Throughout the past couple weeks, I’ve chronicled strange. I’ve thought about why we love strange and I’ve examined lots of strange things we love, like weddings, fests, talented kids, arbitrary rules, maps, strangers and more. However, as a culmination to my blog, I think it is important that I examine what strange really is and what makes this small Ohio town that I’ve called home for four years, strange. So join me as I question the strangeness around me.
Strange to me
When it comes to strange, I think just about anything can fit the part. I think it all just depends on how you look at it; it truly requires looking beneath the surface and questioning our culture. For example, look at my last post about talented kids. At first glance, it doesn’t seem that strange for kids to be talented and express their talent, but when you look deeper questions come up. Like, who videotaped you doing this and felt the need to post it online? Why did they post it- for good-natured humor or for 15 seconds of fame? Why do people love watching these videos so much that they get millions of votes and then Ellen Degeneres has them on her show? Really, anything can be strange- you just have to dig deep.
Strange to others
To further my quest for what is strange, I wanted to ask some friends what they thought. I began with my roommate Shelby West, who (as I’ve said before) is one of the strangest people I know. I figured of all my friends, she would know best what is strange. Shelby says, “There can be a spectrum of what strange is. It could be a good or bad thing.” She goes on to say, “It could be another word for unique or uncommon…a lot of people view things as strange [because] it makes them feel uncomfortable or it’s new to them and they don’t know how to think about it so they label it as strange.” Most times when people think something is strange, they actually just think it is uncomfortable and instead of dealing with it, they write it off as strange.
After speaking with Shelby, I wanted some more insight, so I asked my friend Maggie Rentsch. Maggie is one of the silliest and happiest people I know and I love the outlook she has on life. Because she often takes a different viewpoint and reserves judgment, I thought I’d ask her what she thinks about strange. “Strange is abnormal or different than the common norm,” she says, “I think something is strange when something is different than what the normal population is doing.” Again, she calls upon the same theme as Shelby, that people label what they don’t understand as strange. It seems to be a cultural phenomenon.
My friend Kirstin Grodrian said “Something strange is not normal or bizarre. If something were out of the ordinary, I would call it strange. I thought that a boy was strange when I saw him on Court Street wearing a top hat. I guess for me, something that is strange is something that is not understandable and very different to me.”
I asked my little sister in my sorority, Angela Yacovazzi, and she said, “to me, strange is something out of line from the norm that society gives. This can change from place to place though depending on the people in a given area and what they think is normal.”
I needed to know more, so I went to another friend and roommate, Su Sachdeva. Su is a journalism major and a patron of the strange. It is in Su’s nature to like little silly things that I think most people would call strange, like Aqua songs and caramel corn Ditto’s. When asked about strange, Su says “I think it has to be out of the ordinary and something that you don’t see or deal with on a daily basis; [something] you don’t deal with in normal life.” I think I am sensing a pattern…
Being in a college town, strange in all around me. Around every corner I see 20-something kids spreading their wings for the first time, pretending to be liberal to backlash against everything their parents have taught them, practicing kung fu on college green and being hipster skinny. Obviously, I think Athens is strange- but do others? I had to know, so I asked my friends: What makes Athens strange?
Maggie said, “I don’t think Athens is strange per se. I think there are people in Athens that are a little different- either super hippie or just new age, and they stand out and are different.” So for my lovely friend Maggie, it was more about the people and the culture of Athens.
Shelby had a little different opinion. She said, “There’s a lot of people and random things in Athens that you wouldn’t normally see altogether in one place. There’s an overload of different things at the same time that makes [Athens] a little out of the ordinary.” Shelby seems to agree with Maggie that it is more about the blending of people and their own personal quirks.
My little, Angela, did not agree that Athens was strange, saying “I feel there isn't anything strange in Athens because the openness and differences between people is accepted. I feel one of the norms in Athens is to be different.” I think it is interesting that Angela talked about the norms of Athens, because norms create strangeness, so it really depends on the norms of the culture.
Su put in some good insight saying, “I think a lot of things make Athens strange, from the people and the setting, to the general culture of Athens. It’s very different from other cities or towns I’ve been in. A lot of things go on here that are more eccentric than your normal village.”
After speaking with all of them, I think it’s pretty clear that strange is in the eye of the beholder. Strange can be anything- whether it be because we just don’t understand, or something is generally quite weird, strange comes from all different places. And Athens? Well, I think you just need to walk down Court Street to see the strange- but it’s because of the people. College is a melting pot of education, opinions, backgrounds and ideology. It is here that we stretch our wings for the first time and begin to question things- or go through that weird phase of tribal dance that will haunt us the rest of our lives. Regardless, it is here that we are all allowed to be strange, and Athens provides a haven for us. So go on. Get out there and be strange.
Below is a slideshow of some of the awesome things that make Athens our strange home.
All photos are my own