Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I confess...I've been thinking a lot lately about the concept of "normal".

I was well into my twenties before I realized that most people didn't need an hour between switching out the lights and falling asleep. I also didn't realize that other women didn't want to curl up and cry once a month or need to get up every couple of hours to first few nights of their period to avoid a mess (TMI, I know). I was shocked to learn some people never get headaches and that most don't get them pretty much daily (or at least weekly). These all seemed normal to me.

On the flip side, it is normal to me for words to flow pretty easily and to feel like I have to slow myself when reading to avoid spending a fortune on books. Or to see the ending of movies coming and to be able to figure out a riddle quicker than I can recall a basic fact.

I started thinking that maybe the key to understanding "normal" was about qualitative and quantitative distinctions. But that didn't really work. You can put together a figure for the average number of minutes it takes someone to fall asleep just as you can come up with the average temperature for a healthy person.

Thinking further, I realized that understanding "normal" is really about the sample size. "Normal" for me may not be the same as "normal" for a random sample of 100 women. Which seems to make "normal" both more and less meaningful...it isn't a basic fact that stands alone, it needs context. But that same context gives it a greater fullness and greater meaning. My "normal" speaks to me. It explains me. It isn't the same as "average 100 women" normal. But that doesn't diminish either. It enlightens them.

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