The above comic (from one of my favorites sites on all the internets) squeezes an impressive amount of truth into just two panels. We spend a lot of our time growing up feeling like an outsider, wanting to connect and get along with others more than anything else. But somewhere along the way, by making small changes in order to make others like us more, or simply conforming to whatever we think of as "normal" in order to fit it, we actually become something really bland. And on the flip side, holding onto whatever you think makes you special can subject you to a lifetime of judgment and ridicule.
The concept of 'letting your freak flag fly,' that is - how much you wear your 'weirdness' - a very subjective term, that of course, is entirely relative - on your sleeve has been on my mind lately. It applies especially to the dating world, where you meet people who you'd like to impress with your uniqueness but at the same time be the ideal version of whatever the other person is looking for in a mate.
This past week on Community (a show I have an undying love for, and have discussed several times), Abed Nadir, the show's incredibly smart, confident and observing but socially awkward and unaware character attempts to simultaneously woo a gorgeous librarian with his best friend Troy Barnes (literally simultaneously, as in, they approach at the same time and inform the woman of their mutual desire - to which she responds: "Let's get one thing clear: this is the cutest thing that's ever happened to me.") Although Troy is Abed's best friend, he is night and day from him - he's emotional, he's slow to see what's going on around him, and he's still very unsure of himself and who he is. He does, however, have some sexy dance moves.
|Abed (left), Troy (right), and an impossibly cute bookworm (center)|
Backing up for a second, I want to discuss Abed's wooing technique (and having said this, I'm very aware I'm over-analyzing what is intended to be a comedic situation, but I still think it warrants a discussion). He chooses to talk to the girl about Saw movies for their entire exchange, something no dating guide would ever suggest. But he's letting his freak flag fly high, right? Wouldn't doing anything less be untrue to himself?
Later in the night, while Troy is talking to the Librarian (who totally has a name I don't remember and don't want to spend the time looking up, so she'll continue to be named this way ) on the dance floor, she tells Troy she'd "love to have [Abed] as a friend, but romantically he's...you know." What a bitch! At least Troy certainly thought so.
Abed showed his true colors and he got judged for them. He lost the girl. But couldn't he have done just a bit more to meet the Librarian halfway? If she was into Saw movies, that'd be one thing, but simply engaging a person in a conversation only you're interested is actually kind of selfish. He didn't have to hide the fact that he had thoughts on the legacy of the franchise, but he also was trying to get something from her - her attention, another date, sex, whatever. Unless she was already really attracted to him, nothing about that conversation was going to change her mind.
In their final exchange, Troy comes running in and tells Abed "she thought you were weird," to which Abed replies, directly and with the utmost confidence: "I am weird." Abed knows who he is, but when it came to getting the girl he didn't take his own advice from an episode last season, (probably due to the inability of sitcom characters to ever truly grow, something I've discussed at length) which perfectly summarizes the situation.
Last year's "Physical Education" was primarily devoted to the group trying to get Abed to approach a woman they were convinced had a crush on him. The episode focused on the question of how much Abed needed to change himself to seduce a woman, since as I've said, his 'normal' self can come off incredibly creepy and weird. Naturally, the group hesitates to tell Abed to be anyone but himself, but after they see him begin to approach her as both a vampire and a snake, they settle on encouraging his amazing Don Draper impersonation that successfully seduces his friend Annie in under a minute.
|Man, an evil Abed would make for a whole different show!|
Annie: Abed! About yesterday...
Abed: Oh yeah, you guys must be pretty upset.
Britta: Why would we be upset?
Abed: Well I know how important it was for you that I get a girlfriend. So when Jenny went off with 'White Abed,' that must have really hurt.
Troy: Ahh...it did!
Britta: Abed, you know we just want you to be happy, right?
Abed: Yeah, I know. Everybody wants me to be happy. Everybody wants to help me. But usually when they find out they can't they get frustrated and stop talking to me. Or they trick me into buying them ice cream and then shove me in a clothes dryer. Which I didn't want that to happen with you guys so I wanted to make sure you felt like you could help me. The truth is, lots of girls like me because let's face it, I'm pretty adorable, and my aloofness unconsciously reminds them of their fathers. I'm more used to them approaching me*.
Britta: So we didn't damage your self-esteem or anything?
Abed: Britta, I got self-esteem flowing out of my butt. That's why I was willing to change for you guys. Because when you really know who you are and what you like about yourself, changing for other people isn't such a big deal.
Jeff: Abed, you're a God.
Abed's last line nailed it perfectly. He knows exactly who he is, and what he likes about himself. He did what he did that week for his friends, because he likes them and wants to make them happy. He's not necessarily doing himself a disservice by pocketing any particular behavior at any given time in order to make someone else happy, especially if that happiness and sense of belonging is something he wants. On some level it can seem like a sticky wicket, because yes, I don't think Abed would be happy pretending to be Don Draper for an entire relationship, but I'd like to think we naturally let the people we know get to know our normal' self over time. Call it 'slowly re-hoisting the freak flag,' whatever it is, it's part of every single real relationship we invest ourselves in, dating or otherwise. You can't hide it forever, or else if you do, what you're getting in return must be worth the incredible amount of effort you put in, otherwise you're a fool. And fools, unlike freaks, definitely deserve our scorn.
Something I held onto for a long time but now realize is false was the idea that I can't be into video games and also be attractive to women, since most women aren't really into games. And so being forced to choose, I of course would rather stick with the inanimate objects that won't ever judge me or force me to change. The truth is, I can totally have both - it just requires a little bit of thought and effort on my part. I probably won't ever ever wind up with someone who truly hates games, but that's not a very large portion of the population, and obviously for the best for both parties anyway. Being confident in that fact will make me that much more attractive to the ones that do like games or, more likely, are simply neutral about them.
And so I go forth, with my freaky 'video-game-playing, improv-loving, and frankly-kind-of-borderline-obsessive-relationship-with-Community' flag hoisted high in the sky. Ladies:
Happy Valentine's Day, internet.
PS: In case you're interested, here's the most recent Community episode I referenced, for your viewing pleasure, (courtesy of Hulu) FYI - this video won't be active forever, as episodes only stay up for a month or so:
*Side note: if this is true, they should probably show Abed on a date at some point, because I'd be very curious to see that date, and also know what kind of girl Abed gets along with. As it stands, he and Troy's bromance seems to be the only affectionate relationship he's been in. I'm guessing a female Abed and Troy is what Troy and Abed, respectively, both need.