The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 29 Feb 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Eccentric

I look bonkers because I am bonkers. A truth, simply stated.

My favoured attire right now are jeans with turn-ups that I glued on at around two in the morning, German army boots, a long keychain that hangs from my belt, a Swedish army parka that seems to be from the sixties, a brown pork pie hat and whatever top I can find on the floor. Oh, and I also favour a red and white scarf that I think is called a keffiyeh. When I walk past shop windows, I think I look fabulous. People staring at me seem to differ.

And here is the truth of the matter. I absolutely don’t give a bugger. Here, just as I’m knocking on the great age of 43, I’ve arrived in new and happy territory. When I went to a drinks thing just before Christmas, my parents nervously asked me, as I was wearing a tweed overcoat and a trilby, if I was wearing the right thing. The question seemed bizarre to me as it never occurred that you could be said to have worn the wrong thing. At university, I spent a term working out what everyone else was wearing and then bought that. It was peak Levellers time, so I spent a lot of money trying to look like a crusty. Now, I rather seem not to care.

This is either what age does for you, mental illness or perhaps both. Assuming that it’s both, this cocktail seems to have turned me from someone who scuttled quietly along the pavement in his blue, Ralph Lauren polo shirt and suffocatingly dull, blue Fat Face jacket to someone who looks as though he shouldn’t be allowed out without a carer and, even then, not given anything sharper than a chopstick to play with. And in this transition is something approaching liberation.

By saying to people that, in effect, they can have all the opinions they want and that you won’t be heeding any of them, you deprive them of any power over you. If the answer to the person who says ‘You look like a right twat’ is either ‘Bugger off’ or ‘I don’t care,’ then short of hitting you, there’s not a whole lot they can do to adversely affect your day. You’re saying that you don’t give a fig for their opinions and that’s very empowering. For the people, like the fashion student from Japan who told me, in defiance to all evidence to the contrary that she ‘liked my style’ you give a big smile, doff your hat and say ‘thanks.’ Niceness brings its own reward.

Your clothes are a form of statement as to who you are. Look like you care, look like you’re dressing to be anonymous, and you probably are. Dress like you’re sailing serenely above the silly, suited bovine bubbleheads, and you probably are. More importantly, your clothes are a licence. When you go into a shop dressed normally, you have to behave normally. Go into a shop dressed as I do, in the manner of an eccentric buffoon, and nobody seems to care. ‘Who’s that chap who came in, who’s having a crap in the corner?’ ‘Oh, he’s just the local eccentric.’ See?

Some time ago, I found that I missed the German army boots and shirts I’d worn as a teenager. You know what I did? I went out and bought them all over again for loose change. And I wear them. My teenage self is thrilled and I’ve got shirts and footwear that will probably be the only things to survive a nuclear war. ‘What do you look like?’ ask my parents, concerned. The answer is that I don’t know, but finding a definition for me isn’t my problem. It’s for other people. If they want to see me as the mad bloke in the army knock offs, then they absolutely can do. And they can go on thinking that for the rest of their lives.

This, you see, is my uniform – the clothes of the damaged. I’ve been right up to the edge of human existence, to the edge that is marked by suicide and self-harm, and managed, at least not yet, to fall off. I’ve felt as bad as it’s possible to feel, cried out to the God that I believe in fervently to take me and end my suffering, and yet I’m still here, alive and, for the time being, kicking. I can wear the clothes I like and please myself because I’ve seen what obverse looks like, of pleasing too many other people for my life to be sustainable. This way at least, I get to live, rather than go to my grave on somebody else’s terms, which makes no sense that I can discern.

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘Phew, what a loony,’ then that’s fair enough. I am. But if you’re reading this and thinking that tomorrow you might wear odd socks for the hell of it, or a shirt that doesn’t match or the boots you can’t walk in, I say go for it. You will have enlarged humanity by exactly the measure of your own happiness and thwarted conformity. Life only gets better from here on in. Embrace the odd and cast conformity to the winds.

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