After a near lifetime of denial, failed attempts at conformity, and entirely too much under-cover hiding, I’ve finally emerged from the closet.
The all-too- many sleepless nights of trying to make peace with my true identity have finally come to an end. I’m going public with the disclosure and officially reporting HEADLINE NEWS to the denizens of My Public Domain: My Name is Maura and I am an ODDball.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived outside the bell curve. While my physical appearance stands within the norm, my thoughts definitely reside outside the solar system, even the galaxy. Take for example the fact that my favorite book is the Dictionary (not just any dictionary, mind you, but the unabridged versions that offer full word etymologies with Latin and Greek roots so I can understand what words really mean to say). Or the fact that I’ve questioned just about every conventional form of thought. Even recently, an elder cousin reminded me how, as a young child, I was writing complete sentences in reverse (the only way she could interprete them was by holding my writings up to the mirror).
Yes, while everyone else in the Western World read and wrote from left to right, yours truly had to start at the End and work her way backwards. Made perfect sense to me but certainly not to the outside world! As a result, I grew up keenly aware of my unseen differences and often fearful of societal rejection. While my husband and daughter had grown accustomed to my unusual perspectives, I recognized my ODDball status was a societal atom bomb and learned to keep my thoughts sub-rosa.
But back to my story . . . .
I knew something was askew when I awoke that Saturday morning to the long forgotten strains of Robert Goulet’s voice crooning inside my head: “I’ve gotta be me! I’ve gotta be me! ” Surely he wasn’t singing about the ODDball, I mused. It would’ve been too far out for the cultural mores of the ‘60s. Were ODDballs even spoken about in secret back then?
A few hours later I made way to an exercise class at the local spa when my normal routine went awry. Descending the stairs, a previously unseen poster suddenly commanded my attention: The Resort & Spa Welcomes YOU to a Halloween Party! ME . . . at a Halloween Party?
A familiar voice interrupted my rapidly disorienting thoughts.
“Maura, are you going tonight?”
“Oh, Evelyn!” I responded, quickly collected myself and waving off the suggestion in my all too familiar tone. “I haven’t dressed up for Halloween since I was little. Even back then I felt weird. What would I ever do at a Halloween party now?”
Evelyn quickly countered, “Maura, you can’t believe what an incredible job the resort has done with the decorating! There’ll be free drinks, appetizers, great live music, two comedians, and even a DJ from an area radio station. Plus, you can get reduced-price tickets if you purchase in advance of this evening’s event.”
“Are you getting spiffed for attendees?”
“Certainly not,” she assured me. Then, smiling expectantly from behind the reception area, she picked up the phone for an inside line to the resort’s front desk. Armed with an expression reminiscent of the cat that just swallowed the canary, she extended the receiver to me, nodding her head up and down in yes-yes fashion. “Come on!” she encouraged. You can do it.
Could I? I wondered, silently. Could I actually emerge from the shadows and declare myself openly to the world? Wasn’t Halloween the day when freaks of every sort were not only expected to appear in public, but even welcomed? Could this Halloween Party be just the place for my . . . Coming Out?
I reasoned a bit further. With both husband and daughter out of town, I could declare my true identity while conveniently sparing them public embarrassment of a guarded family secret suddenly open to view.
Oh, what the heck. I accepted the receiver from a still smiling Evelyn and pulled the MasterCard out of my wallet. “Reservation for one, please.”
When I returned the receiver her way, Evelyn was still silently clapping in glee. “What are you dressing as?”
“An ODDball,” I heard myself sound, the words falling out of my mouth before I could catch them.
It didn’t register. “A what. . . ?”
“An ODDball,” I replied, this time a bit more defiantly. “Haven’t you ever heard of one?”
“Well, yes,” she stuttered, forced to acknowledge this unmentionable moniker that even the most offensive internet sites refuse to publish.
“Well, I AM an ODDball,” I declared, hearing my words picking up strength now.
“Not you!” she blurted out. Then, trying desperately to regain herself, she pulled back just slightly. Struggling for composure and still wishing to remain open-minded to the person before her whom she thought she knew in polite society, Evelyn sheepishly uttered, “Maura . . . what does an ODDball look like?”
Heading out the door, I heard my confident voice respond: “I guess we’ll find out tonight!”
Now I know you readers are just begging for the sequel to this exciting and true story, but suffice it to say that I actually did come out of hiding that Halloween evening. Going stag, I braved the entry of strobe lights, thirsting vampires and cackling ghouls to enter a dimly lit cabaret-styled party room. Then, trying to get my bearings while adjusting to the low lights, I was relieved to discover a familiar face: it was none other than Evelyn.
“Evelyn!” I called.
Once she realized it was I the Oddball, Evelyn responded reluctantly, “Ah, Maura. . . ” Then, in a goodwill effort to make conversation with the now outed ODDball, she politely asked, “where are you sitting?” probably hoping the answer would indicate somewhere ‘far, far away’.
A confident reply burst forth: “With you!”
Surprised, she stumbled, “Our table is full . . . . but you can pull up a chair.”
In another moment of outright brazenness, I did pull up a chair, placing it right at the head of Evelyn’s table!
Once seated, I immediately said hello to the cadre of guests donning a variety of clever costumes. The first couple included Lou and his wife, recent transplants from the Midwest. Lou, a gentle and quiet man, was clad in a huge orange sombrero and shared how tonight he was celebrating his 39th birthday for the 39th time. His younger wife, a weekend clown, proved a fashionable compliment to Lou with her tangerine costume and giant grin. A second couple included Sister Mary Virginia and her fun-loving spouse Sister Virginia Marie (who, by this hour, was sporting a 5 o’clock shadow and a headdress requiring a bit of straightening). The two were visiting from the Convent of Perpetual Merriment and wore long black robes reminiscent from my grammar school days at St. Michael’s Parish.
With introductions nearly complete, an inquiring Sister Mary Virginia asked, “And who, exactly, are you?”
“I’m an ODDball. Not a make-believe one, but a real live ODDball,” I confessed. Studying my costume, a prop, a squishy round mass of shocking pink that looked like a cross between the Chia Pet and a curly perm gone mad, the group smiled warmly. Then, cooing over her martini glass, Sister Mary Virginia announced, “I propose a toast! A toast to the ODDball!” The rest of the table added a here! here! and clinked their glasses to my debut.
The ease with which these guests welcomed my disclosure was remarkable! So confident did I become in my own identity that my shocking pink ball was no longer necessary. I could go it alone. I passed my prop along to Sister Mary Virginia who was so enamored with my gift that she proudly placed it beneath her long black garb to add additional hilarity to her habit, even asking me to take some pictures of her now bulging belly.
The rest of the night was spent sipping 7ups, munching on great appetizers and dancing to everything from swing to disco with the likes of Mr. Clean, Michael Jackson and a host of other notables. Imagine . . . I was finally having a blast just being me – The ODDball. As a perfect ending to my evening, I realized nobody even flinched when I left before the bewitching hour of 10:30PM.
Hey . .. the long-feared Outing of the ODDball outing wasn’t so bad after all.
If Halloween could accept me, the rest of the world was only a whisper away!