Approaching normal

image: Dave Shrigley

A couple of years ago I married my boyfriend in Las Vegas on a dare and when I broke the news to my grandfather over the phone he said “well that’s about the most approaching normal thing you’ve done”. That sentence alone made me keenly anxious because he’d nailed my exact antipathy towards society and expectations and fuck him for telling me I’m just like everybody else. I couldn’t tell at the time if he was gloating or just making a casual observation tinged with relief but it sure as hell stuck in my head and has continued to surface whenever I feel confronted with the status quo.

It turns out that my journey towards normal has been peppered with the kind of obstacles that most normal people never have to face. I was sexually abused as a child by my own brother. I was a lonely kid who never understood offers of friendship unless they were explicit. I watched my mother die of cancer over 9 years. I fell in love with and married a schizophrenic man who self medicates with alcohol. I struggle with weight, body image, anxiety and depression, made worse through polycystic ovarian syndrome. I feel no sense of connection to any member of my own family except my father.

Through all this I have never once behaved like a victim and have ploughed through life’s shitpile with a protective coat of ‘fuck you’. ‘Fuck you’ is what allows me to sit through mysteriously pointless business meetings with strangers mouthing acronyms, ‘fuck you’ holds my tongue as I float through social situations where strangers discuss the price of houses I will never afford in suburbs I’ve never heard of, ‘fuck you’ inures me to all the ways in which the world tells me to want this or do that or behave in this way.

But ‘fuck you’ hasn’t always worked for me. I’ve lost friendships through defensiveness. I’ve missed potential connections though rigid idealogy. I have been cruel through ego. I need a new creed, something a bit more porous that will allow the rest of the world to seep in, just a little. Life is change, and I’m about to hit another milestone on the ‘normal’ scale that requires flexibility and open-mindedness. So I’m shopping around for ways to sit with normalcy that don’t mean giving up ‘fuck you’ but can accommodate my past and make room for others.

The next conversation that I’ll have with my grandfather will probably be one of our last, and I’d like it to end, at least in my head, with the feeling that approaching normal isn’t such a bad thing.

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