to ignorantly shit on GoT. I’m merely saying: Please stop telling me I should watch it. Not because I hate it. I just probably won’t watch it. I might some day, but I haven’t yet and I’m not going to anytime soon and you can’t make me. And also, stop making references to it that I don’t get.

Why yes, yes I do have a sickness. If you tell me to do something—unless it’s “How to save yourself from zombies” and I’m currently being chased by zombies — I probably won’t do it. Just because.

Is that dysfunctional? Maybe. Is it irrational? Sure. Is it arbitrary and at times, unproductive? Well, Duh. Just ask my husband why I refuse to use Siri.

He’s busy right now, so I’ll tell you: There are several reasons actually, one involving a deep-seated fear of cyber goblins and AI, but also because he keeps telling me I should use it to “save time.”

Look, my great grandparents didn’t even have indoor plumbing. Me typing out a search for “How to tell the difference between eczema and necrotizing fasciitis?” isn’t exactly eating up my time (or my biggest problem right now).

So stop telling me to watch GoT and use Siri! ’Cause as long as you’re peer-pressuring me, it’s not gonna happen!

And another thing! I actually hold some truly controversial ideas. Ideas that I must keep to myself at all costs.

Therefore, I won’t even mention that I’m a vegan (Oopsy).

Because let’s face it, that’s like screaming, “GOOGLE IT!” in the middle of a Yahoo! board meeting.

Or shouting, “Just do it!” at a Reebok factory.

Or yelling “It’s made of tofu!” at a beef jerky festival.

It’s actually quite good.

If I type the word vegan, unless that sentence ends with “and that’s why she died,” most folks can’t click the back button fast enough.

But, it amuses me so… VEGAN!