Weird: The Power of Being an Outsider in an Insider World by Olga Khazan

Part Four: To Stay Different, or to Find Your Own Kind

12. Staying

  • One way to deal with being different is to seek out people with similar differences. The metaphor here is finding your own tribe. Some deaf people seek out people who know sign language while others get cochlear implants. Some obese people hang with others who have the same body type while others get gastric bypass surgery. In Olga’s case, she has tried to become American to the point where she even spoke English during a recent visit to Russia.

13. Leaving

  • The focus here is on people moving to be surrounded by people with similar views on politics and lifestyle. Olga visits her old hometown in Texas and finds people who have moved from California where many conservatives feel like they have to hide that part of their identity so they don’t get called names. Since the seventies, many people have made similar moves. In 1976, for example, less than a quarter of Americans lived in ‘landslide’ counties. By 2004 this number was almost one half. By moving to Texas, Californians get much lower property costs, lower taxes, less crime, fewer homeless people, and better schools. What they give up are the beach and the mountains. For many, it’s a good tradeoff.

14. In Between

  • Here we briefly visit the idea that being gay or transgender is difficult. Olga ends the book by talking to another Russian immigrant, the liberal sociology professor, who is happier in the US where she has more freedom and people are less rude. She no longer tries to fit in and is comfortable with the idea that people either accept her or not and it’s their choice. The big idea that we can all learn from is that it’s okay to be like me. It’s also necessary to understand that the weirder you are, the fewer and more precious are the people who truly accept you. In short, savor your weirdness and the people who accept you. Thanks, Olga.

Olga Khazan

  • Olga has written about health, gender, and science for The Atlantic since 2003. Proir to that, she was The Atlantic’s Global Editor. She has also written for the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Forbes, and other publications. She is a two-time recipient of the International Reporting Project’s Journalism Fellowship and the winner of the 2007 National Headliner Award for Magazine Online Writing. Follow her on Twitter @olgakhazan and subscribe to her newsletter.
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