What is the new normal?

Put simply, the new normal is the normal that is currently substituting what is actually normal by normal standards. This is because what is actually normal is not normal at the moment. And what is now normal would not be considered normal in normal times. That’s the new normal, got it?

So, there’s an “old” normal and a new normal?

No, old normal is simply normal, whereas the new normal is what is normal now. If the new normal becomes normal, then normal will no longer be normal. If that happens, new normal will be normal, but a weirder version of normal. Whereas normal will become weird. Hope that clears it up!

I’m still not understanding the distinction.

Ok, let's use an example. Think of a bowl of fruit. Can you still buy fresh fruit where you are? Must be nice. Alright, so imagine you’ve left your house in complete liberty and purchased different kinds of fruit and put them in a lovely big bowl.

First, you eat a crunchy Granny Smith apple. You’ve done this a million times, so it’s normal. Next, you retrieve the biggest object and put it on the table: it's an exotic durian fresh from the Indonesian jungle. Sure, you’ve never actually bought one of these in your life, but there’s a first time for everything. You’re a girl who likes variety, and variety is normal. Except now your house smells like raw sewerage that has been left out in the sun. Human waste coated in rat vomit. Oh god, it's the durian! This monstrosity is stinking up your house.

You open the windows but the smell won’t go away. You grab the nearest facemask, but it’s not blocking the odor which is intensifying by the second. Hiding in your bathroom, you take a moment to reflect on why you just paid $40 for the football-sized ball of puke now sitting dangerously on the kitchen bench like an undetonated WW2 bomb found in someone’s herb garden. Ask yourself what motivated you to buy a fruit you can’t afford, and that will now be thrown away because the smell is making you suicidal. Who are you trying to impress, Sarah?

That’s new normal.

Wait—so the new normal stinks like rat vomit?

Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. I'm going to take it back a step and clarify that there is nothing strictly “bad” about the new normal. Rules, laws, standards are constantly evolving. Even people change and it's entirely normal. Indeed, sometimes, new normal is even better than actual normal.

Take my Aunt Zoe, who changed a whole bunch. Zoe, my mother’s sister, was a forgettable wallflower who devoted her life to scrapbooking and little else. One Christmas, she came to lunch like she always did, but this time a different person. She was literally a different person. I mean, she looked the same and sounded the same. But it was like her soul had been torn from her body, discarded, then replaced with something unspeakably evil. And her eyes. They had lost their gentle sparkle and were dead, dead, dead. Even as a child, I knew that whatever had invaded her earthly shell wanted to harm me, my family and indeed, humankind.

My fears were confirmed was walking home from school a few weeks later. A voice, almost a growl, whispered my name. At first, I didn’t know where it was coming from, since the street was empty of people. But I kept hearing it, my name, like the hiss of snake, over and over again.

“Sarah, Sarah, Saraaaah!”

From inside the sewer drain, Aunt Zoe was calling to me in a voice that would have scared Pennywise. She asked me to come a tad closer, just a couple of steps, child, and take the pretty red balloon in her hand.

I hollered that it was a trap, and that I was going to tell mom and dad. Zoe laughed humorlessly—human emotions gone—and said they would one day enslave all of humankind. She was going to make me one of them.

From that day on, Christmas became a battle of wits.

She was the predator, body-snatched by some hostile alien race. I was her unwilling prey, terrified of making eye contact. The dog went missing. I carried a switchblade and developed seasonal irritable bowel from the stress of it all.

Finally, when I was about 12, my aunt married someone from her scrapbooking group and moved away. By then, I’d gotten so used to being terrified, repulsed and fearful at Christmas and the day never again felt normal for me. Normal didn’t feel normal to me. I realized that with enough time, a person can grow accustomed to even the most unacceptable of circumstances. New normal can become normal.

Oh God, that must have been a terrible experience!

It was, but then 2020 came along and I realize that maybe Aunt Zoe wasn't so bad after all. At least Christmas wasn't boring when she was around.

Speaking of Christmas, will everything be back to normal by then?

Sure, it will. Or not. Does anyone really know the difference anymore?