The Odd One Out
One of my favourite games in childhood was the ‘odd one out’ puzzle. You had to select the word or the picture which did not belong to the group. This odd one out shared no similar characteristics with the other group members.
Sometimes the innocent games of childhood become a part of real life too. However, the consequences are not as much fun. A large part of our lives is spent in finding this odd one out and often looking at them as different. What happens when we find ourselves to be the odd one out?
We have perhaps learnt to cast out the one who is odd. We do not include them in the group and treat them differently because they do not have those common characteristics like the rest of the group.
It starts fairly early in life. A little child was called ‘strange’ at a birthday party because he did not like chocolates. Even the elders teased him and called him out for being the ‘only kid in the world who did not like chocolates.’ It was probably in fun, but it did have an impact on the child. He was reluctant to go be with his friends because of this constant reminder. He was often left out because he did not enjoy the same desserts as others. He felt rejected and isolated.
There was another girl who did not enjoy gaming, a pastime that had become almost a compulsion in her peer group. They told her she was abnormal. She was told that if she wanted to be friends with them, she had to learn gaming.
Another adolescent liked classical music. He learnt how to play a sitar and spent most of his time listening to old Hindustani classical. He did not enjoy the trending music of his times. He was called ‘old’ and made fun off. He was mocked for being behind his times. His friends rejected and told him that he should make friends with senior citizens.
What about the introvert. The one who doesn’t like to party and go to pubs. The one who rather spend a solitary evening at home. His parents wanted him to start therapy because he did not have a huge circle of friends like most teenagers. They thought that there was something wrong with him. They disregarded the fact that he had different tastes
Or the young man who doesn’t like alcohol? They are often considered the odd ones out. Or the young girl who doesn’t like make up. How many times have they been called odd? How many times have they been pressurized to behave like other people of their age?
I met a young woman who went for an office party to a beautiful hill station. She really enjoyed the nature and sat for hours looking at the landscape. After coming back several of her ‘concerned’ colleagues asked her if she was depressed or stressed. Since she did not participate in the dancing and games that others were enjoying it was assumed that there was something wrong with her. No one gave a thought to the fact that she may just enjoy different things.
Another woman had fun on her trip enjoying the lovely sights. She did not bother clicking pictures in front of the monuments but spent time exploring the place. She was berated by fellow travelers for not capturing the historic sites for memories. What will she do after going back? Should she not click pictures to show her family?
An old woman staying alone, enjoyed the comforts of her home. She did not like going out or socializing. Several well meaning people often reprimanded her for this. She was told it was not normal to be inside the house and she should go out more often. No one considered what her comfort was.
From ‘posting everything on social media’ to not having a social media account, from being an atheist in a religious society to being religious in an atheist society, from wearing western clothes in a traditional set up to wearing traditional clothes in a modern set up, everything and anything can become odd at some point of time.
What happens to those who get this label of being the odd ones out? Most of them become uncomfortable. Some of them question their choices, others force themselves to behave like others despite not being comfortable. There are few who do not get affected (and they are not odd)
Why then, is it so difficult for most of us to accept these differences? We have divided our world into normal and abnormal. What does not fit into our definition of normal then automatically becomes abnormal or wrong.
For something to be abnormal it has to cause either personal distress or cause harm to self or society. A boy who does not like chocolates or the woman who does not like going out do neither, then why should they be labelled as odd.
Unfortunately, we do not just stop at labelling. We make it our personal responsibility to correct the oddities in the person. We force our views on the person because we want to ‘help’ that person. We have decided that it is in the best interest of the person to change his odd choices.
Being forced to do something that we do not enjoy or being forced to fit into something that makes us uncomfortable causes a lot of stress. It makes the person question his beliefs and choices. It makes the person resentful of self or others. Sometimes it can cause a person to lose their confidence or make it difficult for them to make decisions.
The only help that any person needs from the society is acceptance. All we need is respect, respect for our choices, even if they are odd.
The odd ones do not need to be out. They make our society whole. There would be no value of evens if there were no odds.