“She wasn’t quirky. She was crazy.”
This was my friend’s assessment of a woman I had met on OKCupid. She ended our pleasant test drive after two months when I showed ambivalence about naked time. That typically happens when I realize I’m not in it for the long haul, but still enjoy the gestures of romance. Sort of like an actor in a play that’s closing; you still like getting dressed and going on.
My friend’s comment wasn’t empty. She was psychologically troubled. It didn’t take a medical degree to see that. Bits of her past trickled out in the first two weeks, and then dropped in large chunks. An abusive parent, pill addiction, years of crippling depression, weight swings, promiscuous eras. On “medication.” The drugs were heavy-duty mood stabilizers, not like the ones in the commercial with the frowny ball. Ads for these pills could use Amanda Bynes.
All pretty common stuff among females in their thirties and forties I’ve met on sites like OKCupid, eHarmony and Match.com, it’s sad to say. Mulling over possible reasons for this has obviously spurred introspection: is there something about me that attracts these women? Maybe Gen-X women encountered certain societal forces—divorced parents, fear of HIV, Madonna, I don’t know—that increased the odds of developing certain problems. Maybe troubled people of both sexes are over-represented on online dating sites. A medium that’s almost wholly dependent on photos is an excellent vehicle to meet potentially attractive people who are animal crackers.
Of course, crackers in the dating pool is nothing new. And I only interact with a small subset of women. Specifically, those who don’t recoil at my photo, find my described life acceptable, and give me a least a little rise. If these circles converge, that cohort will bear no resemblance to the motley horde at large. Dark hair, large breasts and mental instability might run 70 percent.
You pays your money and you takes your chances.
“A long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy.”—Charles Manson
“Everyone’s crazy, so you’re just trying to see if your crazies line up,” one woman I met on eHarmony, who was quirky-crazy (more on this momentarily), told me. She had a load of mundane demons, much like the OKCupid woman above, meaning her life could have been an after-school special in 1975 but wouldn’t get a yawn from a Dr. Phil booker now. She was simply saying there’s someone for everyone—the proverbial lid for every pot—as long as you’re not looking for cinematic perfection but rather a human being you’ll like most of the time.
It’s a reassuring thought: We’re all nuts, each one of us a stinking skin sack of Freudian horrors just trying to survive while countless psychoses and neuroses eat us alive. 1 The wacky need not walk alone; no matter how sick or demented you are, a tolerable mate—your mirror-mutilated lid—is out there.
We know what kind of crazy2 is being referred to in “everyone’s crazy.” It’s everyday crazy. Peculiar. Harmlessly neurotic. Different-drum eccentric. Maybe even occasionally off-the-rails weird. But never malicious, unnervingly strange or sick-ass odd. Maybe Phoebe on Friends. Not Adam Lanza.
It means—how I hate the word—quirky.
The death of quirky
Quirky, according to the Oxford American English Dictionary, means “having or characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits or aspects.” It’s from quirk, which is of unknown origin but appears in the early 16th Century to mean a “subtle verbal twist, quibble,” or later “unexpected twist.”
Crazy means “mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.” It’s root, craze, traces to “late Middle English (in the sense ‘break, shatter, produce cracks’): perhaps of Scandinavian origin and related to Swedish krasa ‘crunch.’”
The connotative meanings of crazy have wandered into quirky’s front yard (“dig that crazy hat!”), but the differences are clear.
1. Quirky maxes at strange but tax paying and usually presentable—and the quirks may be deliberate choice.
2. Crazy has no grip of reality and may start breaking shit.
In 2013, everyone is quirky.
It is literally the new normal.
This is largely because the threshold for deeming someone quirky is non-existent. You will call a person quirky if they have at least one overt habit or behavior that you find odd, pointless or annoying but not a deal-breaker to the relationship. Like eating a hamburger with utensils. Or wearing a Bear Bryant hat while having sex.
When you’re sizing up another human as closely as you do in dating, you will inevitably find at least one—and likely 70—such quirks. Naturally, the harder up you are, the more likely you are to see them positively. And you may even like some of the quirks while still knowing they’re strange (i.e., if you both wear Bear Bryant hats). At minimum, however, you don’t suspect that the quirks stem from a troubling psychological issue that could turn your life into Stephen King fodder.
Given that quirky is ubiquitous, it ceases to be. There is no quirky. Should you meet someone who is strangely devoid of quirk, you’ve met another Ted Bundy.
The birth of quirky-crazy
The death of quirky leaves three main categories in mate selection:
3. Crazy-crazy (rare)
Quirky-crazy is now the step below normal. It’s quirky that really starts to worry you or piss you off. The quirks don’t seem to be performed by whim of choice, and they have strong negatives—usually by dint of being a pain in the ass to you. Importantly, you strongly suspect that the offending habits or behaviors might indeed stem from troubling psychological issues, and you can only take heart in remembering that you actually have no goddamned idea what you’re talking about.
In quirky-crazy, the habit or behavior could indeed become a deal-breaker (depending on how hard up you are).
Some examples of quirky-crazy:
- “I need to get to the airport eleven hours early for a domestic flight.”
- “I have to leave all the lights on when I sleep.”
- “I can’t eat in front of another human being.”
It is not “I hacked your email account” or “I store walnuts in my anus.”
That’s crazy, which gets into the erratic, uncontrollable, destructive, you-need-serious-help shit. In exceedingly rare cases it may devolve into crazy-crazy, which may bid you awake one day to see a bloody nub above your speechless testicles.
Part II: To Come
1I may have extrapolated her basic sentiment in ways she hadn’t considered.
2There’s a segment in the mental health community that objects to the use of the word crazy. They feel it’s objectifying, hurtful or something called ableist—which apparently describes a word or phrase that pokes fun at, or is somehow linked to, a disability. Lame is common example. Retarded is the hot one.
In 1970s southern New Jersey, retarded meant boring, unfunny, meaningless, compulsory, not the right brand, out of the ordinary in a bad way, out of the ordinary in a good way, highly valued by person you wish to put down, careless, messed up, illogical, difficult, uncooperative, conspicuous, precious or twee. If it was used in reference to an actual developmentally challenged person, which almost never occurred, one would say “mentally retarded.”
Retarded rates about 37 on the Nigger Impact Scale, or NIS, which is the imaginary meter I invoke when considering words like retarded, schizo, etc. and sometimes Jew. Meaning, “words many people routinely used 40 years ago that could, or should, get you punched in the face or killed if you said them today.” In this scale, nigger is the speed-of-light constant in the slur universe, at least for white Americans in the Mid-Atlantic States. Other words might approach its intensity, even get split-hair close, but can never achieve nigger. That would theoretically require a slur-string stretching into infinity, which is impossible. At present nigger warp is still rhetorical science fiction.
Crazy currently registers a 4 on the NIS when used on its own, but increases to 13 when used as a modifier given its nearly perfect phonetic prefix to several slurs that reach 20 and above, which can, in rare dangerous cases, make them uncorkable. Uppity is the archetype; alone it registers 0, as a modifier, 91.