Weird is the New Black

October 7, 2011 | 41 comments

She confessed it while the two of us stood alone on the deck, away from the other writers, musicians and photographers at this retreat in Texas.

“I was a little nervous about coming here,” she said. “Because I thought y’all would be kind of weird.”

I laughed deep and long at hearing her confession, wondering if she had any idea how right she was.

Friend, I told her, Look at me. Look around you. We are all weird.

I looked down the shore, where an amateur photographer snapped a photo of a rock, of all things.

Earlier that morning, the man at the podium stuffed his hand into a Kermit puppet and made us cry while he sang of lovers and dreamers and me. 

One night, three of us sat up until 1 a.m., laughing until our sides hurt, as we discussed quantum physics and the invention of the Internet. Who does this?

In the art studio, I watched as a businessman let his inner child play with paint and glue. I watched as he colored outside the lines. On purpose.

Some of you have asked me what I learned last week during my long weekend away at Laity Lodge in the Hill Country of Texas. And maybe you’d think I could answer that question with bullet points and a tidy set of tips on how to become a better writer.

It’s taken me a good week to process it all, and I have a hunch that I’ve more processing to do. But mostly, I guess, I’m relearning this: Most people are weirdos trapped in neatly-wrapped packages. We each have our own set of idiosyncrasies, insecurities and irregularities.

We are all exceptionally and beautifully odd. Praise Jesus.

Too often, I go into these sorts of things with my Inner Weird packed in the suitcase. Will they discover how peculiar I really am if I wear my purple nailpolish, or if I slip into my blinged-out wardrobe? Will I fit into their expectation of what a farm wife from Iowa really is? And do I talk like an adjunct journalism professor should talk? Will I sound wise, or amateurish? And will anybody care what I really think anyway?

Before I open my mouth, I size myself up against the others in the room and ask inwardly:

Am I smart enough? Talented enough? Good enough? Normal enough?

And if I pack away the facade and wear the Real Me, will they sit by me at dinner?

Yes, in fact, they will.

And if you stick around long enough, you might just find out that the tongue-tied person next to you is every bit as quirky as you. And she might just have a few of those same nagging insecurities doing battle with the You that you really are. 

We are not a cookie-cutter people. We don’t live in neat boxes. One-size-fits-all doesn’t work.

Normal is out of fashion. Weird is the new black — or maybe it always has been, but still begging to be let loose. And I want to let loose.

In the middle of letting her fly free, we may find this splendid surprise: we belong.


by | October 7, 2011 | 41 comments


  1. Nancy

    “Exceptionally and beautifully odd. Praise Jesus.” Amen. And you wear the bling well, Iowa farm wife. Still processing here, as well. Great photo 😉

    • dukeslee


      I thought of you when I wrote this. I thought of your feather boa. You’re a remarkable woman. I’m inspired by your authenticity. Keep on keepin’ it real, girlfriend! xxoo

  2. Candice

    Amen to that! Needed to hear that today. Thanks for your amazing words, Jennifer.

    • dukeslee

      Thank YOU, Candice. So are we speaking the same language — one weirdo to another? 😉

  3. Jeanne Damoff

    Yes, cute, fun Jennifer. If only we could live aware that almost everyone we meet struggles with insecurity and wonders if they’ll fit in. We give a beautiful gift when we invite a sense of comfortable belonging by living in our own weird skin without apology and welcoming others to do the same.

    I esteem you, my dear. You and your purple nail polish and your impish smile. Wear your weirdness (aka whimsical charm) like a badge of honor, because that’s what it is.

    Love, Jeanne

  4. Eileen

    Goodness! Can I relate to this post. Maybe, finally, if weird ever catches on…I will be hip! Sigh. 🙂 Great post.

  5. HisFireFly

    Each of us, weird in our own manner, uniquely made by His hand, and almost every one afraid to bare htat oddness, His branding on our lives…

    Weirdos, raise your hands and celebrate, prasie and worship the Creator of all the strangeness for He has a reason for it all!

    Loved.this. Jennifer

  6. spaghettipie

    *sigh* I miss you already (as I drink from my mug and crunch on soynuts…)

    Thanks for being weird, and letting me be weird too. 🙂

    • dukeslee


      You know that mug is alive, right? Just ask Claire. 🙂

  7. L.L. Barkat

    Wonderful. I’m smiling, smiling! 🙂

    • dukeslee

      Sandy, I think you’re right. 🙂

      You weirdo.

  8. Katharine

    “Normal is out of fashion” I’m so glad!
    I wish I could have joined you!

  9. Carolyn

    Good grief, woman! There was never an extra space by you at dinner! Weird must have been working overtime for you!

    I completely know what you mean about still processing it all. I’ve posted my photos. I’ve written a general run-down of the weekend. I’ve even written a whole post about why David Dark should be more famous than he is. And yet I suspect there is still more that I could say about that one weekend. God really blessed us with a full human experience.

  10. Ann Kroeker

    Hey, who are you callin’ weird? Speak for yourself!


    I am happy to serve as mascot for Team Weird. 🙂

  11. Laura

    BEAUTIFUL!I spent a good part of my life wishing I could fit in. At last, I am learning that, in the Potter’s hands, I am just right.

  12. Alison

    I really like this post. I think we are preconditioned to stuff away our “weirdness” from a very young age. As a result, the blessing that we could be to other people is often out of sight. But thank God for working with us so that the “real us”, as “weird” as it might seem to us, can come forth and we can be ourselves with the rest of the world!

  13. Sheila Lagrand

    This is a fabulous celebration. Thank you.

  14. patsy

    Wish we could pass it on to our children! I allowed my son to go to an international conference of Christian youth and then to the World Youth day in Spain. When he got back he was so amazed because there were so many “crazy” kids praising the Lord in different tongues. He thought that we were just a small group of weird people here in the Philippines. Always knew I was weird, it’s one of my favorite words! Glad to know I’m in good company!

    • dukeslee

      My daughter, age 9, takes “weird” as a compliment. She and her little girlfriends wear “weird” as a badge of honor. I hope they stay that way .Thanks, Patsy, for sharing your thoughts.

  15. Megan Willome

    If it makes you feel any less weird, all my farm cousins were much more fashionable than me, a girl from the big city who can’t put on makeup to save her soul.

    • dukeslee

      Megan, You are beautiful. By the way, did you happen to see the photo that someone took of you on the dock? It was on Facebook, but I don’t think you’re on Facebook. It’s simply divine. … And hey you — thanks for giving me space to be weird and real. I love you.

    • Patricia

      Memo to Megan:

      You are so naturally beautiful… you don’t need make up. <3

  16. Nikki B

    Hi, my name is Nikki and I am a weird-o. I know I am, and I accept it now, it’s just too bad that people have to feel so insecure about themselves just for the sake of fitting in with “the crowd.” Everyone is different and weird in their own ways, it is inescapable! God made each one of us with our own unique quirks, and I am just sad it took me so long to realize that’s okay.

    • dukeslee

      Nikki … Funny thing is, I have always known this intellectually, but for some reason, my heart won’t always listen to my brain. I need a mind-brain meld — so the Truth sinks in for good and for always.

  17. Laura

    This sounds like such a wonderful time. I need refreshing! And I love the fact that our Father is so creative, he made us all weird and wonderful in our own way!

  18. nmdr

    it sounds like a wonderful re-union/treat

  19. Monica Sharman

    I’m breathing a sigh of relief. 🙂

  20. Linda

    This is so comforting to me Jennifer. There is nothing like being with people you’ve admired from afar for such a long time to bring out all those insecurities.
    To see the “real” was such a blessing – weirdness and all.

  21. S. Etole

    From what I’ve read here and elsewhere you all do weird extremely well. What fun it must have been.

    • dukeslee

      It was a riot, Susan. Next year?

  22. Laura

    I love that purple nail polish :). And Jennifer? You wear weird well. Proud to be your friend. LOve you.

  23. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    Who wants to be normal when being weird is so much fun! I’m so thrilled you had a wonderful time–like we thought anything else was possible!

  24. Patricia

    The great thing is … that when weird comes together, it’s normal. =) I love that photo!

  25. Diana Trautwein

    Weird is my middle name. Never in my life have I felt like I ‘fit.’ And I’m more okay with that now than in my 20’s, that’s for sure. But I’m with Carolyn – there never was a space at your table the whole dang weekend. So I’m thinkin’ – maybe you’re not all that weird after all. (Or perhaps you’re A#1 weird and attract all the rest of us weird folk like moths to the flame. :>)

  26. Troy Sims

    If we could ever get to the point of fully embracing that God don’t make junk, we’d be better able to accept our own weirdness and the weirdness of our neighbors (and enemies)!
    Thank you for this article. Very well written and SO true!
    btw. . . I didn’t think you were weird! ;c)

  27. Angie Vik

    So amazed that other people feel the same way at times. Just experienced a huge dose of that this weekend visiting my daughter at her school. Am I intelligent enough? Thin enough? interesting enough? Good mother enough? I’ll have to chew on your words some more. Thanks for a good reminder.

  28. Dolly @ Soul Stops

    I loved these lines in your post: “We each have our own set of idiosyncrasies, insecurities and irregularities. [So true!]

    We are all exceptionally and beautifully odd. Praise Jesus.”

    God is out-of-this-world creative so it makes sense that He would create each person uniquely “wierd” as you put it. It makes the world a beautiful patchwork quilt.

    Great post!

  29. Michelle DeRusha

    You are such an incredible truth-teller, Jennifer.

  30. Charity Singleton

    I was hoping for a bunch of weirdos, or it would have been a frightfully boring weekend. Yes, it only works when we are all ourselves. Otherwise, we’re all only shadows of who we are supposed to be, trying to be who we think everyone wants us to be. And that just doesn’t work.

    It was so good to be weird with you!



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