Among American Indians, I have heard that there was always a tribal role for a contrary person.
This contrary Indian was enabled to do opposite things to tradition and to standard daily behavior. If everyone else wore shirt's with feathers on the front, the contrary person could wear the feathers on the back and the feathers could be on left side not on the right. The contrary person could sleep during the day and go out through the wrong door. Live with a man instead of a woman.
We know very little more about the contrary person and his or her role in the tribe.
I knew an actual contrary person. She was a wonderful beloved girlfriend, Ranny Riley. Actually, Frances O'Brien Riley. She was a contrary person in every way, every day. If you asked for something, like a glass of water or to ‘pass the sugar’ she would say “no”. If you wanted to go to a movie, she wanted to watch television.
I quickly learned how to deal with this. On one trip to Japan, Ranny and I were at a flea market. She saw an old spinning wheel that she considered to be beautiful. It was. Ranny came from a rich family and could buy anything she wanted. I realized, that I being the person who understood Japan, if she bought the spinning wheel, I would have to find a way to package it and ship it home. A nightmare.
I told Ranny how much I loved the spinning wheel, how beautiful and wonderful it was. She should buy it. I also said that I saw an antique watch a few aisles over that I thought she might like but that she should definitely not buy. It was not beautiful enough, and much too expensive.
Ranny went right over and bought the watch instead.
Ranny was a member of the ‘upper-social class’ in San Francisco. She always lived in the appropriate neighborhood and often took me to society parties. I promptly found that most society people were eloquent and very conversationally gifted for the first 10 minutes of any encounter. After that, not much happened because they were fairly shallow people whose main interests were fashion and lifestyle.
I once gave Ranny my credit card to buy clothes for me at a fancy mens store where we both were shopping. After buying a few shirts and ties we went to another department to look at pants. I said to Ranny that we had already spent $400 in the shirt department. Ranny explained to me: ‘Michael, if you total up the amounts in each department, you'll never learn how to shop’.
Ranny was a wonderful person, excellent in business, self-propelled and self-motivated. A sexual giant. She died a few years ago and I still miss her.