To a Greater Abnormal
Many of you know that earlier this year my hairdresser of 17 years announced she was moving. I didn’t think much of it, assuming it would be only a few minutes away.
Then she told me it was actually a few hours and a couple ferry rides away.
I admit, the word that came out of my mouth was… ahem, not so graceful. Not very PG.
She laughed at my response. I’ll miss you too, she said.
It’s not just that, I countered. I can’t find another you!
Some of you women may understand me: haircuts, dyes, and styles involve a lot of trust between you the person doing them. You have to believe they aren’t going to make you look ugly, homeless, fatter, or older than you are.
And after awhile, the trust becomes personal. They get you through things. Events, birthdays, banquets, weddings, funerals, holidays, family gatherings… even illnesses (though I haven’t lost my hair from chemo, it’s composition has definitely changed and my hairdresser has helped me adapt).
Even if you don’t know your hairdresser that well, per se, you often leave them (at least a good one) with the sense that they saved your life in a way, and you can relax a little more the next time you go there.
So, when I heard the news back in April that I was losing my long-time stylist and friend, I didn’t react too well.
How was I to mine the field of finding a new one?
Because, oh, the horror stories I’ve heard.
Fortunately, I have friends with fabulous hair. I have friends who are far more picky about their hair than I am (evidenced by the fact that theirs always looks better than mine).
So, I followed the recommendation of the person I knew whose hair was closest to mine.
And, who was also the pickiest about the results.
When I stepped over the new shop’s threshold in July, I was nervous. The whole time the new hairdresser put the foils in, I was tense. But about an hour later, looking at the results, I let out a huge breath. She. Was. Awesome. And affordable. And fast.
She’s quieter than the last one. But when she does speak, she has something valuable to say. Her life is very different than mine, but I find myself learning from her, in a quiet, pensive sort of way.
Take today, for example.
Though I consider Vancouver my home city, housing affordability – and our social community – dictates that we live in one of its suburbs. City people, stay with me here. My heart and soul are downtown. My friends and family are not. And though we’ve discussed it several times, David and I believe we’d likely be able to afford no more than 3 square feet of living space in the city. (Which leaves one square foot for three of us, and I’d have to hold Elliana. So…)
So, we live elsewhere.
And go to the city as often as we can.
I was telling this to a friend who lives in Yaletown, and she was confused. Of course you could afford more than that. You could rent, you know. A lot of people who live downtown do.
I stared at her in shock. Rent? Are you crazy? Isn’t everyone trying to buy more and buy bigger?
No, she informed me, they’re not.
Apparently some people feel the real estate market too unpredictable to invest in right now. Others don’t want to be tied down to a mortgage at all. Others just simply want extra money a month and less responsibility.
Huh. Wouldn’t that be different.
I don’t know that we’d do it. But I’d just never let myself think that way before.
I mean, that kind of thinking… that’s not normal, is it?
A few weeks ago, I ran into another friend who recently got married. When I asked where they were living, she told me they picked a small place, in an area of town that was a little out of the way.
Not out of necessity, she said. I just want to cut my living expenses wherever I can.
Smart, I agreed. I asked if she was saving up for something.
I just don’t want to live for my job, she replied. I want to work so I can live. I don’t want any more financial burdens than I need. So (her husband) and I are asking ourselves, what can we cut that everyone else thinks is normal and necessary, so that we can be more at ease financially?
Then take my hairdresser. She lives in a community, with roommates, shared kitchens, and very, very low rent. She lives close to everything she needs and shares a car with a university student. They work around each other’s schedules.
Its not that she can’t afford more; she’s got a thriving business.
She chooses to live this way.
A lot of people are living paycheck to paycheck, she told me today. In this economy, if something happens, they might be totally stuck. I want to make sure I’m prepared for anything.
Before you think I’m judging those of you in a tight spot right now, know that we’re right there with you. Many of us have to live paycheck to paycheck. If that’s you, I totally understand; often our circumstances are out of our control. And in this economy, every month seems tighter and tighter.
But I think there’s another point here.
One that has very little to do with money.
And the point is not, we should be more worried or we should make more money or we should have more stuff.
Like my hairdresser said today, it’s just really important to me not to stress about money. I’ll make a lot of sacrifices to know I’m not maxed out. I know that’s weird to some people. I know they’ll think I’m not normal. But that’s okay with me.
Ooooh. She’s definitely on to something here.
Take a deep breath, everyone. I’m about to ask a shocking question:
What if there’s another way to do things?
I used to listen to Pratt and Taylor in the weekday afternoons on Team 1040’s radio station. Dave Pratt – gregarious, outspoken, controversial, and insanely entertaining – was notorious for hating people who lived in suburbia. They drive me nuts, he used to say. Their houses, their SUV’s, their private schools, their Mexico vacations… Don Taylor, the resident family man and suburbanite, would laugh at Dave’s rants and try to calm him down. I used to smile at the radio. We’re not all bad, Dave.
But the more I think about it, the more I understand what he didn’t like.
In fact, its the same things I’m starting to question.
For example, we live in a townhouse. Many people have told me they’d never be happy with that. You’ve got to have a yard, they say. What about your kids? My response: yeah, that would be nice. We’ve thought about it, but we’re happy here. There’s playgrounds, aren’t there? There are so many young kids in our complex that my girls love playing with. Though I love escaping to the sparseness of the country, or the hum of the city, I do enjoy the community that surrounds us.
We also have only two children.
Now, hang with me here. We both love big families. I always wanted four or more kids. And I admit, we had planned for more at one point.
And then I got sick. Having a child now would be dangerous to both me and them, not to mention put the rest of our family under even more stress. It seemed unwise. And clear. We were done. At two.
I can’t count the number of people who treat that as abnormal. I can’t remember the number have times others have asked – or at least implied – how we can be happy with ‘just two.’ I can’t believe how many have said, that’s so sad. There’s got to be something you can do.
There is something I can do. I can be the best mom to these two that I know how.
My point is: when did it become mandatory to have these things? When was it required that we have a large, detached home with a big yard? When did we decide to expect that each family should have three or more children?
City people don’t expect this.
And country people, though they often have more space than us, also have less amenities close by, and often less people around to worry about impressing.
But suburbia… I wonder. I think we might be putting pressures on others – and ourselves – to do normal and expected things, for no other reason than that’s simply what we do here.
I don’t have the answers, of course. I’m just asking the questions.
And I think they’re questions worth asking.
Who determines what’s normal?
And, why do they get to be the ones who decide?
Because if what ‘they’ say truly is normal… then maybe our happiness lies in becoming abnormal.
Fellow Bones fans will appreciate this. Last week I saw a promo for season 7 showing a very pregnant Brennan crying at a crime scene. Those of you who watch the show know how clinical and hyper-rational Brennan can be. When Booth notices she’s crying and she denies it, he says, hey, its okay… you’re normal.
I am not normal, she counters. I’m… extraordinary.
Humor aside, maybe Brennan’s on to something.
Maybe we should consider abandoning our quest to be normal.
Maybe we should aim for extraordinary instead.
So if there’s any of you today feeling like, what’s wrong with me, or when will I ever be normal, just know that there’s at least someone else who feels the same way. Someone else who knows, I’ll never be the way they want me to be.
But maybe I don’t care.
Maybe I don’t want to be normal.
Maybe I want to be extraordinary.
So here’s a toast: to a greater abnormal.
May we have the guts to pursue it.