They Said I Wasn’t Normal and They Were Right
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree of Separation.
“You know,” Jean says after I tell her about a couple of my odd dreams in the past few weeks, “I suspect these messages you’re getting on being ‘less critical’ might mean for you to be less critical of yourself. Stop beating yourself up, will you?”
I hadn’t thought of it that way. We’re in the midst of a long discussion on what’s normal, and I’m realizing with a little bit of a panic that I don’t know what “normal” is.
I guess I’m supposed to be learning, though, because the subject’s come up a dozen times this month, each time with me being shown a way of relating that I never considered possible. Each time, it’s a relief because it’s such a drain of energy to be on-guard all the time against saying the wrong thing and risking not being loved anymore.
Jean can’t stop fretting about the dream I had where I was with a new life partner who walked in on me in the bath- room and we were both at ease with each other. She lists various activities and events that are typical “couple” things, and they’re all foreign to me. Vicki does the same. So do several acquaintances who don’t know about the dreams.
And I’m shocked at the realization that in 23 years with the same man, I never once saw him pee. Okaaaaaaaaaaay.
I’d never thought about it before. It’s not that I think he was a robot or an alien—snicker—but I’m assured that this is not normal behavior.
Then again, I’m told it’s not normal not to argue. I’d al- ready figured out for myself that I’ll definitely argue more in my next relationship than in my last one. I grew up in a household where the arguments were one-sided and any disagreement would simply lead to being on the receiving end of the most cut- ting remarks imaginable. Later, when I was able to “win” arguments with Daddy, after I’d left home, he would twist the disagreement into a guilt trip complete with a report on his health, finances, and everything he’d ever done for me.
I traded one primary male relationship for another and married a championship debater. Seriously. A forensics king. He was quite intelligent and very good with structuring an argument. Except that he had to win. And if he drew blood to win, that was okay with him. It was part of the fun of a debate.
It wasn’t so much fun for me. I couldn’t just have an opinion: I had to offer irrefutable scientific proof or my beliefs weren’t valid. And just like in my parents’ house, disagreements meant someone was going to end up with their mouth clammed up and their eyes brimming over with hurt feelings because differences of opinions were a challenge to be won over. And if they weren’t won over, there were always the not-so-subtle news articles left in the printer for me to find later. Kinda funny now—talk about having the last word.
But as my ex often pointed out with great disappointment, I don’t like to argue. What he missed out on what how much I love to discuss.
So does my new normal include the possibility of disagreeing with someone and still being loved? Of two people being open with each other in every possible way? Can two people just be compassionate and treat each other well? Can one call the other from work and say, “Hey, honey, I’m having a hard day with way too many decisions to make, so can I be the bottom tonight?” Can two people talk and neither respond and the lack of response not mean there’s something wrong? Is there really such a thing as a healthy relationship?
I’m different…unique…whatever. And that’s okay. I like being unlike everyone else. But when it comes to relationships, I’m just now learning what “normal” looks like.
Based on what my friends say, it’s a man singing and peeing with the bathroom door open.