Sunday, 10 September 2017

Being different

The last post (on rejecting Facebook) has prompted this one. More and more I find myself caught in the middle of two opposing tendencies.

One is to let myself be part of the mainstream of life, taking my place as an accepted member of several interlinking circles of people, mostly local, and very definitely real-life. It's a world of older women in the main, of course - mostly women in their fifties or older, but with a sprinkling of younger women too. And to function in that milieu, a certain amount of conformity is needed. It doesn't seem contrived or unnatural. But extreme or disturbing behaviour is out of the question. To my surprise, I've managed to conform successfully, and there have certainly been rewards for doing so. Not only have I made a string of friends, there was (for instance) the joy of being voted (local) Slimming World Woman of the Year last month. How I treasure that accolade! Truly now a member of the Sisterhood. Especially as it was awarded as much for being an 'inspirational person' as for losing significant weight. (That's being 'inspirational' on what the people who voted for me could see and hear, without knowing my history)

But I feel the pull of the other tendency also - to be myself, to preserve my individuality, and insist on making plans that keep my life simple, solitary and free from entangling connections. And as I find myself sinking deeper into 'normality', so that contrary pull is becoming ever more insistent. I don't think it will ever become a stark choice - one life or the other - but striking a balance between integration with mainstream womanhood (and all that entails), and a freewheeling personal life in which I can at all times follow my preferences, is bound to become harder in the years to come.

One thing I don't want to happen is to find myself besieged by some man wanting to know me better and accept his attentions, whatever his motive. That would be so not what I'd want. Whatever his charm, whatever his gifts, whatever the material advantages on offer, I will always value independence far above a gilded imprisonment. I will be nobody's possession. I don't even want to be anybody's dream or aspiration. I must be uniquely me, beyond desire or imitation. And most definitely not an object of lust (reality check: fat chance), nor someone with assets to covet, a target for deception and robbery.

Another different, but related, scenario would be an offer from another woman to pool our resources and live enjoyably in a combined life with wide internal freedoms. But we'd have to like each other very much, and my own previous experience of teaming up with likeable people is that intimacy develops, and with it a certain enslaving mutual dependency. It becomes a kind of marriage. And absolute personal freedom is incompatible with marriage. Instead, there must be absolute loyalty to a common purpose. I haven't got it in me to commit to such a thing. I really don't want to try yet again, and inevitably fail.

So I feel different, and destined by temperament and self-knowledge to stay separate, and be in some way a permanent outsider. For me, that's a natural, comfortable position, and in no way a daunting prospect. It has its own advantages too, some of them rather enviable. But even if it were a way of life fraught with constant problems, I now know for certain that I would have to follow it willy-nilly, and never look for an escape.

Recently I've had the opportunity of watching several Super-Hero films based on Marvel Comic characters. Now there are a set of people who have no choice but to live strange lives. If they look like ordinary human beings, then protecting their identity and being careful about using their powers is paramount, and normal life is denied. If they look alien, then they absolutely must live secretly, hiding perhaps on some remote island. They won't be able to attend the local pilates class, nor have a good chat at Slimming World. They have no choice about it. Now that would be really sad!


  1. Surely “normalcy” means “what is the usual way for you”? We cannot even guess what the norm is, and certainly we don’t want to fit in to it, if we take a guess. Personally, being an outlier in most surveys works well for me, but that is my normal.

    Being “pursued” by someone does sound repugnant; as though we are a doe on the run through a forest; beautiful, elusive and desirable for the table. What of the situation where you and someone who is truly compatible with your own goals of personal independence find one another and find a way to complement one another in a surprising way? Personal experience in the past two years has taught me to never say never.

    As for our super-powers (and I’m certain you do posess them), one can reserve their use for times when the unwashed are not looking or are not present. Even supergirl can go to pilates if she wants to. She just has to make sure she doesn’t bend any steel bars, or levitate about the room.

    Vive la différance!

  2. Actually, Halle, I think of 'normality' as an absolute state, the way usual for most people. I am a bit deviant in that respect, but ongoing socialisation is drawing me closer to how most people are. That aids acceptance and integration. But it might stifle individuality and uniqueness, which I have a gut feeling are - in a evolutionary way - useful.

    I use the word 'deviant' in a statistical sense of course!

    If there were a way of discovering or developing super powers, I'n not at all sure which ones I'd really like to have. Telepathic abilities might be handy but are obviously a two-way thing and I might not enjoy somebody else probing my own mind. Great strength, and resilience to injury, would be nice, though, provided I didn't have to look muscle-bound!


  3. Congratulations on your Slimming World Woman of the Year accolade. You've surpassed me now as I was only a runner-up at my group. Did they give you a certificate to add to your collection? I think our winner went off with a 'free food' hamper.


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