What’s up with Normality?
I found my mind wandering to the concept of what normality is when I hastily classified someone’s bad behavior as not being “normal.”
Someone ghosts you or does something off the wall and you could easily find yourself saying that it’s not normal as if it’s an insult, and a fact at that. Yes, those things aren’t nice or thoughtful, but what if they are normal? How do we quantify an extremely subjective adjective? How do we define a word that can be pulled like silly putty to prove or disprove any scenario we’d like?
Pick anything in the world. Anything. I’ll wait. Catfishing someone, dipping your fries in ice cream, considering yourself a dog person, breaking up with someone in a text message. For every one of those things there is a considerable amount of people on this planet who have done them, will do them, or would at least consider. On the contrary, there are groups of people who would never, ever, EVER do them. Which is the “normal” group, then? What does this word boil down to?
I take a small device out of my pocket. Siri, I choose you.
“The definition of “normal” is: conforming with or constituting a norm with a standard or level or type or societal norm; not abnormal. The word “normal” has four other definitions,” my automated friend tells me.
Perhaps the concept of normality comes from your own personal set of morals or life experiences. What reads normal on your meter is off the abnormality charts on someone else’s. As an introvert I find it perfectly normal that I like to spend some Saturday nights squirreled away in my room reading a book, or, you know, writing this post. An extrovert, however, might choose to label my behavior hermit-ish instead.
See, this crab in her shell is wondering why we use it as a label, as a diss, as a word to group us together, as a definitive, when it actually has no true meaning. We use it to describe someone else’s actions. We also use the opposite to belittle others as we see fit when their behavior just doesn’t please us. “They actually did that? Okay. No, that’s not normal,” we declare, hoping this vague statement will make whomever you’re speaking to feel that you’re on their side. And more often than not that declaration comes with an eye roll.
It can also be a word of solidarity, or of creating a you versus them mentality. Everything is fine in our lane, but over there? Yeah, that’s the skeleton graveyard in The Lion King. Everything the light touches in our kingdom is normal, and those hyenas over there are deranged.
Does the term evolve with society? After all, I did talk to my cell phone as if it were a person and I did ask it a question. But, wait, does it depend on age? For example, it used to be normal to go to sock hops and now I may have just caused you to Google “What the hell are sock hops?” Generational gaps perhaps play more into this than almost anything else.
But, who knows for certain?
What I do know is that using a word with at least four definitions to make a case for why something is either “good” or “bad” doesn’t make a lot of sense. Everyone’s wired differently, programmed to see the world through different lenses, so to say something is or isn’t normal is only to let the world know where you yourself stand on such an issue.
So, from here on out I’m going to try to dial back my propensity for tossing that word around, but, who knows, maybe since so many people use it in everyday dialogue using it is actually the normal thing to do.