A wise lady once told me that “Normal is nothing but a setting on a washing machine.”
My entire life I’ve been ostracized as a weirdo. When I was very young, in grade school, I was overweight, I wore glasses. I liked to read a lot, so I spoke differently. I liked to draw and lived in my imagination, so I probably seemed spacy or aloof. I smelled like stale cigarette smoke because my mother smoked in the house. I had no idea how I smelled, how I looked, or how I sounded. I was just there, at school, being a kid at school, trying to do what was asked of me and figure out the world around me. I never had more than one or two friends at a time, and sometimes I even had no friends at all.
I knew I was different because I got teased and nobody would talk to me, but I didn’t understand why. In fact it never occurred to me to ask why, that was just how it was. That was my subjective “normal-” to be ostracized, ridiculed, bullied, stared at, mocked, friendless, lonely. I had a vague idea that it all had something to do with the fact that I was fat, but it hasn’t been until recently (many years later) that I was able to “see” the rest of the picture- the awkward speech pattern, the sour smell, the frumpy clothes, etc.
As I got older I developed a slightly more sophisticated sense of weirdness. I grew resentful of the fact that society didn’t seem to accept me as I was. That phrase, “Normal is nothing but a setting on a washing machine,” has given me the courage to blossom in to a bizarre, gangly, shockingly beautiful flower that is perfectly serene in its weirdness. Because normal doesn’t mean anything at all.
Another idea that gives me great comfort is that comparing your life to someone else’s is unfair because you know every ugly little detail of yourself, but you only see other people’s highlight reel. I think “normal” is just the coalescing of common ideas about which people can superficially bond: Sports teams, shopping, cooking, even blogging. In many respects we’re all “normal” because we all have at least a few things in common. I get up in the morning, I take a piss, I eat breakfast, go to class, eat lunch, go to work, eat dinner, go to sleep. I’d imagine your day looks much the same in glib black-and-white. But it’s the stuff in between that makes us unique- it’s what music we play in the car to and fro, it’s what we do in the soft twilight hours between work and going to bed.
I hate the word “normal.” I prefer to think of it as “average,” as in a mathematical average. A mathematical average is the sum of all the numbers in a set divided by the number of individuals. For example, the average of 3, 5, and 2 is 3.3333333333333333333333333333333333333 ad infinitum. Not only does the average (“normal”) not represent any of the actual numbers we looked at, the average (“normal”) is an infinitely repeating decimal, which is impossible to actually attain. What I’m driving at is that normality is more of a blanket statement to describe a loose aggregate of cultural attributes, rather than a definite term to describe any one human being.
I used to worry about not being “normal.” Sometimes I still do, because it seems implicit that not normal = bad. I wouldn’t say I’m “normal” in a sociological context. I still don’t have friends, I get funny looks out in public (I’m not fat or smelly any more but I dress weird, and talk to myself, and stare at things) and I get the impression that when I interact with people they find it uncomfortable. But for the most part I’m very confident in myself now because I believe in my basic value and goodness as a human being, and I just don’t care whether I’m normal or not.