Random equations in the mathematics of life

My daughter is a mathematician.  She finds solace in the clarity and exacting ways of numbers, revels in their propensity to be wrong or right.  There is no grey area in mathematics; even in her beloved calculus, there is no ambiguity.  Sadly, in the rest of the world, this simplicity does not exist.  We find subjectivity and perspective to be great advantages at times, but taunting banes at others.  Nowhere is this more true, I think, in the quest to define what is “normal.”

One can easily find a dictionary description to read something like, “that which is generally accepted by the majority.”  However, that in and of itself, leads to more questions.  How much is “generally accepted?”  35%?  57%?  83%?  And what is the majority?  Do I just need to find 10 random people, 6 of whom agree with whatever I’m postulating, and I get to call it “normal?”  I just don’t see it.

My friend, The Writer, and I have had several discussions in which she says she feels like a “freak” because she is not Christian, unmarried and child-free.  She becomes bitter at times, over the fact that she is not seen as “normal.”  But really, I disagree with her assertions.  Christianity is indeed the primary religion practiced here in the US; as of 2008, 76% of American adults labeled themselves as such.  But does that make the other 24% “abnormal?”  The unmarried and child-free status is becoming more and more popular, as young adults see the effects of over-population, especially in a time when the global economy is in the tank.  And really, 40% of children in 2007 were born out of wedlock anyhow.  If that number continues to rise, as it has pretty steadily for several years now, it will soon be the majority.  In that case, does getting knocked up after a frat party and having the kid make you “normal?”  Hmm.

I tend to ponder this kind of stuff when I step back and really look around me.  In my daughter’s dorm this week, a girl on her hall was humiliated in public by a guy who found the action of her kissing a man of another race abhorrent.  In NJ, a young man committed suicide after being “outed” in public by his roommate.  In Georgia, a devout, evangelical Christian pastor has been accused by several different men of being a sexual predator of young men.  In Oregon, a mother went to pick up her 7 and 9 year old daughters from school, but was told they had not been there all day.  Confused, she went home to find that her loving husband had murdered the girls and then killed himself.

What of this is “normal?”  Well, the University where the dorm incident occurred is in the south, where racially subversive behavior is alive and well.  The situation in NJ has been called a “prank.”  The pastor in Georgia?  Part of the American majority.  The Oregonian family?  Married couple, two children.  My point is that while all of these incidences could easily be seen as anomalies, and I sure hope they are, they were still committed by “normal” people.  Or were they?

In my opinion, there really isn’t such a thing as “normal.”  I know that, in my own family and my own life, our way of functioning is often seen as “weird.”  We raise our children to think for themselves, to embrace diversity in all forms, and to have a vastly open mind when approaching new concepts.  My marriage is not to Cinderella’s own Prince Charming, but to my best friend, with whom I still share the bond of actually liking each other, as well as the fact that we have three children.  Other people see this as strange and cannot comprehend why we chose not to divorce when it was clear that our paths had diverged to the point that we weren’t fairy-tale compatible.  For us, it was a choice we made after a lot of time spent talking, crying, fighting, working with a therapist, and finally coming to the conclusion that our life was better as a family than separated.  We’re an anomaly in the “normal” world, but I’ve decided that I like it that way.  From what I’ve seen lately,  the “normal” people are a lot more dangerous.


Comments on: "Normal…or something like it." (4)

  1. Well, I would agree that many of that which is considered ‘normal’ is either a myth or not even appetizing. However, in terms of pure stats, one cannot disagree that because I am God-free, spouse-free, child-free (and loving it), Asian American, bisexual, nonmonagamous, a socialist, a hater of reality shows (and TV shows in general) and of Hollywood movies and of mainstream literature, I am definitely not the norm.

    Most of the time, I am fine with that. Indeed, I cannot fathom doing many of the more traditional behaviors expected in our society. However, as I’ve tried to explain to other people, it’s also difficult the further you get from mainstream society because with each differentiate, it’s just another way in which you cannot connect with a sizable portion of the population. Everyone wants to feel like they belong someplace (yes, even me, the grumpy misanthrope).

    Most of the decisions I’ve made in my life have come with heavy thought and constant refining. I probably have put more thought into my way of life than many so-called normal people because I could never walk the traditional road in front of me. However, because it’s outside the realm of ‘normal’, I have had to justify my way of life to people who just don’t get it.

    Well, no more. Like you, normal didn’t work for me. However messy my real life is, it’s ultimately a better fit.

  2. Who wants to be normal? *shudder*

  3. The Traveler said:

    Bully for you! I was living with a woman for a year and a half who told me that if she wasn’t married with kids by the time she was in her mid-twenties that she had failed in life. Not to mention her constant obsession with her weight and how “fat” she is. (She’s smaller than I am, and has this amazing hourglass figure, but because she was raised in Newport Beach she thinks this is not “normal”). I told her that I don’t see myself EVER getting married. I know that I don’t exactly fit the mold, and I’m proud of that. Even if your life is not the 50’s magazine “normal”, that doesn’t mean that it can’t be an amazing life filled with promise and adventure. As I see it, if I never have a husband, I can still have kids (adoption or test-tube), and I can be free to do whatever the hell I want for a lot longer. As I am planning on taking off to travel the around the world for at least a full year solid at some point, I see that as a blessing. (Granted, if I find someone awesome enough to come with me, then all the better). “Normal” can sometimes be even scarier for me than doing my own thing. I am more afraid of being locked in a cage of forced normalcy for the rest of my life than striking out with my weird ways, embracing my introvert self, and doing my own thing, damn the opinion of others!

    • I know I made decisions in my life based on preserving my safety, and I know that some should never have been made. But for now, my life, as weird as it is, is our own version of normal.

      I never wanted to be married or have kids, and much to my chagrin, while I turned out to be a pretty decent parent, I suck at marriage. 2.5yrs of therapy, and I would still be better off by myself, and so would he. This is what we’ve decided, though, and it’s working.

      I’m glad your parents encouraged your non-normal-ness!

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