Set apart: Trying to be unique is old news

Published February 16, 2012, in MSUM’s, The Advocate

Oh, to be unique; to stand apart. Our generation, more than any other, is obsessed with being known – getting our names out there – being “unique.”

The desire to be “different” has never been spotlighted as more glamorous than it is today, but it depends on what kind of “different” you’re talking about.

If you’re hoping to be different just to become famous, join the club. There are millions of others just like you, hoping to fulfill their dreams of Hollywood paparazzi stalking them, jotting down every activity they’ve done since the day they became a household name.

You’re unique, but you’re not unique in the sense that you want to stand apart. Got that? The majority of people, especially these days, want to be heard, want to be seen, want to be known. It’s getting more and more difficult, though.

Lady Gaga, for example, has already made copycat “monsters” just like herself, dressing in meat and lace (though I don’t think the meat-wear ever caught on), and with her cultish fan-base, I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers have to start banning kids from wearing bacon bras to school.

I can see it now.

Another lawsuit will arise based on freedom of expression. “I was just expressing myself!” is what they’ll tell their parents, the school board and the judge. Then, lowly reporters like me (if I find a job after I graduate) will have to recap the events of the case. Will bacon bra-wearing win?

I’m not exactly a rebel, but I could see how it could be enticing … maybe. Receiving national attention from disobeying the school dress code requiring you to wear real garments? Charming. Having your mug shot taken at the local police station? Hey, at least you’re getting your name out there, which is more than most can say. Getting in trouble for the millionth time? At least they’ll never forget you, whether they can stand your guts or not.

We’ve always been told that people who misbehave are trying to cover up insecurities or get attention – or something like that – or they’re just crazy.

We’ve all had moments where we want to be the bad boy or girl, defying the law and winning the respect from other rebels, in some way or another. We want to be noticed and being naughty seems the easiest and most efficient way to acquire that acclaim.

Negative attention has boosted the careers of many who have somehow twisted their bad behavior into something iconic and appealing, but I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home. You probably won’t become a celebrity and it’s a good bet you won’t have a large fan base either.

No one is completely original, but God has made each of us different in various ways. I wish people could realize their uniqueness doesn’t always come from a magazine, catalogue, store or media outlet.

Believe me, standing up for morals in a society that embraces the opposite won’t make you popular, but it will indeed make you different (unless that’s not the kind of “different” you’re going for).

Being your own person doesn’t mean you have to take the low road. It can be showing respect and empathy toward people who don’t usually receive it – sappy, wonderful actions like that.

Wanting to be different doesn’t mean you have to abandon your ideals or your religion. You don’t have to disagree with everything your parents have told you in order to think for yourself. You should have solid reasons for why you think the way you do, but if you agree with someone past the age of 70, so be it.

If we are trying so hard to stand apart from the crowd, why are we mimicking everything they’re doing? Unfortunately, the “unique” approach many are striving for is the same as everyone else’s.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be remembered as someone who is so attention-hungry they have to wreak havoc just to be noticed. I’m not going to throw a lamp at your head just to make sure you’re paying attention to what I’m trying to tell you. I’m not going to wear a bikini at the VFW to create some buzz. I’m not even going to wear raw meat, though I suppose one should try wearing fish since beef has already been worn.

I’ll stick with being the prude who writes columns on societal hypocrisy, relationships and fashion, among other random issues that occasionally provoke anger or agreement in the hearts of readers (however many there actually are). A good hate email or letter is always exhilarating. I do prefer words of encouragement, but I suppose, like everyone else, I should take whatever attention I can get.



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