Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Why I Call Myself Normal

Because, frankly, it's a dime a dozen these days to declare yourself "different" for the chic factor. And it's also something that I'm ordinarily quite tempted to do: I'm attracted to that whole counterculutre chic thing and have a strong narcissistic desire for a distinguished identity.

I'm also trying to emphasize the heterogeneity of the category, so as to weaken it and blow the stereotypes. If a narrow and exclusive definition of "autistic" is problematic, I think a narrow and exclusive definition of "normal' or "neurotypical" is also problematic. In fact, I think a lot of the problem with modern neuro-psycho-politics is that the definition of normal is becoming more and more exclusive (and going too much in the dangerous direction of superficial charm, ignorance as bliss, and materialistic ambition), and salespeople are selling more and more quackery to get more and more people to re-enter the shrinking fold of normalcy.

As I was writing the paragraph above, I had some flashbacks of reading a post or two on ballastexistenz discussing the things people assume about Amanda Baggs (the author of the ballastexistenz blog) based on either her online or her offline presence, or random facts like not speaking. They assume things like she'd been in an institution all her life, that she learned to type before she learned to talk, that she cannot do anything that her speaking autistic friends can't do, etc.

And I thought of the assumptions people might have about me, based on my self-identity as neurotypical or normal:

-I had an easy time in school and was never bullied, and might have even been a bully myself. (I was picked on aplenty.)

-I never required any kind of special services or special attention. (I had shrinks, counsenling, and some kind of affiliation with the special ed program in my school, for unexplained neurotic behavior patterns.)

-I've never been suspected of or diagnosed with any kind of neurodifference. (I was diagnosed with ADD at age 13. But I don't feel ADD really has any substance behind it, and I also don't see symptoms in myself anymore, so I strongly suspect the diagnosis was a mistake, a product of the fad.)

-I am hypersocial. (There are introverted NTs, you know.)

-I am only comfortable with polite, indirect communication. (I've been accused of being too blunt, and socially inept, all my life.)

-I liked hugs and kisses from my family as a kid. (Hated it. And they made fun of me for it too, making it even worse.)

-In my relationship with my Aspie boyfriend, I often feel starved for affection. (Quite the opposite. He's TOO affectionate sometimes.)

I did not have the stereotypical "normal" childhood. When I was 12 or so (sometime before the ADD diagnosis, which I believed in up until about a year or two ago, because there seemed to be nothing else to explain my quirks and problems as a kid), I wondered whether I was normal or crazy, 'cause I seemed to be neither. I was instant messenging with my little sister the other night, showing her this blog and the AS And Their Partners forum, and reading the latter, she said she would describe me as more "NQ" (neuro-questionable or neuro-quirky, neither neurotypical nor autistic) than "NT." I could claim my difference, make a big deal out of it, and wear it as a badge of honor if I wanted to. "Look at me! I'm a nonconformist!"

But the differences that people wear proudly on a regular basis, like being a nerd or a hippie or an artsy person or some relatively rare Myers-Briggs Personality Type, are actually pretty much still normalcy anyway. If non-conformism or countercultureness were truly "abnormal," you wouldn't see the kind of playful intergroup rivalry and narcissistic parading that you do, you'd see widespread, blatant, volatile prejudice and fear. People would react to these normal people who reject the "normal" label in much the same way they react to people with mental retardation or other obvious neurological disabilities, or people with birth defects, dwarfism, or other physical deformities. Only very sheltered people would react to the purple-haired chain-wearing pierced-nosed teenage punk in a way comparable to how they'd react to people with physical and neurological disabilities.

So there's no way out of the fact that I'm normal. I might as well embrace the label. And to be honest, I probably wouldn't want a way out of it either. Being able to fit in and obey the social norms to a safe degree and fly under the radar makes life a lot easier. I may want to parade my nerdiness every now and then or share some of my minor eccentricities like my love of hot humid evenings, but whenever I felt like I'd REALLY be considered "screwed-up" if I shared something, I've tended to hold back until I overcame that fear. Yes, I actually *like* having the "normal" shell to hide in. I am a conformist when it suits me to be one, instinctively making use of my "normal privilege."

So now, it's time to narcissistically parade my utter lack of difference.

Aspie-quiz results, old version:
AS: 48
NT: 132

Newest version:
AS: 49
NT: 151

Look at Me! I'm a flaming Normie!


Axinar said...

Okay ... you're intelligent, reflective, and you have a blog.

By definition, you CANNOT be "normal" ... :)

reform_normal said...


Who gets to define "normal" anyway? ;P