May 11th, 2002

duke-flip

She has trouble acting normal when she's nervous

There have been a few conversations about normalcy floating about recently, and it got me thinking. Here is the quote which sparked them:

Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. - Albert Camus

It is intriguing to me how much I both agree and disagree with that quotation.

I guess it depends largely on the definition of "normal" I want to use. So I looked it up, and deleted the definitions which cannot be applied to people.

Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin normal is, from norma
Date: circa 1696
2 a : according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle b : conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern
3 : occurring naturally
4 a : of, relating to, or characterized by average intelligence or development b : free from mental disorder : SANE

What are the good aspects of being normal? Well, sanity for one. Not needing to be locked up. Not drawing fear or mockery. Fitting in, at least somewhat, as an acceptable and useful member of society. These things I like and appreciate. These are the reasons I sometimes expend energy to seem normal, and why I understand where Camus was coming from.

On the opposite end of my emotions are the bad aspects of normalcy. Conforming to a rule, being average, being ordinary (perish the thought!). Mediocrity. These are the concepts I rage against, shy away from, and generally have avoided all my life.

Just remember: you're a unique individual, just like everyone else in the world. I don't really know what goes on inside of other people's heads. Nobody does, even when they try to pretend to. I have always wondered if other people think and feel and hurt and worry and agonize about things the same way I do. Often their actions seem to indicate they don't...I have spent a lot of my life feeling different. Sometimes I feel special and unique, other times I just feel Different.

But even when I hate feeling Different, I don't want to be like those Other People; I don't want to just be one of the masses.

When I was in high school, a few friends and I formed a branch of the Flat Earth Society. No, we didn't really think the earth was flat, we just thought it was a uniquely unusual idea. It was about embracing being different. We called our group MENTAL (Modern Earth Notions of Actual Levelness), and would refer obliquely to the one word which was unspeakable among our friends -- "lamron-spelled-backwards", we would call it. The only sin was to be normal. I still to this day like to think of "normal" as a bad word, which shouldn't be spoken.

Now that I'm older, I don't worry so much about appearing different, looking different. It's not about appearances, in the end, so it doesn't really matter if I have an outlandish haircut or if I dress in all black. I know that the things which make me Different remain on the inside, keeping me apart from the seething thoughtless masses. I have learned that a skull ring won't make them more obvious, just as a business suit won't make them go away (even if it will make me hideously uncomfortable and antsy).

From a distance, I think I look and act pretty normal. Is it an act? I don't know. Maybe we all are just acting this way. But if it is, then who decided how it is we are supposed to act?
  • Current Music
    Round Here, by Counting Crows
duke-flip

The Circus Clown

I occasionally do fundraising for my skating club at The Palace, a local sports venue. Basically it just involves working the concessions stand -- not glamorous, but it take the edge off the skating bills.

Last night, the circus was in town. I had a really good time. The place was filled with small children and families. I loved watching the little kids, with their plastic souvenir treasures. I loved watching them holding onto their parents' hands. I loved watching little families on an outing.

During a bit of a lull, a couple of teenaged girls came by. They were the only ones at our stand. They were cheerful and friendly, and stood in front of me, staring at our menu, trying to decide what they wanted. I would have placed them to be in early high school, probably. Behind them, a clown strolled by. "Hey look, a clown!" I exclaimed.

They turned around and both positively squealed with delight. "Ohmygod, a clown!!!" From nowhere, disposable cameras came flying out, and they both went running after the clown. It had stopped to greet a little child, and they hung back politely until it started to walk away again. The clown probably thought teenagers weren't interested in clown-conversation. These two were however, and they each took turns enthusiastically hugging the clown while the other girl took a picture. They were both taller than the clown.

I was smiling and laughing at the sight. The guy working the register next to me said under his breath, "Just think, it won't be more than a year or two before these girls won't be caught dead anywhere near a circus or a clown."

I nodded; it was so true. So many teens go through that moody, angsty phase, where a circus would be far too un-cool for them. "Actually, I would have thought they would already be there," I agreed. "Maybe they're already past it." After you get past the bitter too-cool-for-anything stage, you often reach a stage where it's just fun to be childish again, and as enthusiastic and silly as possible. (I think I'm still in that stage.)

The girls came running back to me, grinning and giggling. "I can't believe we got pictures with a clown!" I looked at them, both wearing makeup, nicely done hair, cute clothes. I had no idea how old they were. Maybe they'd turn bitter later on, or it had already happened. Or perhaps they'd avoided it somehow. It didn't really matter....I enjoyed their fun and enthusiasm, and was glad to have seen them that circus night.
  • Current Music
    Send in the clowns