The Norms or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Stereotype

Let me be honest: it is a pain in the ass to shave on an even semi-regular basis and, frankly, I can’t imagine how women shave their legs and arms and whatever else on a regular basis. But they do (though, personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way). But why is it acceptable for a man to walk around, hairy, generally unkempt and suspicious looking, when the first hint of a woman wearing shorts with a leg’s worth of stubble garners reactions not entirely unlike if we were to see Bigfoot walking down the sidewalk outside the UC? Shock and awe.There is a thing out there called the norm and (I imagine) if you’re a female, it makes things a real drag. Shaving and starving yourself and wearing awful little shorts that cover less than if you were to actually wear the dollar bills you used to pay for them; all to appease the cultural deity known as the norm. But what is this faceless overlord that dictates our daily routine, comfort and tendencies? Who is in charge of the norm and why do we care what they think?Simply put, it’s us. Which is really unfortunate, when you think about, as usual we can blame the old, rich white jerks in charge of pop culture and producing rap albums for our image problems or disrespect for “bitches” and “ho’s”. But, alas, the norm is a creature that resides in each and every one of us and we are all equally responsible for what is, in the end, a subjective sort of normal.A subjective sort of normal is the key term, though. Put a gothic kid in a room full of business men and, sure enough, he will be abnormal. But bring that same gothic kid to some sort of metal show or safety pin convention and the norm suddenly shifts to accept him and his black lipstick.Case in point: the new tight, ridiculously horrible jeans some men are wearing around. Sure, it’s a fad, some sort of emo music trend that’s made the leap from awful musicians sobbing their live journal quality poetry in front of football stadiums full of emotionally out of tune teenagers to a handful of college students that have the legs to squeeze into a thirteen year old girl’s Gap jeans. The way I see it, anyone that sees a male in these jeans (that would make Daisy Duke blush) and isn’t wearing a pair themselves, sees them as extremely abnormal. But as the folks that take it upon themselves to spend thirty minutes a day squeezing into these denim monstrosities don’t spend a lot of time outside of the “ridiculous pants” group, it’s normal to them.Admittedly and unfortunately, some of the norms have deeper roots than stupid pants. For ages women have been expected to be feminine and men masculine. Granted, these days the lines are blurring a tad and men are being encouraged to get in touch with their emotions and women their independence and self-reliance, but an overwhelming since of classic sexual identity remains. This can lead to a sort of subconscious persecution of the different, unique or abnormal and might just cause more problems than tradition is worth.The key is to remember that the norm is an evolving creature and that what is abnormal to you may not be to someone else. I’m not saying that men are going to start wearing skirts any time soon. But hey, it’s 2007, it might just be time for us to start considering some new ideas about ourselves. What is abnormal today might just be normal tomorrow. Keep an open mind, hands and legs inside the ride at all times and remember that the norm is a slave to our will, not the other way around.