How different is "too different?"

Apart from a near miss constitutional amendment, life here in the USA is still pretty much “be who you are and that’s just fine.” In the eyes of the law anyway. You can prefer to have sex with which ever gender pleases you, worship whichever diety does best by you, wear whatever kind of clothes (within the bounds of “decency”), hairstyle, quantity of makeup or eyewear you see fit.

But there are some activities associated with “being who you are” that can land you in jail and result in circumstances which severely impair your ability to be who you are. Stuff like robbing, raping, indiscriminate nambling, lynching, ingesting various disapproved substances, etc. You know the list. Sometimes, being who you are can get you executed! So, it’s OK to be different from a recognized “average,” but apparently some restraint is called for. A line has been drawn at which we must sacrifice part of “who we are” in favor of…whatever the opposite of anarchy is.

Some people eye the mentally ill with some concern as perhaps being ON that line between unrestricted freedom and close monitoring–the anticipation being present that they might up and hurt themselves or somebody else, or damage property. Others concern themselves with preventing the destruction of a social fabric which they prefer. Still others go so far as to not tolerate anyone or anything that hinders their pursuit of happiness–which as I’ve indicated is not always amenable to the rest of us.

Where would you have that line be drawn? At what point should the collective “us” step in and restrain an individual?

Interesting question. I’ve always supported the concept that society can enact laws that govern human behavior in the community at large. Obscenity laws, pan-handling laws, noise abatement etc…

As the social norms change, so do these laws.

I have no idea how different is too different. BUT, if you dress, speak, or otherwise comport yourself in a manner deliberately designed to shock the bourgiosie, DON’T complain about people treating you badly because you “choose to be different”!

Nicely stated. I’ve been trying to compose the same thought but missed the obvious “deliberately designed to shock” angle.

Continuing in the train of thought brought up by BrotherCadfael, if your (or anyone’s) idea of different is something that makes people who observe you say “Damn, that is one cool guy, I wish I had the gumption to be like him” - that’s a socially acceptable version of different. If your (or anyone’s) idea is to be different in such a way that it makes people afraid of you, or to say “Damn, dude, what is wrong with you?” - then your concept of different is a deviation from the norm. Despite the freedom to be the kind of person you want, there are certain limits, often unspoken but always implied, to the amount of difference that society will tolerate.

We can’t do anything about people from wanting to be the antisocial kind of different, until they prove themselves to be a danger to those around them. I’m not sure about the rules about being a danger to yourself - it may not be illegal, but one can get locked up for it, if it’s that serious. Where society should step in is when a person’s difference makes them a clear danger. But of course, there aren’t enough social workers in the world to weed out that type of person. They often go undetected for years until they do something to get themselves noticed.

What the hell is “indiscriminate nambling”?

I know this is not the point of the OP, but I did think it was worthwhile to point out that that isn’t really necessarily the case - there are plenty, and I mean PLENTY, of state laws that interfere a great deal with that sort of thing. Some of them are largely unenforced - here there are a bunch of sodomy laws that generally go unenforced - but some are. I can’t buy liquor on a Sunday. Stores in certain counties can’t even be open on Sunday - the Lexington county Wal-Mart at midnight Saturday ropes off most of the store until 1:30 Sunday afternoon, because they’re not allowed to sell basically anything but food and shampoo (and a few other things).

I know that’s not what you were asking for in the OP, but when we’re discussing “how different is too different” it’s useful to realize that in many places the decision has been made for you. Jesus dosen’t want you to buy clothes after midnight on Saturday, but he dosen’t mind if you go to a Wal-Mart in another county to do it. :slight_smile:

Through a rigorous scientific process, I have determined that this is “too different.”

(“Oh, wow, Deja Vu!”)

Stop people at the point where their differentness begins to impinge on my differentness? If I am a quiet, neurotic intellectual and my downstairs neighbor is a speed metal fan, he should definitely listen to his music through headphones, so that my quiet is preserved.

Damn, how did you get your hands on those pics? Thought I had all the negatives :slight_smile:

Maybe it is not lines we draw but circles. Consider Thomas Jefferson’s explanation of liberty…that our rightful liberty is the “… unobstructed action according to our will within the limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others.” I always like to think that if your circle stays out of my circle I need to leave you alone. At the point our circles intersect we gotta do some negotiating. I know this is not the exact flavor of the OP but I think it adds some value when we consider differentness also; ie, if you want to not bathe and not take your “medication” I can’t offer much argument. But if you want to not bathe and not take your “medication” and serve my dinner when I go into a restaurant…you are in my circle now and I will take issue with your behavior; with your differentness.

On the contrary, this is a huge idea because it allows for different opinions of “your circle” and what significance it has when yours intersects mine or someone else’s. Your circle and mine may intersect without conflict because we share a common belief that ants are gods and we must offer human sacrifices to their mounds. But should your circle intersect with someone who believes strongly that the opposite is true, well then we got problems. Very useful concept.


Too different.

OK, I may have found a definition of TOO DIFFERENT

This guy is clearly meowing for attention.


Whatever the differences between the two circles, if there is no basis for negotiation then someone is too different. You can differ from the norm as much as you like, so long as you are still able to be a functioning member of the society you live in, and so long as your differentness does not impinge on the rights, dignity and peace of mind of at the very least the majority of people.

As a very feeble example: I was a punk in the early 80’s, when I was a student in England. Little old ladies had no hesitation in coming up to me and asking me for the time. When I came back to Italy, my appearance offended and scared people. I grew my mohawk and took the ring out of my nose, because my aim was not to be shunned by society at large, and however much I railed against people’s closed minds, it was unlikely that I was going to manage to revolutionise their thinking all by myself.

This is not to say that I think we should all conform to a blueprint of good behavior, or that some battles to change people’s mindsets are not worth fighting, but some form of compromise is necessary. There is a limit to the amount of differentness that we can inflict on other people.

My bf and I were having lunch a couple of weeks ago in a trendy area of town. We saw a guy walking down the street with a blue mohawk, leather jacket with spikes, and combat boots, and no one even seemed to bat an eye. I thought it was pretty funny since the guy was obviously trying to be “different.” It’s funny that what used to be outrageous is now little more noticeable than any other style.

There is a diference between “tolerance” and “acceptance”. Tolerance means I don’t need to accept your desire to be a walking freakshow, but I respect your right to not be ridiculed and harrased because of it.

I believe that a person’s appearance is a reflection of how they want the world to perceive them. I don’t know if there is a hard and fast rule of what’s “too diferent”. I will, however, generally avoid someone who appears to go out of their way to stand out as someone who wants to not fit in.


I had intended the term “nambling” to be a derivative of NAMBLA. Basically, to exercise one’s preferences as a NAMBLA member. After Googling the word just for grins, I discovered it is the term that refers to online gambling. Guess it still fits. Thanks for asking.


I’ve seen him before. That all had to be done without anaesthetic, you know. Something to do with having to have a doctor to administer the anaesthetic, and he’d have lost his licence because of the nature of the procedure, or something.

Dude has facial implants, too - to make it more cat-shaped. I think he was on tv - when they interviewed him he didn’t seem nearly as out-there as a lot of other people I’ve known.