It’s a catchy word. It has long been a terrible, tired cliché, particularly when it is uttered to describe oneself. It is usually more about trying hard to be different and less about being oneself, that is, a declaration that betrays one’s lack of depth.
Is it fair to credit James Joyce for the word’s popularity? It’s been a long time since I read anything by Joyce, but I think he had alluded to something a little more complex and conflicted.
I know a former design director who has a penchant for young men, clearly in disregard of the rule about not dating anyone under half your age plus seven. When we used to live in the same city, we bumped into each other regularly at restaurants, bars and cafes. Each time, he had a different toy boy barely old enough to drink, and they were usually seated at a table next to ours for some odd reason. On one such occasion, it was rather obvious that his dinner companion had not known him for very long and was very keen to impress him. The young chap was rattling on about his family, background, a university course he was taking, favourite films and other topics routinely (and often painfully) covered on a first date. I don’t remember whether there was a mention of the favourite colour but do recall him declaring, with triumph in his voice, that he is a nonconformist. The whole point of the sport of eavesdropping is to hear something worth remembering, isn’t it? I did feel a bit sorry for the nonconformist who didn’t realise that he fit the mould almost flawlessly, just like all the ones before and after him. And, being a little different about something trivial was not going to impress his jaded patron for the evening. Or most others.