What is Normal?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a normal, functional human being. There’s a good chance, of course, that the elusive definition is entirely non-existent, but I won’t let that hamper my resolve to find it. I look at my Twitter and Facebook Timelines and think, “I really don’t have any good examples to go off of, here, do I?” That’s probably okay. I don’t think anyone that fell into the category of “normal” or “functional” would want to be my friend anyway. I’m okay with that. I made my peace with being the weirdo a long time ago. I’ve come to embrace it, even cherish it.

When I was in my early twenties, older acquaintances would often ask me things like, “You’re a bit of an odd duck, aren’t you?” The first time I heard it, I took a moment to let it sink in before nodding enthusiastically and smiling a giant toothy smile. At the time, I assumed that was code for, “please don’t eat my face.” Now, older, wiser, I realize with the clarity only hindsight can provide, that it was actually code for, “I think you might be gay.”

It was Springfield, MO, so you can’t blame them for being pretty stereotypical about what “gay” is. I mean, sure, as a gay man you might be offended by the thought of anyone ever including me in your subculture, but let’s not split hairs. Let’s accept that old people are whacky and move on.

I heard the comment about me being odd most often when I was working in the not-so-secret subterranean warehouses in Springfield. One of my coworkers, an older lady that ran the offices during the day and handed them over to me at night, always referred to me as “the one that’s a bit odd.” I’m not sure why she made sure to include it in any introduction. I genuinely got along well with most of my cave-dwelling coworkers, and she was always nice to us young, night guys. Still, she always tacked that on to my name when introducing me.

“Well, Hi, New Employee, I’m Office-Lady, and this is Matt, he’s the one that’s a bit odd.”

She even did it when our new regional manager was introduced to me for the first time. “New Boss, this is Matt, he’s the one that’s a bit odd.”

One thing I always noted, though, was that there wasn’t any malice in her voice. She wasn’t saying, “This is Matt, he’s a freak and we should burn him at the stake!” She just said it as though she was being helpfully informative, like, “This is Matt, He’s got Brown hair, runs the office, drives a Ford Ranger, and is a bit odd.”

Then again, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe she was trying to warn everyone that they should keep me away from the Frappuccino or I might snap and go on a 10-day killing spree across Oklahoma. I’ve never been too great at reading social cues.

I’m never going to know exactly what the Office Lady meant, but I do know one thing; I’m not normal.

I don’t like to admit it, but it bothers me that people see me that way. I think of myself as being normal. I’m normal by my standards. I am how I am. I’m not going out into the world with the mask of a quirky character so I can get a sitcom on Fox or anything. I do what my brain tells me to do. Sometimes, what my brain thinks I am supposed to do is very different than what other people’s brains think I’m supposed to do.

It’s more complicated than that, though, because my closest friends are far from what the masses might deem as “normal.” With the solitary exception of the RoomLord, none of us are the 2.5 kids, house in the suburbs, carpayment and dinner at 5 types. He doesn’t even count because the ways in which he’s not normal could fill three hanging file folders stuffed into the drawer of an executive sized cherry wood desk… and do.

My friends are strugglers. I sometimes feel as though we’re all jogging through a pool filled with flavorless gelatin, waiting for something to happen. Maybe some stairs to be built so we can get out. Maybe for someone to toss in some strawberries and make this a party. I don’t know.

Then again, I think most people in their late twenties feel that way despite what television tells us.

And Television does control how we perceive “normal.”

Which is why, my oddness is fading. I turn on the tube and realize that I’m one job in architecture away from being almost any male sitcom character. I’m no longer the strange, mysterious “odd duck.” I can relate to things in popular media. Characters have problems similar to mine! They act like people I know! They have real world problems, aside from the fact that they’re almost all doctors, lawyers, or architects!

I blame this phenomena on getting older. I am 29. I am the age that the average sitcom protagonist is described as in the casting script. I’m actually pretty center point average for the demographic I represent: white men between 25 and 35. I’m even a geek, which lets me branch out to cover something like 3/5ths of mainstream entertainment.

There, of course, is the key to all my crazy strangeness, and it’s diminishing existence.

You can blame Chuck Lorre. I know I do, but the Geek Culture is becoming part of the mainstream. The things that people used to shuffle away from me for admitting are now fairly acceptable. I play D&D, and that’s been around for 50 years now, so it’s just a thing that exists in the world, like soccer. The video games I play boast millions of copies in sales, everyone is playing them. LARP is pretty much my last geek street-cred, and it’s starting to see more and more media presence.

I’m starting to realize that I might not be “the one that’s a bit odd” anymore. That puts me at a crossroads of self-identity. Do I accept that my awesome geekiness is being embraced by the world at large and live happily in my geekhole, or do I reject the nerdy-come-latelies with derision as I search for the new untainted geekdom? Can I accept that everyone and their mother know watches Doctor Who, or do I rage with artificial anger about “Whovians” that can’t tell Tom Baker from Colin Baker?  Do I acknowledge that comic book characters are as popular as the teen-drama-stars of the 90s, or do I bemoan the simplification of plotlines in the movies?

I have to admit, a big part of me really wants to desperately cling to my “seen it first” geek cultural credentials. That part of me screams to seek new, uncharted geek territories to brag about how, “You’ve probably never heard or it.” I want to be the one with the inside knowledge for a change!

But, I don’t want to be a douche about it. I really, really don’t want that. I’ve spent way too many hours talking about douchey hipsters to let that happen.

So, instead, I am choosing to embrace my destiny as part of the new normal. I’m choosing to accept that I am no longer the odd duck out.

I am one of us.




But, I might still wear a sword in public… you know… until it gets too popular.