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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Embrace Weirdness

It's Normal

Spend your life doing strange things with weird people.”

Have you noticed that strange is the new normal? At least, that's what I thought. But then, as I've worked on the Old Crazy Town memoir, I've come to understand that weird has always been the norm—we just didn't realize it. The little North Carolina town where I grew up in the 50's and 60's, from age nine to age eighteen, was a veritable hot-bed of non-normalcy. And it hasn't changed. In the early two-thousands, I went back for family medical leave every third school term over four years while my mother was ill and dying. It was still filled with weirdness that people took for normal. Recently, I've been talking in-depth with friends, and collecting their stories and—guess what—no matter where they came from, they've had the same experience! It's a small study, but I think the final data are going to show that people are weird, people have always been weird, and that is normal. It's a revelation!

I guess what I'm trying to say is, maybe it's time to stop thinking of what is and what isn't normal, and just embrace the fact that humans are, by definition, strangely different. We come in enormous variety. You don't see this so much in the animal kingdom. One blue-jay looks and acts pretty much like every other blue-jay. You don't see ants painting themselves in rainbow colors. With small variations, one tiger or lion looks and acts like every other one. Even dogs, while there are various shapes and sizes and colors, they all sniff and pee and bark. But humans, oh my gosh, humans do all sorts of weird things, and speak all kinds of different languages, and have all manner of bizarre customs and behaviors. We are a truly weird species. What was unthinkable ten years ago—purple hair, black tattoos, and green toenails, for instance—now are not even noticeable. Last night, at a nearby restaurant, I went into the women's bathroom and found a nice young man washing his hands at the sink. He said, “I'm just washing my hands.” and I said, “No problem.” and we went on about our business. It's new. It's different. It's normal.

I think if we all just took a deep breath and relaxed, we'd be better able to accept that there is no static thing called “normal” and everything that doesn't fit within that narrow definition is “not normal.” Weird is where we're going, because it's where we've always been. I remember when it was normal for a man to pat a female colleague's butt—and not on a basketball court, either. I remember when it was normal for women to make all their own clothes, and do all the cooking. How weird is that? Lots of things change, but in the final analysis, there is very little that is truly unique. We're inhabiting this brave new world that has always been weird. So relax. It's normal.

                                                         In the Spirit,

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