S and I had breakfast this morning at a new cafe in City (Mom, it's your favorite restaurant's new cafe, and if you haven't been, you'll love it) (Phantom, it's the new cafe from the restaurant where we had the vegetarian tasting menu) (how's that for in-group blogging?!). It's a lovely little cafe, wood-ceilinged and sun-dappled, with delightful not-your-usual-cafe-food fare, except I did not like the tomato jam which had some kind of spice which left a bad taste in my mouth, but the spice doughnut and leek turnover and fried feta and Greek yogurt were delicious.
But every single person in there was a cliche of a self-important cliche, and not only that, but an unaware cliche of a self-important cliche. Especially the two women my age sitting next to us, discussing their dysfunctional families. But also the middle-aged white gay men. And the private school moms. And, for goodness sake, me and S, the working couple stealing away for a quick Friday morning breakfast.
Now, it is totally OK to be a cliche. I am so much a cliche. You would not believe how cliched and ordinary I am, in my particular brand of liberal, literary, angst-filled, feminist, Jewish mom (yes, I'm talking about you, and you, and you too, even though you're not Jewish). Really, there are about a zillion of me. Which is why my prose is so filled with disavowals and parentheticals.
So I have no problem with being cliched. But thinking you are unique? I have a huge problem with thinking you are unique. Take my word for it, people: very few of us are unique. And those who think they are unique: perhaps the most likely not to be unique.
Now, there are certain life stages in which it is de rigeur (where do the e's and u's go in that word??) to think one is unique. It is completely acceptable to think one is unique in one's adolescent misery. But adolescent misery ends.
It may also be ok to think you are unique if your misery does not end, because misery does feel so wholly individual--even if you know it's not--that its powerful pain may be impossible to conceive of as shared, because the idea of others feeling it is too horrific to bear, on every front.
But...and now we're getting to the point, which perhaps only Libby has anticipated, Judith Warner, you are not weird, you are not unique, and your daughter is not the only girl in the world who does not wear Uggs. You are a typical angst-ridden writer who is a little out of the norm and thinks about things too much. Get over yourself! And, please, do not write about your adolescent daughter's weirdness in the NY Times, because this time next year, or even next month, though you may find it impossible to imagine, she may very well be wearing Uggs and hating you for exposing her to the universe. (And, really, you know that proudly professing your weirdness is simply an invitation for others to reassure you that you are special--or, if you don't...oh god, just go back to therapy already.)
She makes my blood boil. (And, yes, as someone who attempts to be self-aware, I know that I could just not read her, and that my compulsive reading and my fury have some of their roots in my own issues, which I choose not to broadcast at this particular moment, but still!!!)
Edited to add: (Why can't I just let this go?) My point is not that there aren't norms, but that "weird" is its own category, not some dramatic deviation.