Sam, is one of the least conventional people I’ve ever met; and I’ve met many odd characters. He grew up in Des Moines, Iowa and is very proud of that fact. Sam loves that his childhood town has a French name. He became fluent in French by the time he was in fourth grade. He talks with an affected “French” accent. Sam dresses artistically in black pullover shirts and often sports a beret.
Sam can get away with his outward image because people enjoy listening to his improvised keyboard mini concerts. I have often encouraged Sam to record and publish his work. He adamantly refuses. He just likes to tinker with electronic sounds. He will only perform for just a handful of people at a time. Oh, he named his little apartment in Toronto, “The Iowa Embassy”. The very few people he has allowed into his personal circle love Sam dearly and treasure his oddball behavior.
There are no reliable checklists for those of us who think we might be overly odd. But there are some rough guideposts to note if you think you or someone you love is an oddball. These aspects are thought of as positive by those of us who don’t quite fit in.
Most noticeable is the fact that we are nonconformists by nature and nurture. Curiosity often fuels our investigations and those times when we feel most creative. Most oddballs have several obsessions.
The few odd characters I know are very idealistic. The world has real potential to be better. Oddballs think and work to help make it so. Two of the most amazing oddballs were R. Buckminster Fuller, and Nikola Tesla. Both of these geniuses had an overarching desire to improve the lives of mankind.
Odd folks don’t need to be inventors, but they are often inventive. An elderly casual friend, who died several years ago, loved to entertain pupils in a classroom setting with his stage magic. Robert didn’t call himself an illusionist, he proudly refered to himself as a “man of magic”. His schtick was to take on the role of a bumbling, old klutz. It takes a great deal of talent and skill to enact such clownish behavior and not seem artificial. Robert understood his weird nature and used it to his advantage.
He once confided to me that he was inspired by Harpo Marx. Of course the Marx Brothers were all oddballs. Robert said that he believed that Harpo and he were soulmates. The only difference in their stage performances is that Robert used his voice, while Harpo played the part of a mute. Even Robert’s face was similar to Harpo’s.
The other aspect that Robert had was his intellect. He had earned a Ph.D in psychology but never used his degree professionally. Robert said he lost interest in the field shortly once he had written his thesis.
In the mid 1980s, I struck up a friendship with one of the most peculiar guys I’ve ever known. Out of respect for his privacy, I’ll call him “Sheen”. It’s very difficult to pigeonhole Sheen. He didn’t identify as transgendered, but the casual observer might have classified him in that category. He’s very tall and slender. His voice is naturally high-pitched and captivating.
When I knew Sheen, he loved to experiment with clothing and his hair color. There was no way to anticipate what he might look like from day to day. One summer, Sheen and I took a road trip to Los Angeles. The entire rear section of my Datsun 310 was packed to the roof with his luggage. There was only a small corner for my one bag. If my memory serves correctly, Sheen utilized every garment and accessory, that he had packed, only once.
Unfortunately, Sheen never felt truly comfortable and at home in Nebraska. After graduating from school, he moved to the east coast and cut all contact with his former friends in the Midwest. I heard through the grapevine, that Sheen moved to Paris, France and that’s the last place anybody has ever heard of his location. Perhaps Sheen is somehow employed in the fashion industry. I haven’t heard from him since 1990.
I sometimes remininsce about the time I’ve enjoyed with my various solitary friends. Even though Robert self-identified as an oddball, it somehow doesn’t seem fair to label the others that way. Most of them have never married and have enjoyed a solitary lifestyle. All of them have unconventional behavior or talents. Every one of them has a mischievous sense of humor. They don’t conform and don’t worry much about fitting into conventional society. All of them have a degree of curiosity and are open minded.
I suppose that many of us might be considered as oddballs to our peers. However, there aren’t enough of us to be thought of as a norm, and that’s OK.