When you work for a
youth charity, like I do, you get used to the same phrase cropping up over and
Am I normal?
Is this normal?
Can you let me know if this is normal?
It doesn’t matter whether people are talking about
their relationship, their sex lives, their various dangly body parts, their
family situations, their reactions to taking a certain ‘extra-curricular’
drug…they all want to hear the same thing.
This is normal.
You are normal.
Normal normal normal.
In fact, lots of our most popular articles over at
the website I work for – TheSite.org – all have ‘normal’ in the title. But what
does it even mean? And why are we so concerned with being like everyone else?
In my book, Am
I Normal Yet? my protagonist Evie is struggling with the label of OCD she
was given when she was just 14 and how that impacts her opinion of herself. She
sees her mental health diagnosis as confirmation of her ‘abnormality’ and keeps
it a secret from all her new friends at college. All the wants is to just be
like everybody else, but throughout the book she learns she’s chasing a ghost.
So, what is normal?
In language terms, it means conforming to a
standard, In mathmatics, it’s being on the boring bit of a graph with everyone
else. It throws up words and phrases like, ‘average’ or ‘like everybody else’.
And though, in some contexts, the word is a very comforting thing to hear – say, like
at the doctor’s when you go there with something embarrassing – I worry we
cling to it in other parts of our lives, compare ourselves to others and make
ourselves feel generally…well…crap.
Here’s the thing – we can’t
be normal in every part of our lives. It’s impossible. All of us have unique quirks that others don’t. We’re all special-yet-totally-oddball
snowflakes, smashing into each other, muddling and guessing our way through life. Chasing normality is a bit like whack-a-mole – your individual bits
are always going to pop up no matter how much you suppress them. Why not try
embracing them? See them as positive things, rather than things to hide away?
My own abnormals
I have mildly-webbed
hands. TOTALLY GROSS – I know. (I have to
say, they’re only slightly webbed, but there is still enough of a webbage for
me to show people at dull parties to spruce things up a bit). I have a
phobia of buttons. I have low blood pressure and faint if I stand up for too
long. I hate travelling and
literally have to be drugged before I’m put on a plane. My feet turn blue when I’m
cold. I can do the most accurate impression of Ronan Keating the world has ever
known… Essentially guys, I’m a freak! A total nutter. And I could focus on my ‘abnormalities’
and wish I could be more like you…but then you’re a freak too. You really are. And I’m mighty glad for it – and hope you can be too.