Thursday, December 17, 2009

Passing for Normal


This is in a lot of ways the flip side of Sarah's dilemma - how you can be writer-weird and still pass for normal enough that you don't catch hell. Even though writers are kinda-sorta-maybe supposed to be a bit eccentric, there are limits, and then within the writing community there are separate standards of 'normal' that get enforced.

I could go into the biological and social reasons for it, but I'll leave that for the biologists among us. Suffice to say that every group of people quickly evolves its own norms and the most influential members of it usually end up enforcing them.

So... how do you pass? Me, I tend to fade into the background. Nothing to see here, move along. It's a useful trait at conventions (it's amazing what you hear when people don't realize you're there), but not when you actually need to be noticed. For that I have what could be called "Con Kate" who I think may be related to "Evil Panel Sarah". It's a kind of reverse fade, where you hide the bits you don't want seen by drawing attention to them in an exaggerated way, preferably one that fits an existing stereotype. I aim for "Crass, crude Australian" for the US audience - Crocodile Dundee-esque ramped up to the max, usually in stark contrast to the appearance, which for cons is "elegant". The sweet, sweet sound of brains exploding tells me when I've got it right.

The next step is to lose about half my body weight and invest in the kind of clothing that makes jaws hit the floor and women go interesting shades of green - but that one's going to happen about the same time Hell moves to the South Pole.

Does anyone else feel they have to pretend to be normal to pass muster? One of the joys of the Internet is being able to find people who are enough like us we no longer feel like we're complete and utter lunatics - but maybe I'm just kidding myself and I really am so far around the bend that I've doubled back on myself and gone quantum in some bizarrely Pratchettian fashion.

Any victi... er... volunteers, feel free to share your thoughts. Or just tell me I'm barking mad.

22 comments:

C Kelsey said...

Kate,

I just play with my characters as a writing exercise. Seems to work for me. Although I made the mistake of letting one of my characters read Athena's post over at figmental menagerie. I would have thought that my character, Liza, would appreciate Athena's energy level. Umm... no. ;)

matapam said...

Everybody wants to fit into the group they are surrounded with.

For some people, it's effortless. I have no difficulties for an hour or so, now and then. Then I just can't think of anything to talk about anymore, and I start distanceing myself from the outside world.

::sigh:: I even did it a couple years ago at Worldcon, in the presence of Sarah. It was marked enough that she asked me if I disliked her. ::whimper:: No just hit limit of my social skills and started slipping back into the world inside my head.

The far side of the desire to fit in is the Stockholm Syndrome. I think it's a survival trait. Must join the herd for protection from predators. Perhaps especially important be one of the in-group when they _are_ predators.

I suspect that writers might be fairly immune. Able to play the part, then mentally step right back out of it.

John Lambshead said...

I have given up pretending to be normal. The trick is to act with such assurance that you make others question their normality. :)
John

RJ_CruzeJr said...

I'm with you on that, John. Kind of like how, when you're someplace you should not be, the best way to handle it is to act like you own the place and demand that everyone else explain what the hell they think they're doing here. Reminds me of a tale I read of a British POW in WWII who, with a little creative stitching, made his own high-ranking German officer's uniform. Basically, he put on his fake uniform and strutted right out the front gate of the camp... after pausing to bawl out the gate guard (in perfect German, no less) for his sloppy salute ;-)

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Ok, I think we can all admit we're misfits!

Actually, I suspect everyone else feels the same way and is madly bluffing.

And if they aren't they really are crazy.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

I've decided I will never fit in anywhere, even with writers. So I just rub people's faces in it. If you can't join them, make sure to win. :)

Sarah

C Kelsey said...

I should point out, I don't think I've ever met a "normal" person. Or at least if I have, I was probably being hijacked by my latest story idea and didn't notice.

matapam said...

Internet socializing is perfect for me. No one notices if I zone out, loose all ability to communicate verbally, wander off and think for a few minutes/hours. Change what I'm going to say five times before I say it . . .

Through the internet, I probably do seem fairly normal.

Kate said...

Chris K,

It takes all sorts - and our characters usually manage to surprise us. Mine are very good at the "need to know" deal: as in, I don't need to know until it's time to actually write that bit.

Kate said...

Matapam,

Oh, yes. Most people will choose to be at the low end of the pecking order rather than not be part of the group.

I never did manage to pass, since if I get into a conversation I'll usually make one of my great sideways leaps of illogic (it's obvious to me! How could anyone else possibly have trouble following it?) and leave people wondering what the heck just happened.

Unless it's a conversation with Sarah, and Monkey and co, like the breakfast chat and Lunacon that cleared the restaurant when the topic of discussion moved to sausage.

Kate said...

John,

I've used that one as a band member. For some reason band uniforms are always dorkier than dorky. When you're on a break between sets and the nearest source of pseudo-edible material is the favored biker hangout, well... Acting like you own the place was the safest way!

I can't keep that going for long, though. And I admire those who can.

Kate said...

Robert,

Most people are very good at picking up on fear, and at seeing what they expect to be there. Someone who uses that to their advantage can do very well - and that POW anecdote is begging to be the center of a story.

Kate said...

Rowena,

Does everyone? I wonder sometimes. Maybe other people are just a whole lot better at pretending they don't feel like a misfit than I am.

It's when you're a misfit among misfits that you've got real issues... As a few of us here know far too well, I think.

Kate said...

Sarah,

Or if you can't win, at least make sure you kick them in the nuts before losing? Oh, sorry, that's Athena ;-)

I honestly don't know why rubbing people's faces in weirder than weird seems to work, but I'm not going to argue with success either.

Kate said...

Chris K,

Maybe you're looking in the wrong places? I mean, this is the Mad Genius club - not the kind of place one would expect normality to ensue.

Kate said...

Matapam,

Yes! Between the internet hiding my long pauses while my brain rewinds to figure out where the heck my mouth got to and letting me find other people with similar interests, my entire social life is online.

Before the internet, I didn't have a social life.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Kate,

You mean Darkship Thieves is not autobiographical?

Should I mention my husband laughed himself sick at the proposal scene? :-P

Brendan said...

You're not mad, you just have a different BIOS to other people.

Writer Bios'

Cedar said...

I'm not normal - I've tried NOT to be all my life. I'm proud of it, darnit, and I'm not going to try to become normal. Abnormal people have more fun! ;) When I walk into a room wearing a cardinal (1740's era cloak) I get attention, and that's ok. I meet interesting people that way.

Kate said...

Sarah,

Are you telling me you kicked Dan in the nuts and tried to kill him with a high powered weapon when he proposed to you? :-D

Kate said...

Brendan,

That's a pretty good summary, actually.

Kate said...

Cedar,

Good luck with that. There are some places where they let you be as crazy as you want. Others... well, let's just say it doesn't always end well.