Ah, eccentricity! My lifelong passion. It began when I was a shellshocked twenty-two year old, afraid of everyone and living in a state of constant distress over Dad's shock cancer diagnosis, accompanying him to every chemo appointment, bearing his 'roid rage afterwards.
Eccentricity became my armor. It kept everyone at arm's length, just where I wanted them. I joked it really weeds out the riffraff. People give eccentrics a wide berth. Eccentricity started as my protection and soon segued into normalcy.
Here's the thing about eccentricity: If you do it mainly to attract attention, you're not truly eccentric.
If your eccentricity makes you self-conscious, you're not truly eccentric.
If it's perfectly normal to you, you're authentically eccentric.
If you delight that your eccentricity brings joy to others, but you don't do it for that reason, you're the genuine article.
But when you're a true eccentric, it's so normal to you, it doesn't feel like eccentricity anymore in which case...well, like adulthood itself, eccentricity is basically untenable but a fun untenable.
Hands on my Sleeve
Do you remember the old Signals catalog? Oh, I don't mean the modern Signals but the old and glorious one. It was geeky paradise. From the pages of Signals, I chose our future Ani L'Dodi wedding bands when I was only seventeen.
Alas, it took fifteen more years to meet Mr. Right!
Every time a new Signals would arrive, I drooled over a black-and-gold brocade opera coat with black velvet collar and cuffs, sorta like the one pictured here. Finally, I splurged on it at age twenty-two, just before I quit a boring, dead-end job as an Administrative Assistant at a printing company. My life was passing me by so I went full on You Can't Take It With You and, like Mr. Poppins, declared, "I'm a lily!"
My opera coat became my banner of Freedom. But as I rarely went anywhere fancy that merited an opera coat, I wore it everywhere. To my new job, to fiddle lessons, to church, to the grocery store. All the places you shouldn't wear an opera coat, I wore my opera coat with black gloves embroidered in gold to match.
That eccentric coat weeded out the riffraff. While my paranoiac mother worried her daughter might receive unwanted attention, the coat was my armor. Everyone gave me a wide berth....
...except for the ladies! I can't tell you the number of times I've felt a strange lady's hand on my sleeve, stroking the velvety brocade. They can't keep their hands off it!! It makes me a chick magnet...no! not in that way! In the "I'm totally heterosexual" way but the ladies do love brocade. Can't help pawing at me which leads to delightful conversations with complete strangers. Being rather shy, I love how the coat helps me connect with people.
Twenty years have passed since I bought that eccentric coat. It's been thrown in the trunk and forgotten for months. Washed in the washing machine (despite being "dry clean only"). And when something grew a size or two wider, I shortened it to swing coat length and tacked the extra fabric into the side seams to make it wider.
The thing about eccentricity is that you've gotta be comfortable with doing it or you're not authentically eccentric. You're just showing off, trying to get attention. IMO, a true eccentric enjoys their eccentricity in the privacy of their home when they're completely alone.
I don't want the attention my opera coat brings. To me, it's just my Spring/Autumn coat. My old, comfortable coat that just happens to be eccentric...or so I'm told.
Several years ago, I ran across a book called Advanced Style by Ari Seth Cohen at the library. It's brimming with pictures of old ladies with magnificent, colorful, joyful eccentric style.
I fell in love! The ladies of Advanced Style embody, nay exceed, the "When I am old, I shall wear purple" poem.
One adorable dumpling of a lady in a turban looks exactly as I will look in twenty years. When I told Michael she's my future dopplegänger, he laughed until he choked.
But until two days ago I didn't know she's English and was wearing a turban because she was on her way to chemo. I should say, "All glammed up and on her way to chemo." Bless her heart! I wish I knew her name!
What a pity that it takes decades for us to work up the nerve and the "Who cares what people think!" to embrace our inner eccentric. How much happier and healthier our society would be if we embraced our authentic eccentricity when young and didn't feel obliged to wait decades until we are old enough to wear purple "with a red hat that doesn't go, and doesn't suit me." I mean, by the time we're old enough to "eat three pounds of sausages at a go," we'll probably be dead. Or the sausage will polish us off, whichever comes first!
I started adult life determined to avoid the earn-buy-earn-buy rat race, the clawing up the Corporate ladder that, from my observation, requires one to jettison kindness. My entire life, apart from eight miserable years in the corporate world, was informed by Frank Capra's wonderful movie You Can't Take It With You. It took a few years of adjustment but I'm finally back on that wagon which, oddly, means I work longer hours than ever before, six days a week, for donations only because I love writing for you. Love it!
Your donations are my sole income source. Thank you!
My entire life has been a quest for peace, for comfort, for those rare and special moments and places where one feels utterly safe and transported to the point of being self-unaware. I call it "Haute Serenity." Some of the most hautely serene places are found in the movies and TV series I've listed for you below that quietly celebrate eccentricity.
Eccentricity bubbles up from your soul. Eccentricity, like your lifelong passions, isn't exactly cognizantly chosen by you. More often, it chooses you. It may appear glamorous and fascinating for those around you but it's prosaic, everyday life to you. Just one of God's little jokes for keeping us humble.
Most important of all, enjoy your eccentricity!
I'd rather write than eat.
Life is inspiration enough.
84 Charing Cross Road
Adult Temper Tantrum
All In The Family
All Passion Spent
AMERICA: The Blog
And Can It Be (Hymn)
Ari Seth Cohen
Captain Jack Harkness
Child Sexual Abuse
Crime Of Passion
C. S. Lewis
Lost For Words
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
My Life In France
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Power Of Kindness
Queen Elizabeth II
Sanford Eye Center
Sex And The City
Shooting The Past
That Hideous Strength
The Big Bang Theory
The Chronicles Of Narnia
The Screwtape Letters
The Shape Of Water
Time Salves All Wounds
You Can't Take It With You