Weird Geeks 'r Us
March 27, 2009 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I've been tagged with labels like 'weird' or 'geek' since high school. This is usually coming from someone who has no positive frame of reference for something I've said or done. Hey, I'm unusual, no doubt, but I just get tired of hearing this word. What's a good comeback that doesn't leave scorch marks?

Let's say I've posted something on a blog or social networking site that's creative, unusual and/or funny. A subset of my friends don't know what to make of this information, so the default response is, 'you're weird.' I've been running into this forever. I can't help it if they can't process the information. These are my friends though and I don't want to download on them with a big flame-out about their lack of imagination.

From my perspective, about 98% of the populace is mentally beggared by too much TV with a vocabulary to match. That's where 'weird' comes from, an inability to find a descriptive term that is suitable other than the pejorative use of 'weird'. I understand that people's default response sometimes is 'that's weird.' It's just gets kind of old and it would be nice to have some comeback that informs and teaches, without lecturing, hectoring or leaving burn marks on the receiver.

I suppose I could own the term and make it something positive for myself. I'm curious if anyone has a way to bounce this interaction back at the sender. 'You're a geek' falls into this category too.

I suppose creative people in every field of endeavor run into this response and have for millenia. I suppose one attitude is to ignore it or acknowledge that any response is better than no response.
posted by diode to Human Relations (61 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you!
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:58 AM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

You're average.
posted by Benjy at 11:02 AM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

Some people think any meal that isn't mean -n- potatoes is weird.

"Thank you for not thinking I'm ordinary."
posted by bondcliff at 11:05 AM on March 27, 2009

My 12-year-old son hears this all the time from his peers at school. He says, "Thank you!" to them while thinking to himself, "You're normal." It makes him feel better and they don't know how to respond to the "Thank you!" He tells us it's against his moral code to be "normal" and he likes being creative and smart and quirky.

As far as informing and teaching, maybe you could come back with, "I prefer 'quirky' [or insert your term of choice]. I know [whatever it is that they're saying is weird] isn't what people expect, but I like breaking expectations and broadening people's minds," or something like that.
posted by cooker girl at 11:05 AM on March 27, 2009

WHAT!? How long have you known? Why didn't you say something sooner? I've been saying crap like this my whole life! Ah jeez *slap face... pause a moment... then stare them down*
posted by syntheticfaith at 11:06 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

I usually say "Thank you!" or "You say that like it's a bad thing" and then smile. It helps that several of my friends agree that being called "normal" is a worse insult.
posted by rakaidan at 11:09 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I once watched someone making fried eggs and piercing the yolk with a fork so it dribbled out all over the place.

I said: "That's weird."

Her response: "Weird -- but good."

I thought that was pretty effective. (I now do the same thing when I'm making fried eggs.)
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:09 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm 20, and for as long as I can remember, my standard response has been something like, "Thanks! Normal is boring." I even have a t-shirt that says, "Normal is boring." Then again, I genuinely believe that being weird is a good thing.
posted by Night_owl at 11:10 AM on March 27, 2009

Bonus story: I was at a party once chatting up one of the few interesting women there, or at least I thought she was interesting because she had one of those fashion faux-hawks. We were talking about something and I made a joke about using gasoline to burn a Rimbaud quote in a neighboring lawn or whatever and she stopped dead and pulled a face like she smelled a fart and said: "Uh, are you, weird?"

I just walked away, but I always wish I had said "Thanks!" first. I don't get annoyed at squares anymore once I realized that they mean it enviously. They wish they had personalities that that didn't inherently scream mediocrity and failure, so they try to isolate those of us who naturally think and act differently. Once you own this inequality, you have no choice but to be magnanimous, even if they are trying to sound condescending.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:11 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Whatever" or "Whatever you say" is pretty dismissive, particularly with the right tone of voice, and gets the message across that you don't care what this person says.
posted by Simon Barclay at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2009

You need a better set of friends. Among mine, "weird" or "geek" are highest praise.

I don't have a pithy phrase for you, only the advice to engage your friends' minds. Try asking, "What's weird about it?" sincerely. Get your friends to explain what they are thinking. The very act of getting them to analyze something more deeply than a surface categorization will help them broaden their critical thinking abilities and will open up a conversation about the topic you are interested in, rather than shutting them down.
posted by jamaro at 11:12 AM on March 27, 2009 [10 favorites]

I Gotta Be Me by Secret Agent 23 Skiddoo

When in doubt, go back to elementary school.
Relevant times 2:20 & 2:48.
posted by Seamus at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2009

Have you considered that people call you weird not because they're too "beggared" by TV but because you're acting so insufferably superior? If you really believe that these people, often your friends, simply "can't process the information," then just accept it and move on.
posted by telegraph at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2009 [16 favorites]

I'd reply with a nonchalant "Yep." Or "I know."

(...though sometimes, depending on my mood, I respond to such accusations with a happy prospector dance or yelling like a Bulbasaur. I recommend this only if you think they mean it as a compliment. Weirdness is a fine spice: delicious but best used sparingly.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:14 AM on March 27, 2009

They wish they had personalities that that didn't inherently scream mediocrity and failure, so they try to isolate those of us who naturally think and act differently.

IMO, I don't think that's it; I think people who put down those that they consider weird really think that it's bad to be different. That makes them ignorant, not jealous.
posted by Simon Barclay at 11:14 AM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

"Everybody's weird."
posted by milarepa at 11:17 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I always respond to "You're such a geek!" or "You're so weird!" with "And that's why you love me." Of course, that *is* why my friends and family love me, but I imagine it could work with those who find your weirdness incomprehensible. It's a way of saying "Yes, I am weird, and no, I'm not ashamed of it" without implying that they're inferior for not being weird themselves. (Because, after all, there's nothing wrong with being normal - it's just not who we are.)
posted by shaun uh at 11:19 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

"You're weird."

"I'd really prefer you refer to me as ZOD."
posted by monju_bosatsu at 11:20 AM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

Tell them that you're a conformist - elsewhere.
posted by metagnathous at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2009

"Thanks! I do try not to be boring..."
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:24 AM on March 27, 2009

"Metafilter thinks I'm normal." Although that might dig the hole deeper...
posted by cmyk at 11:25 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

These are your friends, so I assume when they say you're weird they mean it in a good way. I guess "thanks" is a good reply. Maybe you should tell them you secretly harbor feelings that they're "mentally beggared" and see how that goes. There are plenty of offbeat people you can be friends with and not feel superior to.
posted by sweetkid at 11:27 AM on March 27, 2009

Just smile quietly and make them wonder what you're up to! People only make these comments because they don't understand where you are coming from and want to take you down a couple of notches - let them wonder.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:31 AM on March 27, 2009

"The Dude abides."
posted by studentbaker at 11:32 AM on March 27, 2009 [5 favorites]

One of the ways I first realized I was kinda becoming an adult was when someone telling me "you're weird" ceased to irritate me and started to gratify and flatter me. I don't know how old you are; I'm betting, actually, that you're in your early twenties at most. If not, try thinking about it the way I do: we live in a world where there are a whole lot of pressures of normalization and standardization at work. So it's a pretty cool thing to make it to thirty, or forty, or what have you, and still be original enough to surprise and startle people every once in a while.

That said, if your friends don't say "You're weird!" in a half-amused, half-puzzled, wholly admiring tone, then maybe you should look for new friends, instead of coming up with ways to "enlighten" the current ones. After all, far better to be thought weird than smug, pretentious, or insecure.
posted by artemisia at 11:36 AM on March 27, 2009

By the way, to build on my previous "best used sparingly" comment: I am assuming that you just do what comes naturally to you and letting people respond how they may, and that's cool. However, I'd caution against deliberately cultivating an air of weirdness - because it does get tiring to hang out with someone who's constantly attempting to prove how different they are. It's the difference between letting your freak flag fly, and draping yourself in said freak flag while rollerskating up and down the block with some crazy one-man-band multi-instrumental getup, loudly announcing that it's time to salute the freak flag and sing the freak national anthem. Sometimes "that's weird" is meant less as "I don't understand this" and more as "oh, there he goes again, being nonconformist." Or, "this sure is unusual but I frankly don't find it interesting enough to discuss."

From my perspective, about 98% of the populace is mentally beggared by too much TV with a vocabulary to match.

This makes me wonder if maybe you are using "weird" as your calling card, since you seem to look down on the "normals." There's a huge spectrum between utterly beige-carpet-and-white-bread dull and out-and-out ooga-booga weird. A lot of people really are genuinely interesting and different, often just in quieter and more subtle ways.

Anyway, I agree with jamaro's advice to try and open up a conversation when someone reacts with "that's weird." They'll understand you better, and you'll get to see what they're thinking about, and maybe you'll find that they're not as "mentally beggared" as you think.

Feel free to ignore this advice if it doesn't apply to you. However, I figured it was worth a mention.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:46 AM on March 27, 2009 [10 favorites]

"I'm not weird, I'm diode. Duh." This doesn't work so well if you're called a geek, bacause of the a.

I usually respond to those comments with a "You know it!" or similar. "Thank you!" or "Thanks!" as has been suggested above works well, too.

Although, if they're using it pejoratively, that might reinforce their notion. Then again, if that's the case, do you really want them as friends?
posted by owtytrof at 11:53 AM on March 27, 2009

We were talking about something and I made a joke about using gasoline to burn a Rimbaud quote in a neighboring lawn or whatever

Funny, the Rimbaud-gasoline thing usually brings the ladies in droves.

Listen, just come to terms with yourself. Then you won't care what people think, or how much tv they watch, or anything. You'll be happy.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:56 AM on March 27, 2009

I tend to respond with "I know, right?" and a huge grin. They're open to interpret it as they will - I like that it can be interpreted as being both amiably self-deprecating and confident.
posted by Phire at 11:59 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would probably say "pfft, I'm fabulous," but that only works if you're fabulous.

You could also go with "Hey, I'm not boring" or "fuck you" or "yep" or "everybody's weird" or the first random thought that pops into your head.
posted by desuetude at 12:00 PM on March 27, 2009

"You're weird"

"Oh, totally, but what's really weird is how you spell 'weird' - have you ever noticed that? The rule I was taught was 'i before e except after c', but it seems we need to amend to 'i before e except after c unless the word is weird'. Isn't it weird that the weird word would be 'weird'. It's meta-weirdness. Well, either that or just plain old dumb coincidence. Would you like to go out for coffee tomorrow?"

(I'm not sure i could say it all with a straight face though :)
posted by -harlequin- at 12:03 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

There are a couple ways to approach this and I'm going to do my best not to assume any damning facts about you. There is an insufferable subset of people who think that they are hilarious and funny and that we "normals" don't get them. For instance, if one quotes Monty Python all the time and someone rolls their eyes, it doesn't mean that the eye-roller is stupid or unappreciative, it's that quoting Monty Python is really fuckin' irritating after the hundreth time you've heard it.

Similarly: if you have a status update that says "purple cheese monkeys lmao," you may be "weird" and in this case it is not necessarily something to be celebrated.

Please keep in mind that none of this is like, trying to make you feel stupid or like an outcast or even to assume that this is the case here, just that you can't denigrate the "normals" without them denigrating you right back. Let's take a quick trip back to your own words: Let's say I've posted something on a blog or social networking site that's creative, unusual and/or funny.

If it really, really was funny/creative, there should be no issues. But, ah, unusual: was it unusual for the sake of the joke, or just unusual in the sense that "lmao cheese monkeys im so random u guys" is unusual? Again, I'm not saying this is the case, and I also apologize for being really prolix and intrusive.

But, the general case in which a "friend" replies to a joke of yours with a shitty/bratty "you're weird" (as opposed to a loving/fun "you're weird") would get an immediate "fuck off" from me, "fuck off" being the nuclear-grade escalation that would promptly, rightly end such a pointless friendship.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:06 PM on March 27, 2009 [9 favorites]

"I'm not weird! I just privately hold you all in contempt and think I'm better than you!"
posted by so_necessary at 12:07 PM on March 27, 2009 [9 favorites]

I smile charmingly, ramp up my Southern accent a touch and say "I prefer the term colorful."

It helps that I understand that I am a big legitmitely odd, that said oddness is one of the things I like best about myself, and that I do indeed prefer "colorful" as a designation.
posted by mostlymartha at 12:24 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

I can't help it if they can't process the information.

The first (maybe only?) rule of communication is that it is the duty of the speaker to make sure that he cannot be misunderstood. If people don't "get" your posts, then yes it is your fault.

How weird is that?
posted by trinity8-director at 12:24 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

So, this subset of friends is coming out of the woodwork on Facebook (or your blog, or whatever) to make a point to tell you that you're weird? That's weird. If I saw an acquaintance (not a really close friend, because they could be joking) comment like that, they would not be my friend any longer because it's a dismissive and disrespectful thing to say.

You seem to be caught up more with the fact that they use 'weird' to describe you rather than some more flowery prose. Would it be better if they commented on something you wrote by saying, "you are painfully abnormal"? I doubt it. Let the 'weird' thing go and focus on why you are holding on to friends that you look down on intellectually and seem to have no connection with.
posted by amicamentis at 12:28 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

You've gotten some great lines here, but honestly, you're never going to be able to pull them off in a manner that "informs and teaches, without lecturing, hectoring or leaving burn marks on the receiver" until you stop believing that "about 98% of the populace is mentally beggared by too much TV with a vocabulary to match."

You can't look down on people with contempt and not expect them to notice.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:34 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

I find that an earnest "Enchante'! " (onshontay) ("how enchanting!)"with a small satisfied smile is a useful response to many things that have been said to me.
posted by hellboundforcheddar at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2009

Being weird and geeky is such a big part of my identity, that the subset of my friends that think I'm weird have given up trying to turn me un-weird.
posted by philosophistry at 1:06 PM on March 27, 2009

If you're gonna be weird, you're gonna be weird, but you'll probably be a lot happier about it once you stop marinating in contempt for humanity and/or hanging out with people who inspire such contempt in you.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 1:07 PM on March 27, 2009

"I prefer eccentric"
posted by lizbunny at 1:13 PM on March 27, 2009

"But I don't like to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."

Replace "weird" for "mad", and there you go.

Otherwise: find different friends. Since you referred to comments left and received on a "blog or social networking site," I'll assume these are folks online, which means you are in no way tied to them, and can leave as you wish. If everyone is absorbed in TV and you are not, it would seem that you would have little to talk about with them. If you live in a small community and lack the option of heading for some more active and diverse local, then you'll have to make do.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:59 PM on March 27, 2009

you're weird
-Your mom's weird.
posted by juv3nal at 2:12 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

You're a geek.
Look, it was a long time ago and it's not like there were any witnesses and they never found the chicken. I don't like to talk about it.
posted by juv3nal at 2:16 PM on March 27, 2009 [3 favorites]

"You know what's really weird? Being normal."
posted by baphomet at 2:28 PM on March 27, 2009

"Beats the alternative."
posted by torquemaniac at 3:00 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

A subset of my friends don't know what to make of this information, so the default response is, 'you're weird.' I've been running into this forever. I can't help it if they can't process the information. These are my friends though and I don't want to download on them with a big flame-out about their lack of imagination.

In my experience, people with a knee jerk reaction about the weirdness of others aren't necessarily normal, though they usually do lack either creativity, or empathy, or both. I'm a huge dork. I have many perfectly normal friends who would never respond to me that way, because they're kind, and they appreciate me. Really, those people who make you feel like you're a socially retarded seventh grader aren't your friends, and they're not worth your time. An eye roll is the only way to respond, because if you try to "explain" your humor, it will come off as a lecture. A big old geeky, dorky lecture that they're not interested in hearing, anyway. Likewise, a snappy response, particularly one that puts down "normal" people is also going to make you look weirder. And judgmental, to boot. So seriously, if you don't want to have an honest, adult conversation with these people about how their behavior and comments make you feel, it probably is just better to ditch them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:04 PM on March 27, 2009

"I know you are, but what am I?"
posted by inkyr2 at 3:17 PM on March 27, 2009

I'm puzzled by some of the comments here, many of which seem to confuse genuine brilliance with, for want of a better word, plain and outright weirdness. I'm betting that most who feel compelled to leave such comments are the kind who go out of their way to shock, completely oblivious to standard social protocol which, as a matter of courtesy, I feel should, in most cases, be observed by all. True brilliance is, of course, an admirable trait. It's the kind of thing that startles the life out of you when you encounter it. But let's not kid ourselves into thinking that it lurks within every batshit insane, flee-picking hobo across the nation.

Some people really are just plain weird. For people so off-the-wall and unusually eccentric, I was left a little deflated by some of your responses. "Thank you", "Whatever", "You're average" - Are you fucking serious?
posted by Zé Pequeno at 3:33 PM on March 27, 2009

hellboundforcheddar: I find that an earnest "Enchante'! " (onshontay) ("how enchanting!)"with a small satisfied smile is a useful response to many things that have been said to me.

You may think I'm a geek for correcting you, for which I'd be grateful, but "Enchanté" translates more correctly to "Nice to meet you".
posted by Simon Barclay at 4:40 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

"It's all part of my charm"
posted by Space Kitty at 5:00 PM on March 27, 2009

Zé Pequeno, when "wow, you're weird" happens all the time, the idea is to respond in a way that communicates easygoing confidence but allows both the weirdo and the weirdee to move on. What would the point of dragging it out be? "Thanks," said with a smile or a :), is enough.

Jaltcoh's "Weird — but good," Metroid Baby's nonchalant "Yep. I know." and shaun uh's "And that's why you love me." do the job too. mostlymartha's "I prefer the term colorful" is charming, but I don't think I could get away with it.

diode, pay close attention to Metroid Baby's and Optimus Chyme's comments about wearing your weird too much on your sleeve, because they can potentially save you a world of frustration. cooker girl's response re: what her twelve-year-old son does is perfect for him precisely because he's twelve. At that age, your main job is to remind yourself all the time that it really is okay to be who you are as long as you're doing your best to treat others well. It's fine if "weird" or "unique" is the primary dimension to your personality when you're fourteen or even eighteen.

As you get older, though, it's a mistake to keep reassuring yourself that being different is the same as being interesting, and it's an even bigger mistake to believe that being a worthwhile human being requires that you be different or interesting. I've suffered (so to speak) from clinically significant levels of weird all my life, so I'm still learning this, slowly and sometimes painfully.
posted by jeeves at 5:01 PM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

If people are using it in a negative way, then you're letting people be rude to you. When someone is rude to you, Miss Manners suggests you stare at them and say nothing. Polite people need make no response to a rude comment. Perhaps you could read some of the threads on improving your self-image/affect in a way that preempts such comments.
posted by theora55 at 5:18 PM on March 27, 2009

"Heh heh heh, you don't know the half of it!"
posted by Scoo at 5:19 PM on March 27, 2009

I would simply engage them in what they think is weird about it. Then, if they respond in a semi-intelligent manor, you can suggest an alternative word to "weird," and maybe improve their conversational vocabulary.

Maybe they mean "radical."

Or "morbid."

Or "philosophical."

Or "pedantic."

Or "delusional."

Or "fantastical."

et cetera
posted by General Tonic at 6:33 PM on March 27, 2009

If it's someone you've known for a while, maybe try, "'re only just noticing this about me now?"

Although, I think maybe a deeper issue would be to maybe ask yourself why you feel so moved to "educate and inform" them in the first place. not everyone is going to get everyone else's weird grooves. You are who you are, and your friends are still hanging out with you nevertheless, so there must be something about your flavor of weird that they like, otherwise they wouldn't be. Right?

Which is why, "'re only just noticing this now?"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:28 PM on March 27, 2009

Thanks for all the great posts, all of them. Yes, it was 'insufferably arrogant' about the 98%. The best I can say about that is something I heard the other day.....'love me or hate me, there's no money in the middle.'

I think in my social networking output I've found a way to do a bit of performance art and gotten a couple of negative reviews. Nothing to phone home about and those particular words do tend to be a bit charged for me.

For the moment, I've concluded that over-editing and censoring my posts is ultimately self-defeating. It's simply not profitable in any sense of the word to not express yourself clearly as you really think and feel. Some people will love it and some will hate it. Better that than being a cipher.

Some have recommended in this thread that I delete those who aren't really on the same page as me. I'll have to think about that. I don't want to fill up my world with mirrors after all. At the moment I'm inclined to think that I should just go on doing my dance and if people don't like the tune they'll self-delete sooner or later.

I have to decide whether I want to communicate to my critics about this. After all they voluntarily chose to step forward and proffer a critique. They could be positive or not say anything (my two choices), or hopefully say something with some dimensions in it.

Oh well, guess I'll go watch the 'Gotta be Me' clip again. I just read the thesaurus entry for weird. Hey! I'm feeling zany and madcap.
posted by diode at 8:00 PM on March 27, 2009

With the aversion to the word 'weird' that you seem to have, I heartily recommend distancing yourself from the creation and viewing of 'performance art.' You will not escape it.

The only thing you should look over your posts for are instances of vanity. Make sure those are all gone, explain anything you think they might not be familiar with, and add a dash of self-deprecating humor.

For instances: "In an effort to stem the tide of accusations of weirdness leveled against me, I now present you with [WEIRDEST THING YOU'VE EVER POSTED.]"

Or "Allow me to be mildly batshit insane for a moment..."

Self-deprecating humor is a secret loophole for those of us who are occasionally guilty of thinking too highly of ourselves. It a. lets your audience know you maybe don't take yourself quite as seriously as they thought, and b. if you make them laugh, you can feel vain about being funny, and they won't even notice.

In short, if you don't think you are weird-seeming, you should reconsider, because you don't get feedback like that for no reason.

The trick is to invite them to luxuriate in the Eden of your weirdness so that they may see just how your weirdness turns out to rule them and all their families.

Don't throw Greek fire on them from the battlements of your obsidian Castle of Weirdness. Invite them in for a tour, maybe for some tea--from the moon! Let them ride your winged tiger. Show them your machine that turns, with a modest poof of pink smoke, any peppermint flavored gum into equally delicious cinnamon gum.
posted by Darth Fedor at 8:44 PM on March 27, 2009

Just tell them "True. However, I [i]am[/i] considered normal in 8 out of the 9 alternate universes."
posted by spock at 6:24 PM on March 29, 2009

I'm very self-deprecating. I'm just not very good at it.

I recommend, "sheesh, that's like calling a dwarf short."
posted by plinth at 5:58 AM on March 30, 2009

I've been getting the same thing all my life, and if it's to my face, usually I smile and say something like "Being a geek/nerd/weirdo is more fun!" And it really is true; take it for the compliment that it should be.

This might make you feel better. Don't worry, you're not alone! Do beware, though, of becoming one of those people who tries to be unusual or "random" just for the sake of it.
posted by lolichka at 2:01 PM on March 30, 2009

« Older Writing has no place on the Internet.   |   I can scratch my stuff on my own time, thanks. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.