I have spent most of my life pretending to be “normal”, hence the title of my blog, Simulacrum of normal.
According to Dictionary.com a simulacrum is a slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance. I go around pretending to be human, but I’m really not very good at it. I analyse my speech and actions, trying to make myself appear normal. I feel like I’m from another planet, trying to assimilate to the very alien earth culture. It’s gotten me by so far, and as far as I am aware most people consider me “eccentric” but not insane or psychopathic. Personally, I’ve often wondered whether or not I’m a psychopath but that’s a discussion for another day.
Last week I had lunch at a friend’s house. She had invited several other friends along whom I generally get on with all right. I suppose you could call all us friends, but I use the word very lightly. I don’t have the kind of friendships where I would call someone up “just for a chat”, and I definitely don’t have the kind of girlfriends portrayed in shows like Sex in the City. To me, friends are people who are more than slight acquaintances. They’re people that are basically not total strangers, and are not enemies. Even with that broad definition, I have very few friends. Anyway, back to the lunch…
Overall, I felt it went well. The conversation didn’t seem to lag, and everyone seemed happy. I, however, was not. All week I felt grumpy and depressed, and I didn’t know why. I thought it was the weather, or maybe just my hormones. Finally, I realised what it was. It was that lunch. I was upset because I felt that I hadn’t handled myself very well. I monopolised the conversation too much. I was more open than I should have been. I can’t remember whether my table manners were perfect or not… Did I speak with my mouth full? Did I drink too much? Did I eat too much? Did I interrupt people when they were talking? Did I change topics too abruptly? Did I help enough during the preparation and clean up? The questions plaguing my mind are endless.
Do other people think about things this much? The psychologist I was seeing told me that I think too much. That I already know the correct way to behave, so I should just do it without questioning. I guess I do know the correct way to behave, but for me it’s a very intellectual knowing. Correct behaviour doesn’t happen automatically.
Finally realising what was the cause for my week long bad mood didn’t resolve anything. It helped me to stop taking out my grumpiness on innocent bystanders, but I still felt awful. It was only when I met up with another friend and confessed my “failings” over that lunch, and my subsequent guilt, that I started feeling better. That I even realised that it was guilt that I was feeling. Guilt over not being perfect. She was amazed, and assured me that she often spoke too much, over-shared etc. All the things I felt so awful about doing. I guess when you list them out, it does sound ridiculous to be so upset about it. I guess in my mind, I had failed my mission, so to speak. Another social engagement where I failed to appear innocuously human. Normal.
It would be so freeing to not be plagued by these thoughts and expectations. If I could relax enough to just enjoy having lunch with my friends without having to think so hard, I might end up actually developing real relationships. But I can’t. When I do start to relax around people, I inevitably end up realising how alien I am compared to them, or rather, how alien they are to me. People are always saying that I am peculiar, but they never seem to realised that I feel the same way about them. To me, I am normal, and the rest of the world is odd and incomprehensible. I want to stop over-analysing my social interactions, but at what point is the analysis overdone? If I don’t think about it at all, there is no way that I would behave in an acceptable manner. Left to my own devices, I would end up hiding in a snug spot talking to myself. How do you know how much to think?