Why Do You Pretend To Be Normal?

A fellow blogger – Stevie Turner – published a post on Monday about the odd phrases that people have entered into search engines as a result of which they have landed on her blog. Her post is called ‘WordPress Search Terms,’ and can be found here – as with all her posts, I recommend it. I’ve often marvelled at some of the weird and wonderful things people search for. In my case, I once wrote a post for Think About Sex Day – yes, it really does exist – which gave me the opportunity to use the word ‘sex’ in the post’s tags, giving rise (or not, ahem) to countless disappointed people since then. I commented on Stevie’s post that my all time favourite was someone who had found my blog by asking ‘why do you pretend to be normal?’ I’ve always hoped that wasn’t aimed specifically at me, but there is always that nagging doubt, isn’t there?

At first I said to Stevie that I hadn’t tried to answer the question, but then I dredged the depths of my memory and realised that I had, in a post from June 2013, entitled ‘Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal.’ The post was written in response to one of the old WordPress daily prompts, back in the days when a) they still did them, and b) they were sensible. As you can see from the conversation I had with Stevie on her post, she expressed an interest in seeing my earlier attempt so, on the basis that I was guaranteed at least one reader, I agreed to share it again. Here it is – I’ll drop back in again at the end for a postword:

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STRANGELY STRANGE BUT ODDLY NORMAL

Daily Prompt: The Normal

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt asks ‘Is being “normal” — whatever that means to you — a good thing, or a bad thing? Neither?’

This is a subject I’ve been struggling to write about for quite a while – since I started blogging last autumn, in fact. I think what has held me back from this is a twofold fear: firstly, that I would look as if I was trying to be an eminent expert, which I’d never claim to be on anything; secondly, it could be pretty dull. But the prompt has persuaded me to do it, so here goes. This is a companion piece to my earlier post today on Men’s Health Week.

Pretending

How do we define what is normal? What standards/criteria do we judge it against? Do we mean ‘conforming to societal norms?’ If you have a mental illness, like my depression, does that mean you are abnormal? Or if you are physically disabled, does that mean you aren’t normal either? Is ‘normal’ something to want or aspire to anyway?

Seeking inspiration, I tried looking in the dictionary. It said:

NORMAL, adjective

1. conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural.

2. serving to establish a standard.

3. Psychology:

  • approximately average in any psychological trait, as intelligence, personality, or emotional adjustment.
  • free from any mental disorder; sane.

So there you have it. It’s a fair cop but society really is to blame for anyone who isn’t normal! I once asked someone on Twitter, now an ex-friend, to define normal and her off the cuff response was along the lines of ‘being or doing something that matches more than 50% of the population.’ That is, I guess, the societal norm approach. But why should you be considered abnormal if only 49% are like you? Where would – or could – you draw the line in such an assessment?

The reason we are no longer friends is that she decided I am an unpleasant, needy ‘attention whore,’ and that I am psychotic. And she said this in a very public way. Naturally, I strongly disagreed with this assessment but it makes my point for me: two people’s view of the same thing, or of each other, can be so different that the ability to define what is actually ‘normal’ must be subjective. In other words, it is different things to different people. 

Medication can be good for you!
Medication can be good for you!

Looking back at the dictionary definitions, I don’t really have any problem with the first two, which I see as being ‘situational’ definitions. But as you might expect I really cannot agree with the psychological view! Whilst those may be the standards used by clinicians to diagnose their patients, I don’t believe that people with depression or other mental illnesses are helped by being defined as ‘not normal’ in a social context. I function perfectly well in society. So do most others with this and similar illnesses. Of course, medication can be helpful in achieving that, but would anyone consider it wrong to take medication for an ongoing physical condition, such as diabetes? I think not. That ‘not normal’ description, taken out of context, fuels the beliefs and prejudices of people who don’t understand that there are different types of illnesses. It is a factor in creating the stigma that exist: having depression does not mean you are ‘psychotic.’ But it is easy for people to be led into believing otherwise in these days of mass consumption of mass media. Remember The Sun’s ‘Bonkers Bruno’ headline when Frank Bruno was admitted to a clinic suffering from a depressive illness? I rest my case!

As Men’s Health Week is just about to begin it is an appropriate time to ask, not just for men but for all those suffering depression or who are in some way not ‘free from mental disorder’: can we please stop being thought of as abnormal? Why should we or those who have a severe physical illness or disability be regarded as anything other than normal? Basically, that is an insult.

Ignore labels. I am me. You are you. We are us. We are all unique and special, in our own way. One thing you can do better than anyone else is …. be yourself. 

Who wants to be ‘normal’ anyway?”

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And this is me today. The concept of normality isn’t something I think about every day, but that line about being yourself is the one that best sums it up for me. We each have our own version of what it means to be normal, and it provides us with the reference points by which we live our lives. Why should anyone define normality for us? As I said in the original piece, it is to some – possibly a large – extent a subjective matter. How we perceive ourself must impact on our view of others, mustn’t it? How could we possibly remove that from our reference framework?

A couple of footnotes:

1. Men’s Health Week is coming up again. This year it runs from 10 to 16 June. I’m intending to do a post about it – it’s about time I reintroduced my Dates To Note series.

2. The title of that original was borrowed from a song: the opening track of Kip Of The Serenes, the 1968 debut album by the Irish hippy folk band Dr Strangely Strange. In case you were wondering 😉

No Sex Please, We’re British!

Daily Prompt: Never

Today’s Daily Prompt from WordPress is a simple one: ‘Tell us about a thing you’ll never write about.’

No Sex poster

Immediately, if your mind is as pedantic as mine, you’ll spot the logical fallacy in that: how can I tell you what I would never write about without writing about it? This could have been the shortest blog post in history if I’d followed my initial idea, which was to say:

‘Guess!’

or the shorter version:

‘No!’

But I’ve rather given it away in the title, haven’t I? You guessed it – it’s being British that I’d never write about. Or maybe it’s sex. Actually, you were right first time: it is sex, but I thought I’d do this just to have the fun of putting up a post with a #sex tag on it. That should attract and disappoint a few!

I don’t mean writing about sex in the healthcare sense – which I have already done, see Dates of Note – but in the fun way. There are a couple of reasons for this. Partly, I’d embarrass myself as well as anyone foolhardy enough to read it, as I believe that writing always reveals a little of yourself, and that is something I’d rather keep under wraps. And then there are already loads of people who don’t have my reserve, hang-ups or whatever it is, who make a much better job of writing about sex than I ever could, so why would I even want to try? I can hear you now, asking why I didn’t apply the same criterion to blogging – it’s too late now, I’ve done it and you’re reading it!

On the down side there are also many people writing about sex who provide ample evidence of how difficult it is to do well: it’s not something I’ve read much of but you don’t have to look for long to find writing which makes you wish very much for the writer’s sake that (s)he does it better than (s)he writes about it! And quite often these same people display a total lack of self awareness and seem to believe in their own brilliance. That’s just moving the disappointment from the bedroom to the Kindle as far as I’m concerned!

So, at the risk of disappointing the millions of new readers who’ve found this through the hashtag, I’ll never be doing it. Writing about it, I mean. But if you want to find some people who do that rather well, finding me on Twitter and looking at my ‘Naughties’ list should give you what you want. I pride myself on having enough critical taste to choose the best – no one I’m currently following could be deemed to be in the ‘let-downs’ category! On the other hand, if you want a few suggestions for the bad ones, ask me nicely and I may show and tell!

Time for a cup of tea now, I think!, Something hot, wet and strong….

Original film poster
Original film poster

In case anyone is wondering, the title for this piece is that of a theatre comedy that ran in London from 1971 for 16 years, and in the USA for 16 performances! It was also made into a film, and so as not to be too much of a disappointment to those who found this piece in error, I thought you might like to see a shot, so here goes…..

No Sex film still

What?

Think About Sex Day

A further Dates Of Note update comes around. As well as being Valentine’s Day tomorrow, 14 February, is also designated as Think About Sex Day. This is organised by the Sexual Advice Association, (formerly the Sexual Dysfunction Association, hence the ’d’ in their URL) and is aimed, as you might expect, at getting people to think about sex! Tired old jokes aside, the whole point of this is to encourage us to think beyond the normal range and consider issues that people may have about sex. As they say on their website, here:

http://sda.uk.net/

they do not give advice on the extreme aspects of sex – this is a registered charity whose purpose, in their own words, is to ‘help improve the sexual health and wellbeing of men and women and to raise awareness of the extent to which sexual conditions affect the general population.’ So anyone who has been attracted to this by the obvious word should perhaps take a look at the site and the videos. You may even learn something! And don’t be put off by the fact that the site refers to 2012 – the message is still valid.

And as usual, as I’m a loyal NHS employee, here is the link to the NHS website for more information:

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Sexualhealthtopics/Pages/Sexual-health-hub.aspx

I hope you all enjoy good and healthy sex. And I’m afraid I can’t resist a little levity….

Happy Hour
Safe sex – hope you noticed the condom!
You should always prioritise!
You should always prioritise!