I don’t recall the moment when I noticed that everyone was different, nor do I remember when that became important, I just know it was in primary school. It has caused me grief ever since.
Over the years, I went through different phases wardrobe-wise. As a toddler, I would only wear pink and purple. Those were my absolute favourite colors. I don’t remember what I wore between 5 and 11 because it didn’t seem to matter. Around twelve, I started refusing to wear dresses. I hit puberty and felt repulsive and insecure. I tried to hide my body, I hated gym because it showed cellulite and a scared knee. I dressed in baggy clothes and got mistaken for a boy. “Is this your son?” one lady asked my mother.
In high school, I really wanted to be a punk rock/goth kid, but we lived in a small town and my father worked at my school; he was embarrassed by my eclectic look. That was what hurt the most I think. I kept wondering what I did wrong, how could wearing black lipstick be so embarrassing? Wasn’t it my choice? Why would anyone else have a say in that? I wasn’t embarrassed, so why was he? To counter this, I started dressing like the models I saw in the magazines. My go-to look was short skirts and tight, low cut shirts. My best friend’s mom would comment on my appearance and ask her daughter why she couldn’t be more like me. Why couldn’t she try harder to be beautiful? Why didn’t she wear that type of clothes? It was awful. How could you say that to your child? How could she put this awkward and resentful feeling between me and my best friend?
Out of all the “looks” I tried, the only trend was that everyone had an opinion. Some loved it, some were embarrassed by or for me. It didn’t really matter what I wanted, as long as I conformed and didn’t go step too far outside the box they thought I should be in.
I got tired of the box. I got tired of the norms, of trying to fit in and, ultimately, of my brain torturing me for not being perfect. Over the years, I got too many haircuts. I waxed my upper lip for years because men casually pointed out I had a mustache. I had this ever-present fear that if I had some slightly dark hair above my lip, I was to be sent off to join a freak show, to never be happy and to hide my face forever. I shaved my entire legs, including the thighs to remove any sign of hairs. I wore long shorts or pants so no one would see the spectacle that was my cellulite. I learned to lift my eyebrows in photos so my eyes wouldn’t look “too Asian”. I spoke softer so my voice wouldn’t annoy anyone, because apparently, it’s annoying and can sound like a 5-year-old’s voice. I stopped laughing too much, talking too much. I stopped being. Too much.
Now, I have to learn to be myself all over again. After 30 years or trying to be some illusionist that tried to please everyone and also not repulse anyone, I lost my essence. I am in there somewhere, I just need to make room for her to slowly come back.
In November 2016, I moved to Germany and it has been a blessing. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I got to be reborn. I had to learn how to live again, to find out who I was and how I fit into this culture. I started filming vlogs and posted them on YouTube. I now think it all started so I could hear my own voice. I created a book club called the Spinster Book Club to meet women and talk about feminism, diversity, and gender. It has been amazing to learn from these women and hear their perspective. (View Spinster Book Club Book List)
What I’ve learned over the past year and a half is that we all just want to fit in somewhere. We all want to be considered normal and the fear of rejection is strong within many of us, if not all of us. We aspire to this thing called “normal” without knowing what it actually is and how harmful it is to our well-being. It basically prevents us from being ourselves. It stands in the way of self-acceptance and happiness.
That’s why I am starting this project called Normal You Are. The goal is to find out what “normal” actually means to everyone, how it influences us, how it started and how we can debunk this nefarious concept.
Help out by taking this short survey to let me know what normal means to you. It’s anonymous and will help me better understand how to begin debunking “normal”.