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Monday, March 26, 2012

Why (Not) Be Normal?

(Image from activist Tom Beatie's website: )

Lately, I've been noticing a lot of "anti-normal" posting happening over on Facebook. It seems like my feed has been inundated by a flurry of memes, posters and witty sayings stating how undesirable "normalcy" is. Folks are proudly proclaiming not their individuality...but their weirdness.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with people stepping out of the mainstream. I've never been in the mainstream, though from the time I was little, I wanted to fit. I still do. I'd like to wear trendy clothing, have a clue what's going on in TV and movies, and to be able to tell you the difference between Adele and Katy Perry.

Well, Katy sometimes has blue hair. And she got dumped (or she dumped) Russel Brand.

And....(drumroll please...)

I don't like Dr. Who.

The thing is, a lot of people who really, really don't fit the mainstream find another slot to fit themselves into. Maybe they are Trekkers or Wiccans or anarchists...whatever. They can generally find a population in which they are "normal." In doing so, they've sought out acceptance and others like them. In doing so, they become normal within that population.

When I was a grade schooler, I was legally blind and my shyness literally crippled me. I had boobs in the fifth grade and while my IQ was well into the triple digits, I couldn't do simple math. To say I lacked common sense would be a gross understatement.

Eventually, I diagnosed with Non Verbal Learning Disorder which affects the ability to socially interact and certain linear thought processes. I can't always interpret body language and I"m generally the last to get a joke. (Most countries other than the US identify this as an autism spectrum disorder.) But as a child and teen, I didn't know there was something really off kilter.

I was frikkin' weird, and not by choice. I wanted so very much to be "normal."

As I grew older, kids started striking out, asserting their individuality while at the same time they tried to stay with the pack. I tried also, but one day at a craft show, I stumbled across this little know, the sort you put on your coat or hat? A button. It proclaimed:

"Why NOT Be Normal?"

And I grabbed it and wore it proudly for years. At the time, I didn't quite think of any deeper meanings other than the fact that by striving for "normal" I was bucking the tide. (I hit high school as hippies and disco queens were crashing into each other.) What I eventually managed to grasp was that a lot of people were thumbing their noses at "normal" while striving hard to to actually conform to a social norm of some sort. It didn't matter if it was the jocks/cheerleaders crowd, the band geeks or the guys in the wood shop, they all strove to fit into their mainstream.

In time, I managed to understand that my version of normal was unique and different than everyone else's normal. I wore what struck my fancy, without thinking about what people thought or how "in" it was. I stopped trying to make a statement and just learned to ease into myself. Most people liked me well enough but I ate lunch alone because I couldn't cope with the "highschoolness" of everything. Hell, none of them knew who Hannibal of Carthage was. Or Alexandr Solzhenitsyn. Or Leon Russell. I had a boyfriend who was one of the really cool boys, he managed to cross social lines where others didn't, but he'd get frustrated with me. What he loved about me also drove him crazy and I just didn't understand why he'd get angry. Another boyfriend...well, I literally didn't realize he was my boyfriend. Seriously. I thought we were just hanging out.

And then there was Larry and Steve...but we won't go into that right now.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that normalcy varies. It's defined as:

Adjective: Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.
Noun: The Usual, average, or typical state or condition.

It seems pretty straightforward, but tell me, who defines what is typical? Who defines what is normal? Well, we do. I know pretty much what to expect from myself. To me, my tastes in music, reading and entertainment are perfectly normal. It might not be what's normal to my neighbor or friend. If we strive to be other than our own state of normal, we aren't being true to ourselves.

And I suppose that's my message. Stop trying not to be normal. Stop trying to be normal. Just be the unique individual that you are inside and stop worrying about labels and definitions. A label such as "Weird" or "Normal" cannot possibly encompass the complexity and wonder of who we are as individuals. We spend way too much time thinking and worrying about this stuff and in the meantime, we lose sight of who we really are.

And even the most normal among us is an unique, inimitable individual. So let them be who they are, and do the same for yourself.

Happy Tails!


Marla said...

Good advice, Belinda!

ilona said...

I have never read a more eloquent way of saying exactly what I told my children whilst they were growing up: Be Yourself!
Thanks Belinda.