There’s no such thing as Normal
It’s always a good sign when you have to explain your tagline, right?
Wrong? Well, I’m going to do it anyway.
Since launching our site late last year, this tagline has guided our posts and the way we answer questions:
“Just a handful of Mormons trying to prove how freaking normal we are.”
In that time, lots of people have kindly pointed out to us the fact that “you guys actually aren’t that normal.” This is true. We are not.
But here’s my question: is anyone?
Our tagline is admittedly facetious, as all our attempts to prove how “freaking normal we are” usually result in proving that while we are more normal than you might think, we are, in fact, kind of strange.
Today I’d like to defend our line via basic discussion of the word NORMAL.
Dictionary.com defines the word in two parts. Let’s start with the first one:
NORMAL [ nawr muhl ]
1. Conforming to the standard or common type.
In other words, normal is whatever common consensus says it should be. Normal is a conformist.
On the Shores of Jersey, this hairstyle is normal.
In the 90s, wearing overalls with all your buddies was normal:
In China, speaking Chinese is normal:
In the hand-modeling world, this woman might be normal:
Establishing a universal meaning for the word normal seems pretty impossible, since the word is by definition subjective. Let’s look at the second part of the definition for more clarification:
NORMAL [ nawr muhl ]
2. Serving to establish a standard.
So building on the first half of the definition, whatever the “common type” decides is normal becomes a standard by which the group as a whole is measured.
This explains why that smart kid in high school wasn’t considered normal, but instead nerdy. Even though he’ll probably become a successful businessman or entrepreneur someday — and as I’m sure we’ve all seen in at least one rom-com, the much more “normal” jock will end up driving that nerd’s cab or seating him at IHOP — proof that sometimes normal isn’t necessarily a goal worth shooting for.
Determining whether or not a person or a group is normal often comes down to whether they fit the most common denominator, or whether they match societal expectations. Over the years, society has changed a lot, while Mormon doctrine hasn’t. Since we no longer fit society’s established standards, we’ve come to look less and less normal.
I’ve used this graph before, and I’ll use it again:
Yes, proving “how freaking normal” Mormons are is a bit of an overstatement. We are, actually, pretty freaking weird in a lot of ways. Our goal has never been to show that Mormons are just as normal as everyone else. It’s that we’re just as weird as everyone else.
Jewish people wear yarmulkes; Mormon people wear garments.
Catholics baptize babies by sprinkling; Mormons baptize 8-year-olds by immersion.
People in Thailand eat crickets; Mormons in Utah eat Jello.
Kanye & Kim named their baby NORTH WEST. A Mormon couple named their baby AUNISTEE.
The purpose of our site is not to define Mormons as “conforming to the common type”–to fit that mold would mean we’d given up what makes us Mormon. Normons exists to clarify all the peculiar things that make us who we are, and to celebrate them. Because if every group in the world were “normal,” we’d be living in an Ayn Rand novel. And no one wants that.
No, Mormons might not conform to the “common type.” We might not fit society’s established standard. Mormons may have some interesting quirks.
And that’s pretty freaking normal.