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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

What Is Normal?

That's Weird

Dare to Differ”
Matthew Goldfinger

Have you noticed that weird is the new normal? I think that is not because we're getting weirder by the day; it's because there is no such thing as normal. When I was a kid people thought boys with long hair were weird. In my first year of college, three freshman boys, who came to school with Beatles haircuts, had their heads shaved by their dorm mates, and were summarily dumped in the river. Fortunately, they just got bald and wet. Come to think of it, that was pretty weird.

When I was a young adult living in New York City in the 1970's, I saw people living on the streets for the first time. Men with their feet wrapped in newspaper. Old ladies picking through the garbage. I couldn't believe my eyes! Now, they live on the steps of City Hall, and people just step over them to get in the door. Not that long ago, seeing a tattoo on a girl was strange. Now seeing a girl without multiple tattoos is a rarity. Our ideas of what is weird change over time.

When my friends and I get together we tell stories about people in our childhood, and people in our lives right now—how truth is way weirder than fiction. We constantly say, “You can't make this stuff up!” I had a neighbor up the street, for instance, who fell in love with someone else's dog. She would go to visit the dog in the middle of the night. The dog's owners found a pair of her pajamas in the dog's house. Now that's weird, don't you think? Maybe not. Who's to say?

In my mother's neighborhood, there was a “cat-lady.” This cat-lady had about twenty-one cats; more if they showed up. She told me, “They know, you see. They know the people who love them and they just come.” Okay! She built a cat door so they could come and go from her house at will. Her cats fished out the neighbor's expensive koi pond, to the point that the neighbor built a twelve-foot-high fence around his property to keep said cats out. That particular cat-lady created an out-door litter box for her cats—like a cat outhouse, I guess. Go figure. Nowadays, everyone knows a cat-lady. Now, in fact, they're releasing feral cats into inner city neighborhoods to control rat populations. I wonder whether they're hiring cat-ladies to look after them.

All this is to say, maybe it's normal to be weird. Maybe weird is normal. It might be best to simply embrace our weirdness and make the most of it. We're happier when we dare to differ.

                                                 In the Spirit,

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