Normal is the New Weird

Today in my psychology class we watched the movie Stand By Me. I’m kind of a sucker for movies about relationships – father and son relationships, brother relationships, and friendships. So Stand By Me, as a movie about four preteen friends, is kind of right up my alley.

There’s this scene in Stand By Me where cool-kid and group-leader Chris is talking to artsy intelligent-kid and narrator Gordon. Gordon asks Chris if he is weird, and Chris says “definitely” in jest. But Gordon keeps pestering him, and finally Chris says, “Yeah, but so what? Everybody’s weird.”

The delivery of this scene, like every scene in Stand By Me is perfect. And so, even though it seems like a cliche, it comes across as profound.

But I was thinking, even though this idea is kind of cliche, we never really think about its implications. If everybody is weird, then weird is normal. And if weird is normal, then everybody is normal. So it kind of makes just as much sense to say that “everybody’s normal” as it does to say “everybody’s weird.” But no one ever says that everybody’s normal.

I think we make up weird. It’s a narrative that we decide to use to self-gratify or to help our world-view. If we can label other things as weird or our own behavior as weird, it creates a gap between those things and behaviors and the “normal” world.

I knew this girl once who described herself as weird. It was something she talked about a lot. But to me, she was no more weird than the rest of the world, but I found it difficult to relate to her simply because she believed she was weird. I think sometimes we assume that the world is normal and we are weird. But it’s actually that self-talk that isolates us from others. Not our perceived weirdness.

What makes you weird/normal?

Give a Friendly Reminder to the Machine

Yesterday, I woke up with a parking ticket on my car. Mondays with parking tickets are generally advised against. It’s a sure fire way to allow yourself be tempted into complaining for the rest of the day. But I made a decision. In keeping with my consciousness against complaining I decided that I would take five minutes to complain to my mother, and then I would let it go. And no one else would know about it for the rest of the day. That was the plan.

Then, something really cool happened. It turned out that the fine on the ticket was for $0, meaning I only had to pay $0! Apparently, the ticket was just a “friendly reminder.” Now, I don’t know about where you are from. But where I am from, parking tickets aren’t generally written as “friendly reminders.” And it just kind of made me feel good about the whole humanity thing.

I started thinking. If everyone gave everyone else friendly reminders, we could change the world. So often, we think the only vehicle for change is direct confrontation or raging against the system. But most of the time, raging against the system doesn’t really get anywhere. Surely, there are times when radical action needs to be taken, but if we lovingly criticized each other more, the need for radical action would become less and less.

There’s something about friendly reminders – they are based in narrative. When the parking cop left a friendly reminder on my car she was probably thinking, “Oh I remember once when I couldn’t find a place to park and I was just a couple of hours late in moving my car.” She was identifying with my story.

I find this to be terribly true in my own life. It is so difficult to give anything other than a friendly reminder to people whom I know and interact with on a daily basis. And I think it’s fine. It allows us to trust each other, to actually contemplate what we are saying to each other. It’s easy to rage against a faceless nameless story-less machine. But there is no such thing.