This article first appeared on PublicHouse.sg.
I don’t want to be you anymore. It’s too hard.
I know I am weird. I have been told that I am weird all my life. In fact, what I do for a living is considered weird, too (I’m not saying my work is actually weird) – I am a sexologist. I eat, breathe, and think, about sex and sexuality. Besides working with people with sexual issues and concerns, I conduct sexuality education workshops and speak at various public events.
I am all right with being called or considered weird, because I have had a lot of practice being called a weirdo. That’s right. You name it – from my classmates and friends since kindergarten, all manner of teachers, and even my own relatives and family members – they all have, at one time or another, called me weird, strange, and bizarre.
Even though I was told I was strange, the realisation that I was weird did not adversely affect me until I entered primary one and the most popular girl in class (who was also the teacher’s pet, let’s call her “B”), promptly told the entire class during recess time not to play with me because “she is weird”. I learned this because somebody in class, in turn, told me she wouldn’t be playing with me anymore – she couldn’t afford to offend teacher’s pet B. What is weird? What makes me weird? Why did I have to be born weird?
Five years later, by some weird (pun intended) cosmic coincidence, B and I ended up in the same class again and became friends. Finally feeling more secure, I ventured to ask why she played that cruel joke on me in primary one, only to be completely thrown off balance again. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “You seemed weird then. You are less weird now.” Again, I was weird, even if I was somehow ‘less weird’ at the present time.
I shall spare you the details of how that episode and other incidents affected me as I was growing up. After all, I’m not a robot. I had body image issues, suffered from low self-esteem, and had difficulties trusting people or making friends. I cannot remember when exactly, but after years of trying to get people to like me (so they will be happy with me and, please, please, be my friend) and behaving more “appropriately” (so they will just quit calling me “weird”), I just gave up.
That’s right. Since I certainly wasn’t making any headway in getting people to like me (and I had been trying for years on end by then), I quit trying to make everybody like me (which meant behaving like everybody else), and just be, well, me. And what freedom! I finally embraced my weirdness for what it was – whatever it was. Ironically, right around that time, “weird” was replaced with the adjective “unique”. I started becoming noticed as an individual and my “uniqueness” became an asset where previously it seemed a liability, even a curse.
In my earlier years of schooling, boys and girls would be eager to form their own cliques and be as uniform as possible. I drifted from one clique to another, never quite staying or belonging to any particular one. Later, when I entered the polytechnic, where individuality, not conformity, was celebrated and recognised, I began to truly blossom. It was years later that I realised that there was nothing wrong with me – and there never had been. Somehow, I stood out, and whilst I never hurt anybody, they didn’t like how I was making them feel.
And, because I had so much practice being alienated, with standing alone, with being the odd one out; now, as an adult, I care less about what others think of me (not that I don’t care at all), and more of what I feel is right for me. The work I do can be isolating and make anyone feel alienated. Yet I persevere. Social acceptance and approval are less important than serving a cause higher than myself – helping those who often have no other means of support for their sexuality issues. As a sexologist, indeed, I stand apart from others. I did not start out seeking to be different. I am not different for the sake of being different. I am different because I am simply being me. And you are you.
So, yes, you may still think I am weird. I can only say that I am really being true to myself. And please, don’t let that scare you away from seeking support.
Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexologist with American College of Sexologists with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit www.eroscoaching.com.