This is a grey circle. Also a Venn Diagram of what is considered normal.
Imagine the scenario. After a string of bad break ups, each with a man more particular or quirkier than the last, a girl sobs in her bedroom in the company of her close female friends; the main lament of her wailing being her wondering why she can’t find the man of her dreams. As she goes through the disturbingly long list criteria she expects her eventual husband to fulfil, the phrase, “I just want him to be ‘normal’, y’know?”, is used.
Here’s another one. A group of 4 broad-shouldered, plump yet muscular, oozing with alpha-male burliness guys are walking along, each of them showing staggered breathing from physical exertion and boisterous, haughty scoffs. The atmosphere around them is damp with male pride and self worth validation as they walk away from the scene where they’ve been bullying a poor soul verbally and physically. During the subsequent discussion of recent events, one of the males says, “…he’s just not normal.”
The word ‘normal’ is thrown all over society like a middle-aged woman’s inhibitions at happy hour. But, after a bit of thought, what it actually defines is more insubstantial than that same woman’s advances on the gay bartender. We all say it; used with a tone to describe a person of average ability, interests and appearance and when heard, we assume to understand precisely what was meant. Google defines ‘normal’ as, “Conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” and Dictionary.com gives, “conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.” Even though the definitions offer many words to put across the idea to give its reader, what you’ll find is they’re all very ambiguous and if you alter the scope a little bit, and things get more vague than Piers Morgan at a Rupert Murdoch hearing.
Let’s assume the average person’s normal day consists of travelling to work with a merry stroll through the park and a jaunty stride through the local town centre. That’s the routine; that’s the perception of ‘normal’ we understand. Whenever someone says “-oh, eye-patch Johnny? He’s way more normal than too-much-tequila Terri downstairs”, that’s the “standard or the common type” that is recognized. Right. Right? Well what if we have a 2nd person? Let’s say the typical working construct for person 2’s day involves walking passed the hospital then onwards through the town centre. There is some overlap between these two people’s idea of what is normal but there is also difference. What if a 3rd person walked through the park then the town centre then into the hospital. While their versions of normality are similar, the only thing they all have in common is (with their inherit knowledge of the town centre) the potential to direct themselves to McDonalds without never having taken their eyes away from their sudoku puzzle. Persons 1 & 3 would expect a ‘normal’ person to know where the duck lake is in the park, but person 2 wouldn’t. Likewise person 2 & 3 would expect a ‘normal’ person to know where the entrance to the hospital car park is while only person 3 would have expected a ‘normal’ person to have seen inside the A+E ward, although the fact their assuming I’ve been involved in a grievous injury in immediate need of medical attention at one point is quite frankly insulting. Let’s add one more resident to this Sims household from hell. Person 4, a millionaire daredevil, thrill-seeking philanthropist who spends his days sky-diving for charity and wrestling bears that he’s sponsoring the preservation of and by night he parties like an animal and sleeps like one too. Are you getting the picture yet?
This is a grey circle. Also the other side to Venn Diagram of what people think they mean when they say normal.
And individual’s view of what is ‘normal’ isn’t necessarily the same as the next persons. That small overlap between Persons 1, 2 & 3 is where we think we’re describing, but even in a group of similar individuals, it encompasses very little. Then when a wildly different individual with different experiences is included the common ground for both rationales of what is ‘normal’ becomes intangible. Given the breadth and diverse uniqueness of our complex (which is a much nicer way of saying “fundamentally damaged”) human race the range of what each individual considers to be normal must be so far stretched that there cannot possibly be an overlap. Everything from accountants to primary school teachers to royalty to proven stricken Ethiopian families, where can their opinion on what’s normal be shared and agreed upon? Therefore, it’s of my opinion, that normality doesn’t exist. It’s a word for an idea that we all wish to communicate but can’t really translate. It’s a way of saying he’s a thirty-something white-caucasian male with a house, a wife and a child without going into too much detail while the recipient has inferred a 24 year old Indian man still studying for his doctorate and living in a flat half paid for by his father. It’d be like Peter Jackson asking casting for the next Hobbit film to find someone ‘normal’, expecting Martin Freeman and they came back with Dev Patel.
However, I’m stating this from the standpoint that “normal” is something that is silently agreed upon by the individuals of a community, thus cannot truly exist; on a global scale at the very least. Certainly in most western societies, where multiple varieties of people co-exist, ‘normal’ can’t, but more communist/fascist cultures or less economically developed countries where the people’s way of thinking are more similar, a glimpse of normality may exist. However, if you were to keep the notion of ‘normal’ personal, there’s still the argument that it does exist and it’s just subjective (like beauty, musical tastes or the work of Jack Black). Every person’s idea of what’s ‘normal’ is different, and I guess, that’s what makes life interesting, tackling those ideas, understanding where they come from and expanding minds. It goes without saying that life would be boring if we were all cut from the same cloth, it would be a life where Monty Phyton wouldn’t exist, Steven Wright would be a window cleaner and the words, “package”, “milkman”, and “joystick” would only have only one meaning.