The One and Only Me

A fellow writer–I’ll call him GLENN WALKER–reportedly described me as “unique” today while we were attending a group meeting at a local coffee house.

On the way home, I pondered his meaning. After all, I’m just a normal woman: a mother; a daughter; a sister; an aunt; and, like many of my friends, a somewhat financially-challenged ex-wife. So far, completely ordinary, right? So what did he mean? I looked to a dictionary for help:

1: being the only one : sole <his unique concern was his own comfort> <I can’t walk away with a unique copy. Suppose I lost it? — Kingsley Amis> <the unique factorization of a number into prime factors>
Believe me, I am NOT the only one of me; there are more than 500 Patti O’Briens on Facebook alone! God only knows how many of us there are in Ireland!
2: being without a like or equal : unequaled <could stare at the flames, each one new, violent, unique — Robert Coover>

Hmmm. IS there anyone else as tired as I am? As self-doubting? As confused about life and all that it means? As obsessed with correct grammar and punctuation? Yes, I believe there are many of us out there; perhaps Glenn just doesn’t know the others. That could be the problem.

3: distinctively characteristic : peculiar 1 <this is not a condition unique to California — Ronald Reagan>

If he means I’m peculiar, then he’s in trouble! If anything, I am very, very cool and he knows that. I mean, seriously. I’ve been honing my coolness since eighth grade. My son’s TCNJ housemates voted me the coolest of all the moms, no lie. If Glenn Walker thinks I’m a weirdo, well, then, he’s a weirdo. Bazinga.
4: unusual <a very unique ball-point pen> <we were fairly unique, the sixty of us, in that there wasn’t one good mixer in the bunch — J. D. Salinger>
Now, if he’s lumping me in with Salinger, I’m okay with that. He’s the best writer that’s ever been, in my massively un-unique opinion. But here, even his use of the word seems weird: how can sixty people be unique? I think a better word would have been sad: seriously, sixty people in one room who can’t do chit chat?
That must’ve been one boring party.
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So, I am left with questions, as I did not think myself to be truly unique in any way. I have to confess to being described by similar adjectives before: quirky pops up pretty often, as does different (in a cool way) and awesome, which is way cool. Now that I think of it, I’d rather be these things than dull, uninteresting, tedious, bland. Being unique, I can get away with all kinds of stuff as people are likely to say “Oh, that’s just Patti.” I am a writer, so certainly being unique gives me quite an advantage; who wants to read the same been-there-done-that story? A unique take on life–which clearly must come from a left-of-center person–makes for interesting prose, methinks.
I do not know how he meant it, and he may never actually tell me, but I’ve decided to take it as a compliment. I am my own person, that’s for sure. I believe what I think and say what I believe. I am completely authentic in thought, word and deed, which makes many “ordinary” people uncomfortable; as Jack Nicholson might say, they just can’t handle the truth! Some days, I think I am as awesome as my son says I am; others, I admit to being a highly flawed human who sometimes finds the daily navigation through life to be difficult and would just as soon stay home and watch reruns of “Friends.”
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We are all unique, say the books, the teachers, the counselors. Every one of us has unique gifts, challenges, thoughts. Put seven people in one room and try to get a consensus on something, anything. Six people, maybe. But seven or more? Fugetaboudit. No two people think alike, which makes the idea of a world filled with peace and understanding seem impossible. We, as a nation (see: the recent election), as a world, do not agree on much. We are, each of us, uniquely qualified only to know ourselves better than anyone else, which makes understanding your mate, say, so frustrating. I cannot read your mind, my Ex was fond of saying. Pa-lease. Read my face then, sweetie, because Mama ain’t happy.
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But I digress, which is also not a unique trait for writers–or women.
Being unique is, in the end, fairly common. Like the snowflakes that Bing Crosby dreamed of, we are all different, unique in our own wonderful, wacky and yes, weird ways. And anything that is connected to the great and wonderful Bing is fine with me.
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Call me unique then, Glenn Walker, and I will say that you, Sir, are unique as well. And when you really think about it, don’t we all strive to stand out, just a little bit, from the crowd?
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