Last night, near eleven, my eldest decided to have a meltdown because his phone was being confiscated. We took the phone because he had violated curfew and neglected to do anything we asked before he left the house. So it was a fair and predictable consequence. He’s sixteen, though, and of a generation that has mentally merged with their technology. Losing his phone is equivalent in his mind to torture. He proceeded to have a full-on panic attack-esque fit which caused a raucous in our tiny apartment late at night. One of the things that came out of that emotional outburst was that he feels the need to be anchored to his phone or else he won’t be perceived as normal, since all his friends will have their phones.
I know that it is the quest of adolescence to be seen as normal, to be as normal as possible. We, of course, will never fit that criteria here so the rest of us don’t really try. We follow the rules and dress the part but it has been thoroughly discussed that what is normal one place is abnormal elsewhere and therefore normalcy is impossible, not because it takes such an enormous amount of effort to achieve but because it actually is a nonexistent state. If there is no normal, then there is no weird, nothing strange. Or rather it means that everything is weird and strange.
We are creatures that evolved from bacteria and now we take selfies from the top of glass towers 2000 feet high then watch live news from around the planet while we zoom along on bullet trains. Isn’t that weird, isn’t that strange? Once you start looking at it from that perspective, all the minor aspects of your landscape become bizarre. If you live in a city, the majority of what you see is humanmade, from the concrete under your feet to the ATM machines at the bank to the traffic lights. Everything was sourced from the earth, manipulated, and made into materials that we take for granted. Isn’t that weird, isn’t that strange? And if you live in the country, I mean dirt, trees, roots, fingers, aren’t they all weird, aren’t they all strange?
I am fascinated by the mundane, the overlooked and dismissed. I am likewise fascinated by how things that should be strange such as cruelty and dire straits can be normalized in people’s lives. That is probably why when I went to write a story about a woman whose twin brother got amnesia in an accident and becomes a born-again Christian became a story about a woman whose twin brother was in an accident and it turns out that he is a squid with a heart condition. I am interested in how she responds to this, how anyone responds to the absurdity that is existence.
Of course, my teenager is not interested riding such trains of thought. He prefers to wake up late, get groggily dressed for basketball practice, and ask, even though he’s been threatened with an extension if he should dare ask, for his phone, just for a little bit, because, after all, everyone else will have theirs, proving that he is as normal as they come.