Don't Worry, Weird Girls: It Gets Better
Kerin Rose Gold's guide to bedazzling your life
Photographed by Kate Owen
I have always been a weird girl. When other girls were blasting Madonna and New Kids on the Block, I was listening to Beethoven and The Beatles. While the rest of my art class traced magazine portraits, I was experimenting with abstract colors. My parents gave me organic fruit leather instead of Shark Bites. I wore two different colored socks, which is no big deal if you’re a full grown adult, but when you’re in elementary school, these kind of affections are major.
High school was no different. I had varied interests and never felt like I fit into any particular cultural clique. I wasn't punk enough for the punks, nor studious (okay, nerdy) enough for the academics. I was on the drama club board but didn’t fit in with "theater kid" culture. I was athletic but didn’t like team sports. My personal style wasn’t trend driven—and in 1998, you didn’t even have digital cameras to capture your all blue ensemble with matching blue lipstick, much less an online community to support your choices.
Internet or not, it’s easy to feel alone when you’re still developing your identity. But feeling weird about feeling weird is 100 percent normal. It’s fine to be sad because you feel like you don’t fit in. To wish you were like everyone else—or on the flip side, go even crazier and amplify your affections to better fit some counterculture mold. Feeling weird can be the worst. But don’t worry, weird girls: It gets better.
I remember the first time I realized there were more girls like me. I was seven or eight years old, tall and skinny with long legs, long dark hair, a big nose, and a deeper voice than a preteen should have. I was sitting in the den, wearing some dramatic mishmash of clothing, and watching TV (which I didn't do very often). The precise details are hazy, but it’s those feelings I remember that are important. On the screen was a gorgeous, tall, skinny woman with long legs, long dark hair, and a deep voice. She was covered in sequins, sang like an angel, and swallowed me whole with her personality. “That’s Cher,” my mom said when I turned to her, eyes wide with hope.
When I was 11, I found my next weird girl idol on a billboard. She was dressed in a shiny red pleather corset and the highest, reddest thigh-high heels I’ve ever seen, with platinum blonde hair and perfect makeup. You could see her confidence reflecting through her million dollar smile. She was strong, she was beautiful, and she was fabulous. “That’s RuPaul,” my mom said, a cultural Santa Claus giving me the gift of knowledge. I felt like my alien tendencies had finally found a mothership. I was home.
Knowing other weird girls were out there somewhere was my respite throughout an uncomfortable adolescence. Growing up on New York's Long Island meant I was lucky enough to be a 35-minute train ride from the middle of Manhattan. I was fortunate to spend a fair amount of time in the city as a kid. My parents put a premium on cultural experiences. I went to museums and to the opera; on school vacations, I would volunteer at the homeless shelter my mom managed; during the summers, I’d build computers for my dad at a brokerage firm, and somehow convince the middle-aged, male brokers to explain the stock market to me. I went to the local library and read. A LOT. These experiences not only broadened my worldview but showed me that there were all types of people out there. Exploring and expanding my interests made (and continue to make) me a more compassionate and thoughtful person. Conversing with adults who had already found their way showed me that I didn’t have to feel weird forever. As I got older, I had more freedom to simultaneously explore New York City and my weird girl interests; I went to punk shows and spent plenty of time lurking on St. Marks Place. I worshiped alt kid meccas like 8th Street Lab, Trash and Vaudeville, Religious Sex, and Patricia Field. I graduated from my awkward years and high school at once.
In 2001, I started at NYU. The first year was super tough; nobody tells you that adjusting to living in a new city while trying to make a new set of friends is hard. I didn’t meet anyone in my classes I connected with, so I went outside my comfort zone again. I overloaded my schedule with part-time jobs, doing promos at a major record label, and working as the front desk girl at a gym frequented by club kids. I studied existentialism, feminist theory, and hip-hop history. I took a class with Karen Finley. I slowly but surely began finding my footing on a path, of meeting new people and trying new things, that continues to this day.
Being a weird girl can be very isolating. It feels like there’s no one exactly like you out there. But interesting people are just weird kids who grew up. I used to envy the cliques I’d see doing everything together—as a weird girl, I longed to be part of a gang, like a modern-day Pink Ladies. But as an adult, I’m attracted to people with varied interests, not just mirrors of my own. I love making friends with people who can introduce me to new bands, books, or cuisine. Anyone can wear a satin bomber jacket, but only a special few can wax philosophical to you about Riot Grrrls over vegan food or want to discuss the financial markets at a museum.
As someone who grew up a weird girl, I’m never going to feel “cool.” I’m never going to walk into a party and feel like I fit in. Shit, half the time I’m not even invited to the party, which to this day can bum me out. Being a weird girl isn’t always easy but it’s who I am. On rare occasion, when I think how much easier life would be if I dressed like the rest of the world, changed my mannerisms, or held back my opinions to fit in, I turn to the wise words of my fellow weird girl RuPaul (this whole interview is incredible and should be required reading): “Any time I've had yearnings to go, ‘Aw, gee, I wish I could be invited…’ I say, Ru, Ru, remember the pact you made. You never wanted to be a part of that bullshit.” And I am soothed.
A lot of life is bullshit: "popular" girls, style trends, Donald Trump. So many people—myself included—get wrapped up in what we think we should do, and how we think we should act. Once you let all of that go, you’d be amazed at how wonderful being a weird girl can be. Nobody tells you that eventually, being weird is cool. Everyone is insecure, some more so than others. And to make themselves feel better about their own shortcomings, they will try to chip away at the things that make you unique. It’s shitty, but it happens. But I have never compromised who I am, not one damn time… and all the kids who made me feel weird for being myself back then tell me how cool I am now. My “weirdness” has brought incredible friendships into my life and the most wonderful love. I have been introduced to people I would never think would talk to me because we actually have a lot of odd interests in common. Letting my weirdness live free has let me explore my creativity, professionally and personally. And for this I’m grateful.
This article comes at a sad, yet hopeful time. I started typing a few days before the untimely passing of Prince (having barely gotten over the equally sad passing of David Bowie). It’s more important now than ever to embrace your inner weird girl and let her live. We owe it to one another.