“And the winner for ‘Best Blog Post Title’ is…”
Not that one.
I’m not even sure it means anything. I know what I want it to mean. I want it to mean a manufactured descriptive that’s supposed to be helpful but which instead draws increased attention to the problem. Am I even close with that?
Here’s what I’m talking about.
“The New Normal.”
“The New Normal” is a recently-coined – within the last few years – concept, conceived for the benefit of people required to adjust to a state of affairs, physical or otherwise, that is different from whatever it was they had previously been used to.
We always like to feel normal. When you say, “I am not myself today” – if you’re English, but you can still feel that way without using those words – what you’re saying is that you don’t feel normal. Though individually different in its specifics, “normal” is a reliable and more importantly a reassuring standard. Feeling “not normal” is seriously disorienting, because when you’re “not yourself”...
Who are you?
I remember when I was recovering from heart surgery, I felt this visceral urgency to get back to normal. (A Post-Surgical Heads Up: Anesthesia plays havoc with your regularity.) More than anything, I wanted to be able to, as my “Guide To Recovery” pamphlet called it, “Resume (a tellingly selected word) normal activities.”
Finally, I did.
I was happily back to normal.
But sometimes, that doesn’t happen. And you are required to get used to a situation – retirement, an alteration in your health – that is unlike your longstanding, former state of affairs. For you, this becomes – an appellation some likely now wealthy mental health professional must have cooked up –
“The New Normal.”
You may have noticed you do not apply the term “The New Normal” to a situation in which your altered state of affairs is an improvement. You only apply it when it isn’t.
“I was in a coma for twelve years, and now I’m running the Marathon.” “The New Normal”? I don’t think so. It is just an immeasurably better situation. Flip that sentence around and
“Coma” is “The New Normal.”
And calling it that, to me, simply makes it worse.
You’ve lost your money. You’ve lost your health. You’ve lost your home. You’ve lost your job. You’ve lost your loved ones. You’ve lost your friends. You’ve lost your teeth. You’ve lost your hair. You had all that. And now it’s gone. For you, this…
is “The New Normal.”
“Okay,” you think to yourself, “the situation is far from wonderful. But, hey, at least I’m normal.”
Really? And that makes you feel better?
Imagine a pirate.
Pulling an example out of a hat.
Ballooney pantaloons stuffed into shiny boots, a horizontally striped jersey, a colorful head covering, two arms, and a parrot. A cannonball comes flying in – Boom! – there goes one arm, and, because that was the shoulder it was perched on, the parrot.
(It wasn’t, like, the cannonball blew off his arm, then bounced over to the opposite shoulder and took out the parrot. They were on the same side. I mean, it’s a “hypothetical”, but it’s not crazy.)
(An Alternative Version For The Overly Squeamish, And I Admit That I’m One Of You: The same point can be made if the cannonball tore a gaping hole in the pirate’s horizontally striped jersey and he was henceforth obliged to wear a vertically striped jersey, or a plane-colored jersey with no stripes whatsoever. Call it the “Sartorial New Normal.” Less compelling, perhaps, but there’s no loss of an arm.)
Here you have a pirate, familiar to his mates as having two arms and a parrot, now the possessor of one arm and no parrot. (Historical Side Note: On many pirate ships – the fair ones – beyond your assigned booty allotment, an additional bonus was paid for limbs lost in battle. Of course, that was only if you won; if you didn’t, you simply had fewer limbs. I learned this interesting factoid from the movie Captain Blood (1935), so it may be made up. The movie said nothing about lost parrots.)
For a while, perhaps, he’s a celebrity. Lost an arm in battle, and when they cauterized the wound in hot coals (or something), the man barely bit down on his stick.
What a pirate.
But then, time goes on, and the fuss dies down. Before you know it, he’s just a disabled buccaneer, who has a greater difficulty climbing the rigging and cutting his meat. Uninvited to poker parties, because of his inability to shuffle.
Plus, he’s taken to whimpering about his parrot. Sure, he could always get another parrot, but he’d have to learn to carry it around on an entirely different shoulder.
“The New Normal”?
Try selling that to a demoralized pirate.
“I don’t even say ‘Arrrr!’ anymore. It reminds me of arrrrrm.”
(Serious Denouement: I think what happens is, in time, you adjust to your altered state of affairs. It is not “The New Normal.” It just is what it is.)
Writer’s Note: The preceding was written two nights ago, fueled by the loopifying residue of colonoscopal “happy juice.” Do you think it shows?