Sometimes I stare into the mirror and just reflect. Today while I was watching myself watch myself, I wondered what exactly I could offer in a romantic relationship–ya know, standard morning thoughts. If this post were clickbait, then I’d say what I thought of will shock you, and number 5 will blow your ass off. But this isn’t clickbait, and it’s not a list, and the theoretical number 5 might not even be that funny–I haven’t planned that far ahead. This morning, looking in the mirror, thinking of love and joy and romantic unions, I realized something incredible: I am exactly the same as Norm Peterson from the 1980’s sitcom Cheers. My hair is a lot longer, but that’s neither here nor there.
It is a testament to the decade that I feel I should take a moment and talk about the life of Norm: what made the man, what he stood for. Norm stood for nothing. Most of the time he was on screen he was sitting at a bar, but sitting at that bar Norm definitely stood for something. For the 11 years Cheers aired we never clearly saw Norm’s wife, but we heard about her in detail: complaints, complaints disguised as stories, and 11 years spent drinking instead of at home characterized Norm’s relationship with his wife Vera. He loved her, but almost everything we ever heard about her was evidence of a suffering marriage.
Now, I’m not saying I complain a lot, but I feel a real connection to a man who can sarcastically recount endless tales of a person nobody ever sees, a man who can talk at length about a person nobody else knows, and from this I assume he gets some manner of catharsis. I think I could do the same, and I also don’t think Vera exists, or even could exist.
I realized what I bring to a relationship is such a toxic combination of bitterness and humor that only a theoretical woman could love me for it. I think Norm is similar, and I don’t think Vera existed because who could handle such caustic words from their significant other for an entire marriage or even a second date. This isn’t something to pity either. It’s magical. Norm wasn’t lonely and devoid of love; he was just so autonomous that he could create for himself everything he needed to survive: a full life beyond the bar where he spent all his time. Norm is an incredible specimen of self reliance. Here is a person who invented a marriage as a kind of social alibi. He isn’t a sad bachelor beyond his prime wasting away at a bar chatting with an insufferable mailman; he’s a bitter husband–who is also wasting away at a bar chatting with an insufferable mailman.
Thinking about Norm, I wonder how many Norm-equivalents there are out there. How many people putting a slight rhetorical spin on their life to make themselves more socially standard. The criteria of Norm-Hood are only evident in personality. A man can be a Norm, a woman can too. A person outside the gender binary can be a Norm; anyone has that option so long as they are utterly self sufficient crafters of their own reality. How many people lying, not because they have to, but because they don’t care to be involved in–and I have to say this–social norms. I envision an optimistic future in which I can just lie to my family instead of telling them, that I’m too bitter and apathetic to want to find a nice lady and do the dating. I can tell them that I do have a girlfriend and she uhh, she goes to a different school. Then we can move on to a different topic, and my family and friends can stop wondering what’s wrong with me.