Written by Lili la Scala


Typical woman

Lili la Scala’s normal probably isn’t your normal but, she says, huge danger lies in using someone’s outer shell as a guide.

Lili, looking perfectly normal for her.

Lili, looking perfectly normal for her.

The other day, a passing remark bestowed by a family member bothered me. Family often find themselves able to say things that persons unrelated may edit during the journey from brain to tongue. It’s a blessing and a curse.

The comment was innocuous enough and presented as a Great Compliment. They said that their son had never seen me looking so normal.

I’ll frame that for you: I’d been mucking out my horse. I can’t do it in a vintage gown so there may have been boots and jeans and no makeup involved (vintage goddesses, don’t judge me!).

I was nonplussed. Was the implication that my usual style is abnormal? When I dissected it over the course of the day, I took it to mean that I looked more like them, as though I had been happily assimilated into the Borg.

But I would never dream of saying to someone, “It is so great to see you’ve embraced the mundane. Go you.” or “It’s lovely to see that you have completely given up caring how you look.”

I know that the way that I usually dress is eccentric and I positively revel in it. It has taken years of work on my self-esteem and confidence to dress in the way that I do. I don’t dress for anyone else, I dress for myself and also for the job in hand. I’d never dream of turning up to work in my yard clothes. Can you imagine walking into a cabaret club in jeans subtly impregnated with the odour of horse shit? It’s highly doubtful that anyone there would consider that normal.

I’m lucky to exist, on the whole, in a world where difference and glamour is celebrated. A world where people of all genders, sexualities, colours and talents glitter upon a spotlit stage but sometimes, outside the safety of the lights, the harsh judgement of the real world creeps in and tries to undermine it.

To tell someone they look ‘normal’ is a hugely dangerous minefield. We all create our own normal. My normal is not like your normal and neither should it contrive to be so. There is huge danger in using the appearance of someone’s outer shell as a hallmark of normality. After all, Rose West and Myra Hindley looked outwardly normal. Who could guess at the barbarity and cruelty flowing through their veins?

“Humanity is not great at dealing with eccentrics; in herd mentality it is important to all be the same to ward off predators.”

I have found that the people who can step outside of the perceived version of normal are actually incredibly brave. It takes guts to march to the beat of your own drum and the way can be littered with sarcastic comment or worse. Over the years, there have been instances of people being murdered because their chosen way of dressing was ‘odd’ or ‘weird’.

My mind springs immediately to the horrendous murder of Sophie Lancaster. For those of you unfamiliar with Sophie’s tragic death in 2007, she and her boyfriend were walking through a park when they were set upon by a group of men apparently incensed by Sophie and Robert’s ‘abnormality’ (they were both goths).

Sophie was kicked into a coma from which she never regained consciousness and died three days later. She died because of how she looked. She died because of the absence of normal.

So, when we see human beings for what they choose to wear on their skin, we create a dangerous and divisive environment. In truth, it doesn’t matter what we wear, what we put on our faces. What actually matters is that you do the things and be the human that you want to be. Be the person that when you look in the mirror you can say to yourself, “You are doing OK, keep going,” for when you strip away our outer layers, fundamentally we are all the same.

lili on a busHumanity is not great at dealing with eccentrics; in herd mentality it is important to all be the same to ward off predators. Never let society’s fear make you hide your light, if your peculiar light makes you happy. In the words of Dr Seuss, we are all a little weird.

It’s human nature to want to give compliments to those for whom we care but we should approach compliments thoughtfully. Personally, I try to stick to compliments that don’t assume anything of the person to whom they’re directed. My favourite is, “It is just so lovely to see you” and I mean it.

We all fight our own battles, some are fighting huge battles and some battles are just with yourself. We should never assume that someone has any plan whatsoever to even attempt to be ‘your normal’. Normal is as normal does and thank goodness for that. What a whitewash of a world we’d live in, should there be no freedom of expression.



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Written by Lili la Scala

Lili la Scala sings a bit, writes a bit and spends more time than is probably necessary discussing the toilet habits of her son. Bona fide vintage addict, though she is sure she sounds less tragic when described as a 'collector'.