I was visiting my mother recently and I came across this old school photo of myself, and I thought: I look a little bit like a young Mr Spock there, don’t I? I think it’s the haircut and the eyebrows, angling up the side of my face ever so slightly. And even though my hair is covering the tops of my ears, I half fancy I could trace a couple of Vulcan wingnuts in there and it wouldn’t look out of place, not at all. It doesn’t take much to become a Vulcan, just some artificial ears, a severe haircut, some creative eyebrow artistry and an unswerving deadpan logic. That’s not too far away from a number of humans I know, myself included (though to be clear: I have normal, peakless ears).
That got me to thinking about being different. Weird. Odd.
My daughter, eight as I write this, said to me recently that some girl or girls in her class had called her weird. I then out-weirded her by holding my hand up for a high-five. She left me hanging. She couldn’t understand why anyone would want to be considered weird. A highly illogical response.
When I was her age, I can remember taking school trips to the nearby church grounds. We’d make this trip as a class once a week, because the church grounds were large and grassy and fully-enclosed by these huge red brick walls, a place we could play without fear of the cement scrapes of the school-yard or the abduction threats of public parks … of course there were all the priests and Christian Brothers around, but at the time they were just funny teacher-types who liked to wear robes everywhere. The game we played on these trips was British Bulldog. The rules were simple. Everyone lines up along one end of a field with one player in the middle, presumably the bulldog, and all the other players have to run to the other end of the field. The bulldog has to grab runners as they go past and turn them into bulldogs. And so the population of bulldogs grows while the runners dwindle. If my children ever start playing this game at school, I’m going to suggest they call it Zombie Gauntlet.
So one day we’re there in the church grounds, playing British Bulldog, and I’m doing okay. I was fast as a kid, probably helped by the extra length in my stride, so it wasn’t hard for me to do the logical thing and run wide and fast around the lot of them. It got me the result I was after, but apparently I was offending some unwritten rule which stated: you must run up the middle. I wasn’t aware of this rule. As one, the bulldog-zombie horde descended on me, not so much like players in a game any more, more like teenage girls chasing One Direction members. But instead of screaming, they were shouting; and instead of ripping at my clothes, they were … well, they were ripping at my clothes, but only because the short bastards couldn’t yet reach my head. The whole time this was happening, I wasn’t doing much in the way of fighting back beyond throwing them off me. I wasn’t angry, I was shaken. I couldn’t understand what was going on, and to this day I still have no idea what it was all about. It just didn’t make sense. I couldn’t assimilate with the zombie-bulldog horde.
That’s one of my earliest memories of feeling different. Odd. Weird. Never so odd that I was routinely picked on, but always weird enough to keep me at an arm’s length from the cool kids and the top job … just like Spock. It had almost completely slipped out of memory until I came across that old school photo at my mum’s place recently.
Take a look at it. The haircut, the angle of the eyebrows. If you moved some of that hair out of the way, you’d probably find some pointy ears hiding under there. I began to think about all the ways I was Spock-like.
One of the biggest similarities, I think, is my ability to suppress emotion. Except in sad films. I bet even Spock would have cried at the end of ET. But ask my wife, most of the time I’m like a freaking robot.
Also, I don’t dance. Not can’t (though probably can’t), but don’t. It just doesn’t make any kind of rational sense. I’m pretty sure Spock doesn’t dance. Can you imagine him doing the running man, or the sprinkler? Ridiculous. I’m in a club, music playing, several drinks in me, but my feet? Nothing. They’ve gone to sleep, and will wake only for walking.
And Spock didn’t belong with either humans or Vulcans, being half of each. Too warm for Vulcans, too cold for humans. I’ve been told more than once by colleagues that I “don’t belong here”. More often than not I agree.
The evidence grows and grows. A couple of months ago I went to a school reunion. I fought hard to avoid that, believe me. What’s more illogical than an evening of awkward conversations with people you haven’t made any effort to talk to for the past twenty years? The argument in favour of having a reunion after such a long interval seems to also present the strongest case for not having a reunion. But I went. I was talking to one former schoolmate, and conversation naturally drifted to industrial manufacturing processes in emerging economies. This former eighteen-year-old, he described a recent visit to a Chinese manufacturing plant. He said, in disbelief, “There were chinks everywhere! In suits!” I don’t know what disturbed my rational mind more about his observation: that he should refer to Chinese people so offensively, that he was surprised by the presence of so many Chinese in China, or that he was equally surprised by their attire. Should they have been wearing robes? Many of the conversations that evening ran a similar course: former classmate speaking to me, me thinking what the hell is this person talking about? It was like work, but with booze.
In light of my Spock hypothesis, I began to think in terms of genetics. I’m weird, and so is my daughter. My son isn’t yet displaying too many weird attributes; but the logical ones, absolutely. In all likelihood, these are genetic traits.
But look back to that photo.
Is it possible, I wondered, that somewhere in my family’s ancestry an alien race interfered with our genetic makeup, maybe even abducted a great-great-great-grandsomething and meddled with his or her DNA?
Is it possible, I wondered, that I am part alien? That I exhibit these Vulcan tendencies because of a grafted sequence of alien DNA which has been passed from generation to generation, a gentle alien invasion which will eventually result in a planet more alien than human? That when the planet has reached Vulcan-saturation, our ancient genetic donors will return and take their place as inhabitants, possibly benevolent overlords, of Earth?
But then I thought: No. That would be highly illogical.