Embrace the Abnormals

Those violating social norms in the name of good fun are people, too

by Published: Jan 16, 2013

I’m a man with painted toe­nails, and there isn’t a thing wrong with that.

All right, I got your atten­tion. It seems odd to me that, in 2013, “dif­fer­ent” appear­ances and styles can still be so read­ily judged and dismissed—even some­thing so sim­ple as length of hair. By doing some­thing that, if you think about it, isn’t really that weird but merely vio­lates those ever inde­ci­pher­able “social norms,” peo­ple set them­selves up for a lot of grief.

Granted, in the country’s more coastal metrop­o­lises, a sleeve of tat­toos or a mohawk would hardly merit a sec­ond lool—thus “ever inde­ci­pher­able social norms.” Some places have it right, or at least more right. In many places, such as our own mid­west, so much as shav­ing a part of your head will earn dis­ap­prov­ing looks, and that’s sim­ply ridicu­lous. It’s just hair/ink/food/music/a non-sexual body part.

The aver­age life expectancy for an American is about 78.2 years, depend­ing on your feel­ings con­cern­ing Wikipedia. Spending the major­ity of those 78.2 years with rel­a­tively the same style and color of hair, as well as tattoo-less, piercing-less, and never hav­ing worn bright green pants, is absolutely within the rights of every American, and all the best to them as they do so. That’s their style, and that is just fine. However, isn’t it just as fine to do exactly the oppo­site? It’s sim­ply their cho­sen way of doing things. If the for­mer is fine, just fine, why isn’t the lat­ter? That age-old addend should be applied: “They’re not hurt­ing anyone.”

Take gen­der rules. Guys can’t wear nail pol­ish, dye­ing their hair is ques­tion­able, cry­ing over tele­vi­sion (or movies, or books or any­thing) is weak, and dis­lik­ing sports is the eighth deadly sin (it’s in the Bible and every­thing, I think).

Girls can’t have casual sex, can’t appear “too mas­cu­line” and aren’t allowed to have opin­ions on “guy stuff” (oh hey, sports, again, at the top of a lengthy, pre­pos­ter­ous list). Patently ridicu­lous, every one of these things is just the tip of this sen­si­tive, Kanye West’s ego-sized glacier.

Why should some­one be judged for want­ing to push the bound­aries of per­sonal lifestyle a bit? They’re not enti­tled to keep the same old bor­ing hair color or color preferences—they just have dif­fer­ent pref­er­ences, and really, is there any­thing more American that stand­ing up for your right to do, well, what­ever you want (within the realm of legal­ity)? This is America, guys: America and free­dom and “don’t tread on me!”

We say we pride our­selves on “free­dom,” but it often seems it could be more appro­pri­ately ren­dered “free­dom as I see fit.” You’re free to do what­ever you want, but don’t be weird about it. Or if you are, don’t talk about it.

All I ask is that you embrace the peo­ple express­ing them­selves dif­fer­ently. It could be for com­plex rea­sons. Maybe they’re “try­ing to find them­selves” or some­thing like that. It could also be that they just like what­ever they’re doing, and there isn’t a sin­gle thing wrong with that.

Do that new-agey thing and open your mind, espe­cially when it comes to stereo­types. Stereotypes may have their place (such as in adver­tis­ing), but they should never be used to apply soci­etal dos and don’ts.

So when run­ning into the buzz-cut, tat­tooed vegan girl, the guy who loves real­ity TV and The Notebook, and the kids with blue, pink and pur­ple hair over there, just be your usual, jovial self—unless you hate every­thing, in which case, I have just the sobbing-inducing rom-com to cheer you up.

They’re risk-takers in their own way, express­ing their free­dom in their own way, as each of us wants to do. Also, every­one loves to be loved. Love a little.