The WORST Insult
I never wanted to be “ordinary.” From the first time my mom, majoring in Psychology and studying statistics, showed me a Bell curve, I was determined to be anything but “average.” I don’t know why being on the top of that particular hill struck me as the last place I wanted to be; after all, she made it clear that, statistically, it was “normal.” It was where most people fell, on the curve. So “normal,” “average,” and “ordinary” – like crowds – were things to be avoided. Maybe it was just my introverted nature to want to be in the company of “extraordinary” people. Not extraordinary in the sense that they were geniuses like Einstein, or had cured the world of polio, like Salk – just extraordinary in the sense of being uncommon. Because if I were like everybody else, what would be the point of me?
Humans are herd animals. That’s neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It’s in our nature to divide the world into “us” and “them” – to protect “us” against “the enemy” (without having to think too terribly long and hard about whether “they” are truly enemies or merely friends we haven’t met, yet), and to shun the extraordinary, even as we profess to admire it. Is that different sort of creature one of “us” or is it “them”? You’d think we were smart enough, evolved enough, to accept and embrace the things that make us different, while recognizing our common humanity.
But we don’t do that. Reject the herd or care too much about being rejected, and the herd can be cruel. We have to care a little – because the herd doesn’t like to be rejected, either. Rejecting the herd is the fast track to being ostracized from it, as well. It’s one thing to be a bit different but being ostracized from the herd can be deadly. It withdraws its protections. It others us and turns against us.
That said, worrying too much about being ostracized gives the herd’s bullies their ammunition. Being different can be like wearing a target on your back. Ask any grade school kid. Ask any middle schooler who is clearly too smart for the grades that show up on their report card. Odds are, they’re hiding behind a fear of being rejected by the herd. Some of us manage to thrive on the periphery of the herd, frolicking out in the field and not worrying too much about the funny looks and occasional cliques that close us out. We like our own company. We have a few good friends in the herd who won’t let us starve or be bullied too badly. We make our own fun, and we share it with anyone who is silly, curious, adventurous – most of all, anyone who simply lets us be, without insisting we conform in order to get along.
The longer I live, the more I believe that there’s nothing wrong with being ordinary. Without the Bell curve telling us what’s “normal” or “average,” how would we ever recognize the extraordinary? And not all sorts of “extraordinary” are to be aspired to. Even the most accomplished scientist may be lacking in empathy. The brilliant mathematician may not know how to communicate with their musically-talented son or artistically-expressive daughter. But there’s nothing wrong with being the purple cow, standing out from the herd in some way while being entirely normal in other ways. I’d argue that those differences make the herd stronger and more adaptable by adding to its wealth of experience and knowledge.
I’m taking part in Anita Ojeda’s #Write28Days. Today’s prompt – well, yesterday’s, but I’m backdating this! – was “Ordinary.” There’s no law that says I have to stick to the prompts, which is exactly why I used them on days one and two. Otherwise, I’d have been my usual cantankerous self and said, “You’re not the boss of me, Anita!” and done something completely different. God forbid, after this post, anyone should accuse me of being “normal.”
At least one person doesn’t think of me as normal. Rasheed Hooda, aka “Mister Weirdo,” invited me to be a guest on an upcoming episode of his podcast, Embrace Your Inner Weirdo. He’s heard the story of how my parents once gave me a keyring that said, “I like you. You’re weird.” I guess he feels the same. Check it out, and watch for an upcoming episode (I don’t have a date, and that’s probably just as well, given how I feel about the sound of my own voice) where we talk about how we met, what we mean by “weird,” and how to nurture your – or your child’s – inner weirdo.