Ever seen eccentricity defined? (You probably think of cat ladies with disturbing lawn ornaments, right?)

Here is an article from my General Psychology textbook about eccentric people:

After conducting in-depth interviews and administering IQ tests, personality questionnaires, and other diagnostic tests to 1,000 eccentrics over a ten-year period, he concluded that although eccentrics may be "loosely wrapped," they do not suffer from mental disorders. Both eccentrics and seriously disturbed persons display aberrant behavior, but the strangeness of persons with mental disorders is thrust upon them and typically causes them suffering, whereas eccentric behavior is chosen freely and provides pleasure. In short, "neurotics are miserable because they think they're not as good as everyone else, while eccentrics know they're different and glory in it" (Weeks & James, 1995, p. 14).

Similarly, while the workings of the eccentric mind may be peculiar, they are not the seriously disrupted thought processes of persons with severe mental disorders, and they do not make the eccentric dysfunctional. And while eccentrics may be passionate about their hobbies or causes, their interests are not compulsions but sources of fun and pleasure. Although the eccentrics in Weeks's study were not immune to mental disorders, they had a lower overall incidence of such problems than the general population. Perhaps being an "original" is good for mental health. The eccentrics in the study were also physically healthier than usual; on average, they visited a doctor only once every eight years.

Weeks concludes that most eccentrics, despite their deviant behavior—perhaps even because of it—are happy, well-adjusted, and joyful people. Since nonconformists are relieved of the stress of trying to meet other people's expectations, they are free to plunge through life in their own optimistic, individualistic way, undeterred by criticism or convention. In a culture that increasingly values homogeneity over uniqueness, the offbeat and spirited personalities of eccentrics are often a refreshing change.

David Weeks identifies the following fifteen descriptions (in descending order of importance) as applicable to eccentrics. Although the first five characterizations are most definitive, possessing any ten of the fifteen may qualify one as an eccentric.

* Nonconforming
* Creative
* Strongly curious
* Idealistic
* Happily obsessed with a hobby (often more than one)
* Aware from early childhood of being different from others
* Intelligent
* Opinionated and outspoken
* Noncompetitive
* Unusual eating or living habits
* Not interested in the opinions or company of others
* Mischievous sense of humor
* Single
* Eldest or only child
* Bad speller

(Weeks & James, 1995)

Here's my breakdown of the characteristics of eccentricism for myself:

Nonconforming: Check! I'm not actively against doing something if someone else is doing it, but I don't really respond well to people expecting me to do something because it's normal. A number of my living situations are outside what's expected for someone of my demographic.

Creative: Check! I write novels and short stories, make art, run websites and webcomics, make videos, play music, do arts and crafts, bake, and dabble in a bunch of other arts whenever I get inspired.

Strongly curious: Check! I love to explore stuff that interests me and I'm always ready to learn. I don't crave novelty to the extent some curious people do, but especially when it has to do with others' experiences, I love delving into something new and learning all about it.

Idealistic: Check! Sometimes this is a drawback--sometimes wanting to see the best in people can lead to me offering tolerance and respect where I shouldn't, because I'm looking more at what someone could be instead of what they are, and it's hard to walk away. I do have a general optimism that sometimes makes people think I'm naïve, but it's paid off many times.

Happily obsessed with a hobby (often more than one): I'm pretty into my various projects, sometimes get very involved in exploring a fictional universe (my own or others'), and can invent numerous ways to enjoy something. I tend to do things pretty comprehensively and it keeps me busy and engaged.

Aware from early childhood of being different from others: Check! I was a pretty shy kid because I didn't connect to others my age easily, but really liked interacting with older kids or adults, which set the stage for feeling a little distance from other people. As an older kid and an adult, I'm an introvert, but don't think of myself as shy anymore. I did deal with a little bit of bullying or unwanted isolation, but mostly it didn't bother me to not have much in common with most of my classmates.

Intelligent: Check! This is subjective, but I'll just say that by most measures of intelligence, I'd get a decent "score."

Opinionated and outspoken: Check! This is a pretty big one for me. I talk and write a lot about the things I strongly believe--and though I'm willing to listen to others' differing perspectives and have been known to change my own when it makes sense, I have some closely held beliefs that I advocate for frequently--in various media and in individual conversation. I can be frank and am willing to tackle subjects that aren't necessarily of mainstream interest.

Noncompetitive: This about half and half describes me. I like to compete and enjoy a challenge, but I also don't mind losing. I do honestly prefer games and contests that have winners and scores because it helps me aim for something and structures the goal--I'll much prefer playing a scored ping-pong round than just hitting it back and forth until someone gets tired. But as far as interaction with other people goes, I don't feel like I have an ongoing rivalry with anyone and am not obsessed with trying to be better or higher or more successful than other people just to do it. I guess I like structured competition when the only thing to win or lose is the game itself.

Unusual eating or living habits: Check! I'm vegetarian and I do a lot of cooking for one, and sometimes I like to do creative baking or cooking. I live by myself in a three-bedroom house that's full of my collections and books and strange decorations. I'm not married or dating anyone and I don't have any pets. And I never learned to drive, so I ride a bike.

Not interested in the opinions or company of others: This doesn't really fit. I'm an introvert and am very comfortable alone, and prefer a good dose of solitude regularly, but I do very much enjoy others' company and have a great time hearing their thoughts and opinions. If they disagree or want to change me I don't necessarily let those opinions affect my lifestyle, but that's different from not caring what they say or think.

Mischievous sense of humor: Maybe half and half again. I love a good prank and enjoy being silly. I don't enjoy fooling people in ways that can scare or hurt them, and would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to humor that crosses the line into pestering people or creating long-running scenarios that keep someone as the butt of a joke.

Single: Check! I've never been interested in other people this way and the dating experiments I did as a young person didn't offer me anything I wanted or needed. I have the fulfilling, satisfying relationships I want in my friendships. And I really hate when people assume that single means looking or believe I must be lonely if I don't have a partner. I actively want to be single.

Eldest or only child: Check. I'm the eldest of three siblings, though the sister right after me was born soon after me that I don't remember being an only child.

Bad speller: NO. Though I guess this one is canceled out by grammar and spelling being part of one of my special interests.

Any comments left here are PUBLIC. If you are not comfortable with that, mail me directly.

Email address:

Comments from others:

Nike: Oh, I'm very much an eccentric, as well. I hit 13, almost 14 of those guidelines. I'm also a writer and very picky about spelling and grammar, so that's a big no. Also I'm technically not the eldest of my siblings, but my half-sisters are ten and twelve years older than I am and weren't around a lot when I was growing up. I was the eldest of my Dad's kids, and that's who I grew up with, so that probably matters more.

Oh, and my sense of humor's much more subtle than yours, but it's definitely there.

Austin: This essay reminded me of reading somewhere previously that you always wear non-matching socks, which, by the way, is something I've always wanted to do. Seriously. ALWAYS. Unfortunately, I never built up the courage to do it. UNTIL NOW.

Finding out that somebody else did it encouraged me to. So this morning I put on two differently-colored socks. Nothing major. One black and one white. (I don't have any particularly exciting socks, though I have been meaning to buy some ever since I started idolizing the Harry Potter series' Albus Dumbledore, who has a minor sock obsession.)

Anyway, by the time I got out of the house a few minutes later, I forgot my socks didn't match. But, when I got home around 5:00 and took off my shoes, I got really excited, and giggled like a little girl. Like a LITTLE GIRL. Not a good-natured chuckle. Not a quick, manly laugh. A girly, high-pitched, slightly disturbing giggle.

I think I just got a new style.

Synesthesia: Totally eccentric and proud of it.
I wrote a poem about it, but I have no idea where it is...

Abbey: All of these apply to me, except for the last two. I'm the youngest of two, and bad spelling is also a huge pet peeve of mine. It's funny, though; I've never really thought of myself as being eccentric. Anyway, I love this essay. This is one of my favorites that you've done.


Nonconforming: Yep. This sort of ties in with several other traits on the list. I do not make anything resembling an effort to conform.

Creative: Yes. I write as well - fiction mostly. And I pretty much live in my head so I need to be creative.

Strongly curious: I think so. The use of the word "strongly" leaves me not quite sure about what degree of curiosity is required for the diagnosis. I'll say this, I only know of maybe two or three people more curious than I.

Idealistic: Yes, but in an unfocused way. I see horrible things happen and think, "how can people be so bad to each other?" and I decide that that world needs to change, but I can't decide how to effectively change it. Mostly because I don't have much faith in humanity's ability to effect my changes properly.

Happily obsessed with a hobby (often more than one): I'd say no. But once again, I'm not totally sure what degree of obsession is required. I have hobbies that I enjoy very much, but I hesitate to label them "obsessive."

Aware from early childhood of being different from others: I think I get to be somewhat exempt from this one. I was a bit slow as a child, probably due to medical issues regarding my hearing. After they were sorted out, I developed rapidly, and by third grade I knew that I was different in many ways.

Intelligent: Yes. I have never taken an IQ test, but I was always been the smartest kid... well, the smartest kid in my school (which only had 180 students in grades 9-12, mind you). I became used to outperforming everyone else on standardized tests by a wide margin. Like you, I am stronger in the verbal areas than the mathematic ones, but I am strong at math as well.

Opinionated and outspoken: No, not really. My opinions tend to be vacillatory (my biggest pet peeve) so I don't really spout them.

Noncompetitive: I am very noncompetitive. If somebody gets in my face and begins questioning my merit, beliefs, etc, then I can potentially become competitive. Otherwise, they can believe what they want. If they want to think that they're, for example, the greatest programmer ever, I let them as long as they don't call me out directly.

Unusual eating or living habits: Absolutely. I drink at least 5 cups of homebrewed green tea per day. I will sometimes open a can of kidney beans and eat the entire thing for dinner. I drink olive oil and apple cider vinegar.

Not interested in the opinions or company of others: I'm having a somewhat difficult time answering this one as well. "opinions of others" represents a pretty broad category of expressions. If someone is just caviling about my fashion sense or something like that, I don't really pay any attention to them. If they have an opinion that could be useful ("mein fuhrer! Contingency plan C is better than D because...") then I will listen to it. I am highly disinterested in the company of others.

Mischievous sense of humor: Yes. I'll leave it at that.

Single: Yes. I would like to be coupled, but only with someone that meets my excessively romanticized idea of what a woman should be. This someone probably does not exist.

Eldest or only child: Eldest of two.

Bad speller: Nope, I'm a good speller also. Not only is it nice to be taken seriously, but I consider writing (and thus, spelling) to be an art. Me not worrying about my spelling would be like Van Gogh not worrying about brush size.

Yep, I meet the criteria. Does the fact that I'm responding at such depth at 2:00 AM give me any points?

Bree: Are you eccentric? was a question on a quiz I took the other day but I wasnt really sure, hehe now I am. 12 of those apply!

Jim: Only things which did not apply were being the eldest (second eldest with three sisters) and the IQ (I've informally tested at 130, but "professionals" test me at 119; I believe they're wrong).

I have a sense of humor which gets me into trouble quite often (being AS, I don't always remember that society exists when I make jokes whilst immersed in such). Highly educated, English major, good speller, and stickler for grammar.

Love your site, I'm trying to read more, but too bouncy from excitement/caffeine :)

JAKQ: I am eccentric, indeed.

Nonconforming: Yep! I pride myself on my individuality and refusal to go with the "norm"

Creative: I have a musical background, and am generally spacey and artsy, but I'm bad at actually finding a medium to serve as an outlet for many of my thoughts.

Strongly curious: Yep! I have an "inquiring mind", and have been known both to ask many questions if I'm interested in something, and to be something of a gossip/eavesdropper/busybody, because I like to know what is going on in my loved ones' lives.

Idealistic: I'm an odd combination of cynical and idealistic. I do think that "ideally" people would have much more respect for one another, and leave each other alone if they don't get along (this means no military, as well), but in reality, people are inherently assholes, and such an ideal world will not occur, at least in my lifetime.

Happily obsessed with a hobby: Yep! I love to sing (I'm that bass/sopranist countertenor that commented on the Butterfly video), and play my woodwinds, as well as listening to all sorts of music, and watching queer/atheist activist videos.

Aware of being different from an early age: I guess I always sort of knew I was weird, but it was never something I agonized about, or anything. I started embracing it more once I hit middle school, and was picked on for it, I suppose.

Intelligent: I was in the top 20% of my high school graduating class, I go to a fairly prestigious university, and I've tested somewhere in the 125-135 range on IQ tests. I guess I'm intelligent.

Opinionated and outspoken: A bit too much so, sometimes. When I get passionate about something, I get heated about it, and often sound like an idiot when I argue, so I try not to debate too often, without preparation. I am not shy about making my opinions known, however.

Noncompetitive: I'm bad at all things athletic, but I do get competitive when it comes to the things I do care about (music, academics, things like that), and it gets on my nerves when I'm not given the accolades I work hard for.

Unusual eating and living habits: Oh, yes! I don't eat red meat, and am a "picky eater" in general. It drives my parents crazy, sometimes! As for my living habits, well, I'm a bit of a packrat, and my sleeping hours are abysmal (wake up at noon, go to sleep at 2:00 AM).

Not interested in opinions/company of others: I'm an introvert with moderate social anxiety, and high sensitivity to sensory stimuli, so I don't like being around people for too long, but I do seek companionship in people who can put up with my craziness. My circle of friends isn't large, but it is close, which is what counts.

Mischievous sense of humor: I'm known for my quick wit, and lack of any sort of hesitance to snark at the earliest opportunity. I have often said that sarcasm is a primary form of communication in my house. I'm not a prankster, though, in the sense that you are, Ivy.

Single: Yep, I'm single, and I expect to be this way for some time to come. I'm hetero-romantic asexual (gyno-romantic, if you want to be technical, because my gender is a bit janky), but very sex-repulsed, and even find kissing (even "innocently" on the cheek) too much for me to handle, so finding a girl who is respectful of that, who still wants a romantic relationship with me is going to be hard, at least in the long-term. My introversion/social anxiety/shyness doesn't help, either.

Eldest or only child: I'm the elder of two children.

Bad speller: Not even close! I have an innate gift for spelling. My mother remembers that if I spoke too quickly as a young child, and she wouldn't understand what I'd say, I'd spell it out for her. She calls me a "human spell-checker".