Did you feel normal growing up? The Rocker’s friend back in Jersey, a guy from his early high school heavy metal band years, asked me this question the other day. He was writing a paper for his college upper-level Psych course and had to interview someone from another generation. By that I think he meant a “senior!” Why he picked the mom who served bagel dogs and root beer after school is beyond me. Needless to say, I was flattered.
“When you were growing up, did you ever think you were abnormal in any way?”
Doesn’t everybody? But that’s not what I said. I said “Yes,” and went on to try and explain how this could be a good thing. I knew I was abnormal because my name didn’t match my foster parents. First of all, I was the only kid I knew with foster parents. My last name belonged to a father who had died in Scranton and a mother who had been crippled in a head-on car crash. Having two moms in two different states wasn’t normal then. No matter how hard I tried, I could never really be their child.
I said that I also felt different because I had strawberry blond hair. But that’s not the same as saying that my signature mane turned almost white in the summer and got redder as the winter sun faded. That I felt like a too tall, skinny, scrawny kid. That my real (biologic) mom, the Flapper, said she could always find me in a crowd. That I made myself a bowl of spaghetti at night before bed to put on some weight. That I dreamed of having jet black hair just so I could fit in and not stand out. Later I would thank my Nana’s mahogany red hair and the Flapper’s platinum blond bob for bestowing their unique recessive genes on me; but as a kid, I was mortified.
“How have your own attitudes toward what’s normal and what’s abnormal changed over the course of your lifetime?”
Now that is a loaded question. First of all, what constitutes a “family” is very different. My hodge-podge of half/step/foster and biologic siblings is pretty tame, or normal today. Marriage equality has leveled the playing field. Growing up with a Jewish step-father in my teen years, with college educated brothers, I stepped out of the cocoon my foster parents had made for me. That little Catholic school girl became a child of the universe, with a rather striking liberal, progressive bent. Except for one thing, I’m pretty much in agreement with most of my current family’s attitudes.
That one thing is the death penalty. My step-father, who was a town judge, must have had some effect on me since even the Flapper was against the death penalty. For years I differed with the rest of my loved ones, like a lone wolf cast adrift whenever the subject came up. My reasoning was subjective; if somebody ever killed one of mine, I’d be the first to retaliate. There were, in my mind, circumstances that should relieve the taxpayer from paying for a monster’s life in prison…like killing a child, a police officer, or planning to ram planes into tall buildings etc.
But my philosophy about government-induced-death has been slowly changing. After reading about “false confessions” and mistaken convictions once DNA evidence was introduced. And knowing how the justice system is rigged toward the wealthy. After seeing how most of the civilized world has stopped killing its prisoners – so much so that the needed chemicals are hard to come by for a lethal injection. And this week, after hearing about the botched execution in Oklahoma, it became harder for me to justify my pro-death penalty stance. I could rant about pro-lifers not caring about the children born into poverty, and yet I found myself in their camp, a double paradox, when it came to the death sentence.
Then I read why those two prisoners were on death row. http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/04/30/why-were-the-two-inmates-in-oklahoma-on-death-row-in-the-first-place/?tid=pm_national_pop And now I wonder why the gun lobby doesn’t try to bring back the firing squad. And I’m only half kidding.