“A ‘normal person’ is what is left after society has squeezed out all unconventional opinions and aspirations out of a human being.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana
I just read a plea for normalcy. The plea had to do with the way a certain youth had chosen to dress. Was it her purple hair or her nose stud that set you off? “Why can’t they be like we were?” Because they live in a different world, and we aren’t the way we were.
This came from a person of a generation who might have worn a Poodle skirt while sucking on a Chesterfield unfiltered, or a coonskin cap and taken their shoes off to dance. Youth have always stretched the rules for normalcy according to the previous generation. Have you ever watched “Rebel Without a Cause” or “The Wild Ones?”
Charles Addams’ quote comes to my mind, “Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” I wonder who I am, the spider or the fly?
Merriam-Webster defines normal as: “conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern” and “according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle.” But who determines the standard, regular pattern, or rule? Society, culture, our previous learnings, all contribute to our view of normalcy but what happens when we begin to question it or worse, ignore convention?
As I questioned myself, I thought about the spider weaving a web. The web is how the spider survives but when the fly gets stuck in the web his chance of survival becomes nil. Their concepts of normalcy are skewed in different directions. Both experience the web, yet their experiences are radically different…much like individuals from different generations.
Normal is an illusion dependent upon our point of view and few of us are willing to break out of the box society and our culture put us in. This is what you should wear, how you should act, and what you should believe. It is hard to throw off childhood programming instituted by our parents, their parents, teachers, and clergymen and as we get older the box becomes like hardened concrete. “Don’t confuse me with the facts….”
According to a blogger only known as Heather, “Normal is a box that our society created that reflects someone’s or some group’s definition of how things should be. Having these labels makes these people feel more comfortable about their own choices and ideologies. But everyone is different and that is what makes us who we are.”
She continued, “At the end of the day, normal is the biggest illusion you will ever buy into. Plus, why would you want to be normal and fit in with everyone else, when you were born to stand out?”
It is also boring to think that we are all cookie-cutter versions of someone else, yet society would have you do just that. I loved my parents, but I do not want to be them although I say things that came right out of my father’s mouth.
Most views of normal are forced upon us by our previous generations. My parents were just as critical of my fashion and music choices, choices of friends and girlfriends as we are critical of the next generation. Normal changes generationally.
These are the people telling others how to dress today.
When I taught, I tended to view students in terms of square and round pegs. Except for those few who felt the need to set their pegs on fire and went around humming Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall”.
Most students aspired to be round pegs that fitted nicely into their round holes…what we would, as teachers and as society, consider “normal.” They “fit” the norm. Studious, well behaved, driven to please, you get the idea…likely to bring the teacher an apple normal.
There were others. Square pegs who didn’t want to conform to the round holes. We teachers were expected to knock the edges off until we could force them into a hole no matter how constricting the hole was.
They were the ones who thought outside of their box and colored outside of the lines if they hadn’t turned their box into some type of art form. They wanted to express themselves in ways that didn’t reflect accepted cultural norms for teenagers. They were the ones who wanted to push the envelope whether it was the way they dressed, wore their hair, or participated in activities frowned upon by society. They were the rebellious youth of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off or Dazed and Confused. Creative, and wishing to erase all boundaries.
Early in my career, I found the “little Buellers” to be as much a challenge as his movie teachers did. A teaching peer of mine pointed me in a different direction when she said, “These are the most creative students you will teach. If we can just get them out of high school, they will be okay.” I found this to be true.
Late in my career, when they weren’t driving me crazy, I found them the most interesting and I seemed to attract them. The kids who looked at the world with a tilted head, a quizzical look, and a sly smile. They weren’t bad kids, anything but. They questioned, they asked why or why not and weren’t willing to accept the “normal” answer, sometimes to the chagrin of their parents and teachers. (I don’t believe there are “bad” kids, only the ones we were unable to reach)
Unfortunately, our youth have become, in today’s climate, a part of a political battleground not of their own creation. Republicans versus Democrats, “woke” versus “anti-woke”, history versus CRT, straight versus LGQBT, parents versus teachers, parents versus parents, and Ron DeSantis versus history. I would not be able to teach in today’s climate…I would not want to. I hope our youth rebel against this “new” normal and create a “newer” normal of their own that reflects the true definition of “woke” and not the propaganda point.
I find it humorous that I have grown more liberal and “hippie-like” in my old age. I was one of the “normal” ones who came of age during the late Sixties. Normal as in haircuts every two weeks, starched button downs, khaki pants, and penny loafer normal. Anything to please your parents normal. I was patriotic as in “my country right or wrong.” I grew a beard and wore my loafers without socks as my protest against convention. In my Autumn years I have added blue jeans and Jimi Hendrix tee-shirts to my wardrobe.
The Sixties were a decade of extremes, of transformational change and bizarre contrasts: flower children and assassins, idealism and alienation, rebellion, and backlash. Somehow, I avoided the issues by wandering through the decade in a non-drug induced lack of consciousness.
By the end of the decade Americans had lost much of their innocence and optimism and parallels much of what I see today. I only began to embrace the lessons learned in the Sixties in my Autumn years. We are once again battling ourselves with our youth at the spear tip of some of our battles. Normal change is characterized as abnormal and both sides of an argument state the same points against each other.
Yes Charles Addams, “Normal is an illusion” and I have misplaced my rose-colored glasses.
The title of my post is a play on Patsy Clairmont’s book, “Normal is Just a Setting on Your Dryer”. It is available through Amazon.
Don Miller’s writings and novels may be found at https://tinyurl.com/2ef2a429 Don’s latest is a historical novel, “Thunder Along the Copperhead.”