about being normal


The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.

My perceptions of normal have been hit hard on two occasions. The first time was as a teenager identifying the only normal parents in my circle of friends. A few years later it became clear that they had a highly dysfunctional and messed up relationship that the whole family had been hiding for years. The perfectly relaxed and happy couple was an illusion.

The second occasion was when I found out that my very normal and brilliantly sociable friend, who could make anyone feel at ease in any company, built a facade of easy chatty behaviour around an almost panic-stricken need to entertain others and fill gaps in conversation. The perfectly relaxed and happy person was an illusion.

So, normal people are an illusion. What about normal behaviour? I’m afraid I think it might be mindless. I’ve never understood why people want to settle down in stable jobs seeing the same people every day of their lives and wishing their lives away to retirement. I’ve never understood why people spend so much money on clothes that go beyond the basics of comfort. I’ve never understood why so many women spend so much time reading magazines with seriously dull content that seem to give them hang-ups about seriously trivial matters. I’ve never understood how most men can get so obsessively fascinated watching other men kick a ball about a bit of grass. If all of these behaviours are normal, normal is weird.

I guess in terms of evolution, group social behaviour is important for humans, so we all have a strong urge to fit in and be accepted by the bigger human group. This entails covering up things that might make us different, so that the most ‘normal’ people are the ones who are best at hiding things, and adopting behaviours that demonstrate we are normal, in spite of the fact that these things are often clearly odd. In the end I suspect we’re all really rather weird, just like Alfred Adler suggests above.