Being normal

Graphic by Julia Whalen

Dressed in a long jean skirt, she walked from the bus stop at the top of Regent Street down the hill onto Prospect Street, behind the Dairy Queen. Her long, brown hair hung to her hips. She wore a bright top with a big, red heart and these words: “Jesus Loves You.”

Suddenly, a girl yelled out of her car while passing by, “Jesus doesn’t love you!”

“And that’s always kind of stuck with me,” Becky Ganong said.

We pick, prod and pluck at ourselves so that we look “just right.” Then we stare, scrutinize and study others’ appearances, deciding if they’re either abnormal or perfect.

It’s like we have only one cookie cutter; if our dough doesn’t mould into that shape, then we’re one of the “misfits.”

But what exactly “fits?” What do we have to do to fit in? Will we continue to change ourselves as society changes its mind? What is normal?

One of the main ways we feel we can reach acceptance is through our appearance. Our looks are influenced by friends, family, colleagues and even strangers, and it affects the way we think about ourselves.

Is it the blonde bombshell or the masculine man whom we all strive to look like?

In the 1997 issue of Psychology Today, 4,500 people from all over the world responded to a survey the magazine had worked on to determine if people had a healthy view of their appearance.

Just over half of the women said they were unhappy with their overall appearance and felt judged by others because of it. About 40 per cent of men said they were unhappy about their appearance.

Although the survey was done 15 years ago, many would argue the results would be similar – or worse – today.

The following are the accounts of three people who are comfortable with themselves despite not fitting into society’s “norm.”

They say it’s society who’s uncomfortable with them.

Becky Ganong, St. Thomas University student

I didn’t start wearing the long skirts and modest shirts until three years ago. At church, there’s a lot of people that dress like me, but there are more people out in the world that wear pants and stuff.

People see me as a religious freak because, well, I don’t know. I take the bus the same time every day in the morning when a lot of people go to work. I find a lot of people stare at me, and it makes me kind of sad. But this has become who I am.

There’s a stereotype of us, I guess that we’re stuck up. It makes me sad when people think that, because I am a little bit shy, but once you get to know me, well, people say I’m pretty great.

For me, I’ve just always been different, wherever I go, even when I go to church. But everyone has their own convictions.

I used to wear shirts that were super revealing. But then, when one of my friends invited me to a church event at Crystal Palace in Moncton, some things just stuck out to me and then I started listening. Suddenly I was just like, God’s real.

I started to like it but I did used to miss pants quite a bit. I find that skirts are really comfortable, especially just to lounge around in. I’ve gotten used to it.

It’s kind of a modesty thing. If a girl was to wear a skirt down to her knees a guy would be less tempted to view her sexually. And the Bible says women shouldn’t take a blade to their hair.

I find people don’t really talk to me that much because they have preconceived notions of who I am. It just seems like no one really wants to get to know me.

I feel like I have to be careful so that I’m not too in your face with my beliefs. I want to respect other people’s thoughts too, so I just don’t go there sometimes.

But a lot of us really aren’t that way, anyway. And people would know that if they just got to know me.

Adam Wright, STU graduate

Never judge a book by its cover – we’ve all heard the overused cliché and we’d like to think we do our best to live by the saying.

But human nature doesn’t work that way.

As human beings, we make judgements and decisions based on inaccurate first impressions. If we don’t like the cover, we flat out reject the book.

I run my own website as a television critic. Aside from my work on, I also contribute to The Huffington Post. I write comedy on the side, from satire to parodies.

But when you first look at me, you wouldn’t see a writer or comedian. You’ll probably notice the breathing mask on my face or that wheelchair I’m sitting in. Looks like serious stuff, doesn’t it?

As someone who’s lived with a physical disability all my life, I’ve dealt with peoples’ actions and reactions to me. People are scared of the unknown. They see me and often don’t know what to say. They choose their words carefully in order to not offend. That’s if they talk to me. Others would flat out avoid the situation. I’m a situation apparently.

It’s worst when the opposite sex looks at me. The wheelchair alone comes with a list of misconceptions: none that have anything to do with me. I’m not paralyzed. I can walk. I do live alone. I can have sex. After I get through those points, I have to worry about the girl being physically attracted to me.

I’ve had two girlfriends in my life. One was long-distance, and the other barely lasted a few weeks. As a 24-year-old man, with manly needs, this whole “perception” thing can be frustrating. If the first thing girls see is the chair and think, “Dear God, I’m gonna break him,” who wants to date that? When all I want to do is win her over with my qualities.

As much as it sounds like I’m bitching, my situation has made me the person I am today. As human beings, we compensate for our weaknesses. For what I lack physically I make up for it in other ways. In many ways, I have an advantage over most guys.

But like that book sitting on the bookshelf with the ripped cover, I just need someone to give me a read.

I’m a good read, honest.

Katie Allen, former STU student

I don’t think society has a definite definition for “normal,” but it’s obvious that only the “abnormal” people stick out. If someone is different, even in the slightest, people tend to notice. Height, weight, and sometimes even glasses and clothes can make one stick out.

I definitely do not fit the norm. I’m 5’7”, over 200 pounds, have glasses and I definitely do not dress like everyone else.

But to be honest, I don’t care what people think, which isn’t normal either. (Despite what the majority of people say, they really do care what other people think.) People aim to please others, to fit in and be accepted, and they go to extreme measures to do so. But me, I just don’t care.

Sometimes it does concern me, but it’s usually because someone mentions my health and my weight. It never has anything to do with how others make me feel. I don’t believe you should ever waste time and energy worrying what other people think.

I’m naturally blonde, but always dyed my hair darker because people used to make fun of me – blonde hair, bigger boobs. So instead of listening to their banter, I just dyed it, and continued to dye it. But then I stopped. I have a 3.5 GPA, I work full-time and if people think my hair colour makes me stupid, then they’re the stupid ones.

It’s frustrating to see younger girls develop eating disorders just to fit in.

I worry about my weight sometimes, but as long as I’m not going to croak and have a heart attack, it is what it is.