We try not to judge a book by its cover, but have no problem judging people that way. Apparently, it takes us only one-tenth of a second to have a first impression, which is hardly ever complimentary. We often have an opinion of other people before they even get to open their mouth. They’re either too calm or too busy, too tall or too short, too arrogant or too shy. I was once even accused of being weird. Too tall: perhaps. Too busy: probably. Too arrogant: obviously. But weird? No, yóu are weird! If only you knew what I think of yóu, even though I barely know you. I actually knew you were weird from the first one-tenth of a second I saw you. I should put you in a zoo, for other ordinary people like me to look at, you freaking weirdo!  

That may sound outrageous, but human zoos were actually quite common back in the 19th century. When Europeans first met with exotic people they thought of them as very peculiar. Their first impression was even that these people weren’t the same species. Those exotic people probably thought exactly the same when they first encountered ginormous, completely white colonists dressed in funny outfits. Such judgements provoked xenophobia and racism, which we now know are absurd. We are all in fact the same, just look different. Only mentally disabled twats, frustrated outcasts, and despicable cunts still believe racism is justified. 

That being said, the fact that Europeans were displaying Africans, native Americans and Asians in human zoos might’ve not had everything to do with racism but with fascination as well. Visitors were intrigued by weird-looking people and liked staring at them in their artificially fabricated ‘natural’ environment. A little 10-year-old African boy named Jefke was once donated to the Antwerp zoo, where he daily amused visitors by pretending to hunt and gather. In Hamburg, the Sami people of Lapland had to herd reindeer behind fences for entertainment. Aboriginals were portrayed as cannibals and faked killing and eating Australians in amusement parks.

Freak shows were also a popular form of entertainment back in the days, where midgets, giants, albinos and anyone else deemed a freak were giving performances on stage. A person growing out of another person was a big hit, such as Chang who daggled from the chest of his brother Eng. Because they came from Siam, better known as Thailand, we now call this oddity Siamese twins. Freaks were normally named after the animal they resembled, such as ‘camel girl’, who could bend her knees both ways. There were also people without arms and legs, called ‘snake people’, and people with too many arms and legs, referred to as ‘spider people’. There was also the ‘monkey girl’, who had a proper moustache at the age of five and a full-grown beard by the time she was a teenager. ‘Lion man’ and ‘wolf boy’ had so much hair growing from their face that their frightened mothers abandoned them at a young age. It’s similar to ‘elephant man’, who’s mum thought she caused his deformity by dreaming of an elephant once during her pregnancy.  

People were also preserving odd-looking body parts and atypical genitals in ethanol jars, particularly those of exotic people, to display them in museums. For instance, the large buttocks and elongated vagina of Saartjie, the Hottentot Venus, were stuffed and publicly exhibited. This may sound bizarre, but it’s still happening today. Skinless, dissected, and plasticized corpses are entertaining tens of millions of people globally at the Body World exhibition. It’s supposed to be educational, but mainly serves to feed our morbid curiosity. And there are Kamasutra festivals, the modern-day freak shows, where heavily tattooed and pierced people are giving erotic shows on stage. At these fairs, you can take a picture with people carrying record dicks of 25 cm in length or breasts weighing 25 kilos. 

So even though things didn’t change much in essence, we do respect all varieties of humans these days. It’s the era of tolerance: everyone is equal and no one is considered weird looking. We are colour blind, culture accepting, gender neutral, and don’t put midgets and monkey girls on stage anymore. Nonetheless, we still love criticizing each other. We moved away from aesthetic judgements towards behavioural judgements. Currently, it’s not the freaks but socially awkward people who are considered weird. People who lack any form of self-awareness, social tact or subtlety are the odd-balls of the 21th century. 

Some people can’t help that they in fact behave differently from the norm and got doomed to be a stereotypical weirdo. Other people, however, seem to do odd things on purpose to show the world that they don’t care what everyone else thinks. But they clearly do care. There’s really no need to convince ordinary people, like myself, that you are extraordinary. There are also people who behave strangely because they think it’s entertaining. But it most likely isn’t. The more you want to prove to other people that you’re exceptionally funny or bright, the less likely it is we’ll agree with you. Others put effort into appearing different, believing it’s cool to look eccentric. Sometimes so many people want to look unique that they actually start to look alike, like hipsters for instance. But people outside of their world might think they’re weird, instead of eccentric. It’s safer to just stick to the norm. 

If you thrive to be an ordinary human being, like myself, there are some guidelines. First of all, people like it when you make eye contact, and don’t like it when you enter their comfort zone. Try not to talk too much, but also not too little. Avoid sitting motionless for too long, but don’t be hyper or scratch yourself excessively. Rather not be too fanatic about whatever it is you believe in. Whether you are spiritual, vegan or anarchist: most people won’t think alike so better keep it to yourself. Also try not to be smart about things. If a person makes a joke about a funny-looking dog, don’t start babbling about the history of domestication. Likewise, try not to be too funny. You don’t want to risk an awkward silence or an audience with a different sense of humour. Best is to simply follow the herd, behave the way they do, laugh when they laugh, wear what they wear, and become one of the sheep. 

So knowing all of this, the fact that I’ve been called weird doesn’t make any logical sense. Perhaps, so few others have achieved being ordinary that I only appear to be atypical. But I’m actually one of the exceptional few average people. It’s possible that weird people look for people compatible to them and gather in large numbers, due to which generic people like me seem to be the odd ones out. But I won’t let them fool me. And if you were ever to be called weird, it probably means that you are well on your way of becoming an ordinary person too. And you should be proud! Because once you have achieved that, there is no more need to judge other people. You can just sit back, be comfortable with your average self, and respect weird people for who they are.