It sometimes feels as though I am alone in seeing the world the way I do. So many people seem to be truly interested in sport, celebrity culture, looks and the latest health fad; topics that I try to at least keep up with so that I may understand some of the general conversation, but which fail to excite my curiosity as they seem so transient and superficial. I have no problem with other’s apparent preoccupation with these pursuits, it is their genuine interest in the subjects that perplexes me.
Occasionally though I find some book or commentary which proves that I am not alone; that there are others out there who think as I do. Just as it is good to talk with someone who shares a passionate interest, so it is comforting to discover that a particular view of the world is not so strange even when those around me seem to see things differently.
Yesterday I read ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky. The way the protagonist, Charlie, looked at the world seemed so perceptive to me; the way he was treated by his peers and how his life improved immeasurably when he found others who accepted him as he was. I could relate so closely to many of the comments he made: about how he admired girls who were unconventionally beautiful; how he wanted to be honest and himself in a relationship; his lack of knowledge about how to act around others; his bafflement at how clever and interesting girls dumbed themselves down and started showing off their cleavage when they reached a certain age. I read and reread the book and felt like shouting out Yes! Yes! Yes! so many times.
I believe that this book has been popular which makes me think that perhaps there are many others who can see life as I do. I wonder are they unwilling to behave and talk about it because they feel that they should act in a certain way in order to be accepted. I wonder if society demands that we conform to a stereotype and most are willing to comply. Of course, we are not all the same.
There are some people of my acquaintance who make me wonder about how they truly think. One of the husbands of a friend has talked about going to a pole dancing club, others have mentioned a brothel that was closed down in one of our local towns. Perhaps I am being hopelessly naive, but I was shocked by this conversation; I would not have considered the possibility that anyone I chose to befriend would want to know anything about these sorts of places let alone be willing to visit them.
How I see some of my friends and acquaintances and how they are obviously differs. I am left wondering if I really know them at all, and if this matters. We can still socialise and converse about neutral topics; we may even find some mutual interests. These occasional glimpses of another side to their character makes me wary though. It it were all openly discussed then perhaps I would grow to understand their way of thinking; it is the secret asides and half hidden meanings behind some of the exchanges that leaves me feeling baffled.
Social convention demands that we talk and act in a certain way when in public. Even amongst friends it can be hard to navigate how personal the conversation may get. I find all of this perplexing. As we get to know people better we will undoubtedly uncover sides to their character of which we were previously unaware. It is the wariness with which such discoveries are treated that I find hard; if it cannot be discussed openly then I miss the cues about how I should behave.
‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ contains many quite shocking and uncomfortable revelations, but all are dealt with in an open and matter of fact way. I can relate to this approach. It is so much easier to be able to talk about topics which are known than to try to avoid or ignore an issue. Pretending that something didn’t happen will not make it go away. Unmentioned actions or events fester unhealthily in our thoughts; they are the fuel of gossip amongst those in the know.
I feel strangely elated that this book has been popular. Even if others do not feel that they can openly act outside of the diktats of society; even if they are more comfortable with and actively choose to continue with the status quo; the fact that they can feel positive about and empathise with some of the thoughts and feelings that the book’s protagonist describes gives me hope that I am not the only one to see things as I do.
In so many ways Charlie was messed up but he was also bright and perceptive. None of us who have lived our lives have got through unscathed, but how we cope with our scars determines how our character develops as much as any of the other experiences we have gone through. I am what I am. It is not just how I deal with that but also how the world deals with me that will determine how I am seen.