Daily Prompt: The New Normal

The group that looked like business people found only in history books had found itself surrounded by an equally large crowd of unkempt, smelly, and otherwise annoying folks who insisted on jeering and cat-calling. The business people were embarrassed and their leader, a certain Mr. Smith, raised his hands in an effort to quell the heckling from their captors. “Erm, pardon me? Might I have a word?” 

The leader of the rowdy lot, a certain Ms. Jones, quieted her bunch via a glance; her wild-eyed expression was enough to stop the average locomotive. As was her breath, which is how she had become the chosen leader in the first place. She motioned for Mr. Smith to continue.

“I am so sorry; we couldn’t help it you see. We have been meeting secretly for about two months,” gasps all round from both sides, “and felt empowered enough today to come out.” Mr. Smith hung his head. “It was my fault; I thought we would be accepted and I encouraged the rest of this lot to follow me out here.”

Ms. Jones laughed. “And what exactly did you think you would accomplish by doing that?” 

A tear ran slowly down Mr. Smith’s impeccably clean-shaven jaw line. “We only wanted to be accepted. We only wanted to be seen as normal!”

The hecklers burst into raucous laughter, causing the business people to stifle their gagging; the garbage-like odor of so much bad breath in one space had become foreign to them. For the past two months, they had lived in secret and had taken to showering and washing clothes. They had read about such behaviors and in those ancient texts, it had all seemed so normal. As such, they chose to embark on an action research experiment in order to find out what it would be like to live so opposite their society. Ms. Jones regained her composure enough to speak. “Well, how’s that working out for you?”

Those cheeky devils over at the Daily Post suggested

Language evolves. The meaning of a word can shift over time as we use it differently — think of “cool,” “heavy,” or even “literally.”

Today, give a word an evolutionary push: give a common word a new meaning, explain it to us, and use it in the title of your post.

I live in the United States, where bodily cleanliness and appropriately clean and neat clothing is generally viewed as “normal.” But what does that really mean? If I am homeless and have to choose between washing my clothing and buying personal hygiene products or having something to eat and water, which might I choose first? Is self-preservation (in other words, staying alive) less normal than outward appearance? What if the majority of society left off with the showers and teeth-brushing? My short vignette suggests how the “clean” could become the outcasts. Yes, I might have overstepped the bounds of good taste and/or humor a pinch, but think about how societies (such as in the US and other ‘westernized’ places in particular) have defined normal versus abnormal or aberrant. Just sayin’.

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  1. Did you know that most (if not all) Europeans only bathed once a YEAR before the “discovery” of America? That’s right. When Native Americans first visited Europe they were asked NOT to bathe every day.

    After many Europeans knew about bathing more often and the rich people had indoor tubs, they still only bathed once a month. If I’m not mistaken, bathing once a week was still considered “normal” as late as the 1920’s.

    Therefore, if you really have to chose between bathing, washing clothes and so forth OR having something to eat, choose eating. However, if there is a creek or river nearby, you can do all three by fishing while you’re bathing in your clothes.

    1. Excellent points, Theresa! And I completely agree–always pick the option that comes with a meal! Thanks for popping in 🙂

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