Friday, April 20, 2007

What's so great about 'normal?'

While I was sitting in our family room a couple of evenings ago, my son sat down beside me and asked if I had any ideas for a short story he was to write for a class at his school. I'm a pretty imaginative guy, so I rattled off half a dozen ideas, all of which had him laughing hysterically followed by his pronouncement that the topic wouldn't be appropriate for school. Most of my suggestions were pretty bizarre, I admit, but there was one that we both liked best. He still thought that it was too 'weird,' though.

The story starts with a teenage boy fast asleep in his room. The serene atmosphere is interrupted as a low droning sound begins outdoors and slowly gets louder, as if whatever is making the noise is getting closer. The boy starts to stir in his sleep, eventually awakes completely, and rubbing the sleep from his eyes staggers to the window to see what is making the strangely disturbing sound.

He looks out the window but can't really see anything. The droning sound continues, getting louder all the time, so he knows there is definitely something out there, he just can't see it yet. He waits, impatiently, fear building. As he stands there, a vague outline of something so large that it blocks out most of the sky and everything in it, appears. It is huge, and appears to be shaped like a pie pan. No, make that a frying pan, because there appears to be something sticking out one side that looks very much like a handle.

The boy continues to watch. He is afraid, but just can't tear himself away from the sight. It is getting lighter outside as morning approaches, and he begins to see the outline of the object more clearly. Yes, the object looks very much like the frying pan he sees his mother use sometimes. He tries hard to see more detail on the pan, perhaps the little round windows that science fiction artists always seem to draw on their renditions of spacecraft, but to no avail. The object simply looks like a frying pan, a huge frying pan, perhaps the size of several football fields. It doesn't make sense to the boy, and he remains glued to the spot, watching to see what will happen.

He does another visual scan, starting at the round end of the pan and moving towards the handle. Then, he sees it: a hand, a very large hand, is attached to the handle of the huge pan. And, slowly becoming more distinct as the sky lightens, there is a very, very large body attached to the hand. The boy strains to look up, towards where the head of the body should be, but the body is so large that the top disappears up into the sky, too far away to be seen clearly.

What, the boy wonders, as he turns finally to awake his parents and try to run away, is that strange and monstrous creature, and what does it want with us?

The answer, as the boy, his parents, and hundreds of others in the community find out not much later is:


Yeah, I know I'm weird. My son has asked me to help him come up with something more 'normal.' What, I wonder, is so great about normal? I have never had any desire to be normal, at least in the sense of 'average,' just like everyone else. What is special about that? Do I want to think and act just like Tom, Dick, and Harriet? Do I really want to be Joe Average?

No. And neither should anyone else be content to be Joe or Josephine Average.

I do want to be a good daddy though, so I will continue to try to help my son with story ideas, 'normal' story ideas. Whatever that means!


  1. Some people just want to be normal, as in staying married to one person, being there for their kids, being able to pay their bills so their children don't have to go without food or heat or lights... normal stuff like that.

  2. I agree Freddie, as would any rational person. But what I'm getting at is that we don't all have to be in lock-step, drones without a sense of adventure, a sense of life, or a sense of the absurd. I have found that one of the best coping mechanisms in times of tribulation is a sense of humour.

  3. LOL! Of the top of your head, no less.

    That's awesome!

    Atavist. I am leaving the blogosphere, except by way of CWO. I will see you on Walk. And, I will visit you here.

    Thank you for everything.


  4. Thanks, Penny, and so sorry to see you go. We will stay in touch somehow, I'm sure. I have learned a lot from you and have always admired your energy and determination, not to mention the fact that you like to explore and understand the world around us and what makes it tick.

    Good luck with everything!

  5. It's so easy to forget how, when we were kids, being normal was so important. All I want to be, now, is different from everyone else.

    But back then, being normal meant surviving; or at least spending a day or two without being at the business end of the "normal kids" ridicule. And don't forget, kids are cruel.

  6. Honestly, I don't think I would know "normal" if it came up and bit my prodigious behind!

    Seriously... I don't even know it. I've always lived in my own world. In some ways, "normal" brings all kinds of nasty things to my head... like Babbit.. and one-dimensionality.



  7. Bones: You're right about kids -- it is important (sometimes too much so) for them to feel that they fit in and aren't too different from their peers. That's not always a good thing, of course, because if they want to fit in with the wrong crowd it can lead to disaster. It is always a good thing though, if they are encouraged to be independent and not to look too much for peer acceptance.

    Chani: I recognized early on that I didn't think very much like my peers. I watched bemusedly as we all grew up and tried to make sense of it all, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. I am sure that my friends found me as puzzling as I sometimes found them. Being your own person, being comfortable with yourself, is probably one of the most important things in our lives. Ultimately, we spend more time with ourselves than with anyone else, so if we don't like and accept ourselves for what we are, we're in big trouble.

  8. It all depends.
    If the story is for a pubic-screwool project, you will need to make it as mealy-mouthed and politically correct as possible, so as to avoid being arrested for child abuse.
    Following the mundane and syruppy plot of the average daytime drama should help.
    The establishment wants you to be "like everyone else": A good, unthinking, non-questioning prole who worships Der Schtaat and has no unorthodox opinions or attitudes. This is the new "normal".

  9. freddie made me smile.

    i think we can have those things and be wildly creative too. but it's a fine balance...

  10. Everyone wants to be accepted, especially at your son's age. You are his role model and therefor I don't think you have to worry about him being a drone in lock-step.