Widgets Magazine


Alternative Living…Without the Naked: Dorks Are Awesome

The weekend after my first column, I woke up to a flurry of e-mails from friends and a couple of strangers. Comments, as all narcissistic writers will tell you, cause great excitement, and I, being particularly narcissistic, was abuzz with glee.

“Hooray!” I said to myself, clicking through my e-mails.

Tragically, my glee began to diminish rapidly. While comments ranged from strong, intelligent opinions to the glorification of my awesomeness, most of them at least mentioned the bizarre nature of my profile picture. To quote one, “You look angsty with rolls of fat coming out of your face.”

Thank you, Michael, for destroying into small pieces what was once my ego. However, despite many days of mulling over the problem, one will probably notice that I (a) still look angsty (unfortunate photography) and (b) still have rolls of fat coming out of my face (an unfortunate scarf). While the lack of change was due more to laziness than to a sudden decline in vanity, all that mulling caused me to wonder if my very laziness is what helps me embrace and occasionally embody the undignified, the weird and the endearingly stupid.

There is something to say for that. While there is nothing wrong with aspiring to standards of beauty or perfection, I feel that the awkward and the lame have been overlooked for far too long. Why not welcome a bit of dorkiness?

While standards change depending on the city, I feel this particularly strongly in Paris. Here, even my friends, long comfortable with my crazy socks and giant T-shirts, tell me off for wearing a sweatshirt on a Saturday afternoon. My stripy, wool-stuffed hand-warmers are even less of an acceptable phenomenon.

“You look like you’re wearing boxing gloves,” one friend told me.

“They keep me warm,” I said.

“You’re in Paris,” was the reply.

Well, Paris needed a fistwich, I said to myself through gritted teeth.

At the root of this fiasco, however, is really the question, why not? Why not embrace, with enthusiasm and great delight, the ambiguously stupid and the vaguely bizarre? Sometimes, the most awkward admissions can shape a personality, and even more so, the weird and unsophisticated.

Some of my favorite engagements with people have been defined by such cases. I began getting to know one of the girls from my Bing program a few weeks ago, at a lovely outdoor market outing. We traversed rows of men and women, their foodstuffs displayed beneath colorful tents. We looked at piles of breads and pastries, some still warm. And suddenly, before a fishmonger, giant salmon fillets lain out pink and moist on ice, she said, “I really like dead fish.”

“What?” I said.

“I really like looking at dead fish. Their eyes are so cool.”

I stared at the tuna she was ogling at — it eyeballed me back. I imagined it feebly twitching with the last pulses of life.

“Cool?” I said, hesitantly.

That moment, however, has stuck with me, and I think of it frequently when I meet up with her. It is a hilarious personality brand, something to remember fondly. Likewise for other people I have met, I remember their disastrous moments of hilarity more than I do their moments of dignity or sophistication. Walking around unintentionally with a milk moustache, talking to me for an hour with a booger in their nose, running to greet me and then hitting a glass door…or even more simply, all those moments where people have said something ridiculous, unbelievable or just plain stupid.

I sometimes wonder if I am the only one who receives a text message with bad grammar and thinks it is sexy. I love people in sweatpants, wearing their sloppy weekend sleepy looks, and I love people yodeling on about their favorite 18th-century English novel. I love mismatched socks, and sometimes — very occasionally and God forbid — I find people wearing Crocs slightly endearing. And I sincerely hope that I’m not the only one who embraces the dork, because I’m one of the biggest ones — woolly hand-warmers and all. This dork wants some love in Paris, or perhaps just some company. Make my day and join me. Be a dork. Be an awesome dork.

Like dead fish, dorking out or Sam’s angsty rolls of chin fat? E-mail comments to her at samtoh@stanford.edu.