THE INCREDIBLE STRANGENESS OF BEING
Unabashedly rutting horndogs have the City Pages's Wild Side. Overeducated, fault-finding elitists have The Right Stuff, a dating service for graduates and faculty of top-tier colleges. Chances are, if you're old, suburban, Christian, or incarcerated, there is a specific dating service for you; but until Cyrus Kelly founded Odd Inclinations©, there was nothing for people who's most fundamental characteristic is that they're strange.
"Even in big cities like San Francisco, there isn't a service for weirdos," says Cyrus. "People who have a lot of emotional baggage and who had weird childhood's and are likely to act out in strange ways and have strange, obsessive hobbies." And so, with the help of fellow "instigators" across the country, Cyrus launched Odd Inclinations©, the first, and only, matchmaking service you can turn to if you're an "artist, punk, poet, visionary, intellectual, extremist, or any other sort of societal alien."
For the past year, Cyrus has been distributing flyers and advertising in 'zines published in Upstate New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Here in Minneapolis, you can sometimes find the Odd Inclinations© questionnaire mingled with the other flyers on the windowsill at Lava Lounge, or stacked on the folding table in the Laundromat next to Muddy Waters.
The application is a single page of questions, 14 in all, printed in bright green ink under the headline Are You Strange? "Welcome to Odd Inclinations©," reads the first line. "Where unique and creative people can finally find each other.... 'Normal' people need not apply." To help discourage "normals," Cyrus specifically wrote the questions to stump, puzzle, and otherwise confound the pedestrian mind. The first question is easy (it asks for basic attributes like age, sexuality, and diet, and for the "limits on your potential mate") but question number two is a little harder: "Is your personality more like lambswool, or like Waldorf salad, or carbide coarse grit, or something else entirely? Describe yourself in wine-taster's terms. What flavor or aspect of you is unpalatable to 'normal' people?"
Cyrus insists he's not trying to be nutty for nuttiness' sake. For him, Odd Inclinations© is a labor of love, a long term project which will evolve and grow over time. The soul of Odd Inclinations© is in the questions. Cyrus designed each one to more accurately reveal political and personal beliefs simply by not directly asking about these beliefs. For example, question number eight ("Is pink inherently good or inherently evil? How about petroleum products?") has prompted a few passionate and telling, responses. "It seems like a stupid question," Cyrus explains. "But some people have really strong feelings about it. I got three responses from people who were offended by the question because they insisted pink was inherently good, like this guy from the military base in Haiti--he is obsessed with flamingos and for him pink is a very positive thing.
Every questionnaire is processed by Cyrus personally, who has no set system, but instead uses his intuition in scrutinizing the pink/anti-pink controversy and others for hidden clues to an applicants ideal lover. While some get a form-letter asking them to wait patiently because the match-making process is so difficult, many receive a personal response. "I am either touched by their writing, or concerned," says Cyrus. "Or I need to turn them away because they're too normal." In such cases he will even go so far as to give the reasons why the person didn't qualify.
When asked what constitutes "too normal" Cyrus offers this example. "I get people who are on a super Japanese futuristic kick of some kind where they love computers and death-oriented stuff and all they want is a red-headed bimbo witch into bondage. That's actually fairly common entry, and I try to discourage these folks because I think they're really normal people who just haven't accepted that in themselves. They may just need some therapy and a back rub."
While Cyrus tries not to judge people's fantasies or expectations, he's not afraid to question them. He's learned that people often have a very elaborate idea of what they want in a mate, and that too often these strict requirements keep them from being happy. "I nearly always find that these expectations reflect more strongly on flaws we see in ourselves or fantasies we place ourselves in, than in another person's thoughts and needs."
So what makes a good candidate for Odd Inclinations©? The ability to wrap your mind around a question like number 14 helps ("Have you ever thought you might be from another planet,
or that you might be psychic? Tell an anecdote of an instance when you felt sure of it."), but mostly it's important to answer every question as best you can and with as much spirit and life as you can muster. "Just being interesting is enough!" says Cyrus, which in these times (or times past for that matter) is a very odd inclination indeed. *
In the old days, the really old days, you just jumped onto a deer and killed it, and dragged it back to your hut. You just ate it, and then you just threw the guts at your kid brother. Then, all of a sudden, someone invented pockets. Now you brought your knife, you gutted the deer where it fell. Progress, right?
Not so fast. This is the sort of multi-tasking that would eventually lead to "Hello Direct," the catalog for people who need technology in order to "Think, work, [and] talk--all at once." (Do you think you already do this? Guess again.) To start, you'll need a headset phone, a $500 palm-sized cellular fax receiver to use in the bathroom, or a little machine that reads your caller-ID aloud. "It saves you the trouble of walking to your phone to view your display to see who's calling." Ah, the trouble of walking. Some days we just don't know what's more difficult, walking or just living in this too, too technological society. Thankfully, "HELLO DIRECT" offers customer testimonials that make the answer clear. "I'm on the phone about half the day, selling and prospecting," writes Jim Clark of Texas. "My HelloSet lets me type into my PC as I talk. I can also swing around to another PC on the credenza behind me, or stand up and move 5-6 paces to the file cabinet. Before I had the headset, all this juggling was difficult, and I'd frequently drop the phone. It's a lot easier now." Mary Loura of California claims her headset is so cozy that "sometimes I go out to lunch and forget I'm still wearing it!"
Panicking, we called 1-800-Hi-Hello and got Chrissie on our old-fashioned hand set. Frantically, we demanded: Aren't people overwhelmed by the way technology is taking over their lives? Chrissie was baffled. "I don't understand your question," she said. Don't you think, we cried, that sometimes people should just be making spaghetti sauce or just be reading magazines? "I haven't had any calls like that," said Chrissie, "The headsets are more for convenience, so you can do other things when you're on the phone." But don't you personally, Chrissie, living under the golden California sun, living on the golden shores of the Pacific, don't you feel like receiving faxes in grocery stores and rushing around with phones strapped to your skull is just too much? "No," said Chrissie. "No. Is there anything else I can help you with?" Alas, Chrissie, no.
"Mailorderous" is an occasional feature by Dara Moskowitz reporting innovations from the world of mail order catalogs. "Hello Direct" can be reached at 5884 Eden Park Place, San Jose, CA 95138-1859,
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