Why half-past normal? Think of the Bell Curve
This is not to offend all the “normal” people out there. If you are not normal, and happily so, this will make you laugh. If you are not normal, and unhappily so, hopefully this will cheer you up. Here’s a secret – there is no such thing as a ‘normal’ person.
Oh sure, there are ‘average‘ traits people have, but not normal. What the heck, you say. Think of the old bell curve distribution line. Most people are in the middle of the curve, a few are on either side. The folks in the middle represent the average score. Normal is what we call the distribution across the population. Now, before your eyes glaze over, let me explain.
Consider ladies’ shoe sizes (let’s pick American sizes for clarity). Now I am a size 8 1/2. So are a lot of other folks – that’s why there are never any size 8 1/2 left on the sale rack. Everything from size 7 to 9 is gone. What’s left are some tiny size 5 and 6’s and a couple size 10 and 11’s. Most people are the middle sizes, with a few folks with little feet and a few folks with big feet.
If you line us all up according to shoe size you’d see a handful of people with little feet (size 5 and 6’s) and a handful of people with big feet (sizes 10 and 11); but most people would have the middle sizes (my friends with size 7, 8 & 9).
If you did the elementary school “find the mean” (aka average) we’d add ’em up and divide by the number of folks there. The number we got would be the average shoe size of our group of people (which would probably be size 8). The range of shoes sizes across our group of people would be distributed “normally” according to statisticians.
Here’s a secret – to determine the normal distribution of a trait (i.e. shoe sizes) within a population, the trait must be discrete. Huh? That means it must be measurable – like weight, height or shoe size. Not cuteness, intelligence, or work ethic. So all the things we think of as ‘normal‘ really cannot be – at least according to statisticians.
I describe my family as “half-past normal” to make fun of the notion of normal. According to Google definitions normal as an adjective is “conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.” As a noun normal is “the usual, average, or typical state or condition.”
My family is definitely not the usual or typical – but I really don’t know whose family is. I think June Cleaver cornered the market on this one, but even that was not normal, because it was too perfect.
My family is also definitely not average – the combined odds of having two children with two genetically unrelated problems (but both genetically linked – ie. two different random mutations) are 1 in 52 500 000, approximately. (The odds of having a child with Prader-Willi Syndrome are 1 in 15 000 and the odds of having a child with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy are 1 in 3500. The odds of these two unrelated events co-occurring are 1 in 52 500 000. Yes, I should have bought a lottery ticket too;)
So here we are, clearly not normal in any sense, but struggling to do all the ‘normal’ things people do – laundry, grocery shop, cook dinner. That’s why we’re half-past normal.