It is a terrible habit this. Categorizing people. But the urge to categorize people is so overwhelming that sometimes it is best to succumb.
There are the Conformists. They study the right things… they marry right at the right time… they have the prescribed number of children for that generation… they earn… they holiday… they die. All the time following the rules. All of them. All the time.
Then there are the Non-conformists. They marry – they don’t marry. They procreate. They don’t. They hitch hike across the world. They live in a studio apartment forever. They indulge all their senses. They break most of the rules. Scoff at the rest.
And then there are the most Gordian of the three. The closet non-conformists. They are in neither category and spend their entire lives sitting on the fence wondering if they have the courage to take the leap to where they truly belong.
One or two even manage to break a rule or two. But the tragedy is they can never break them all. The bigger tragedy is that the one rule they broke – they can never admit to why they broke it. They shuffle around it. They camouflage it and dress it up. They cover it up like a covert CIA operation.
“I didn’t marry because I didn’t find the right person ( not because I think marriage is stupid). “
“We didn’t have kids because we have a grueling schedule or we will get round to that eventually ( not because we think kids are just a paean to our personal vanity and hence completely unnecessary if we aren’t vain enough to think our genes deserve to be replicated)”
“I quit my job because my boss was terrible” ( not because I just don’t like being chained to anything and I don’t really need much for survival. Especially since I am never getting married or having kids)”
The conformists have it relatively the easiest. The path is illuminated in front of them with big neon flashing signage. The TV tells them which TVs to buy and their mothers tell them which women will make the best mothers. The teachers tell them what careers are best and they in turn tell their children the same. The whole circle completes itself beautifully. They scrape together their bonuses and celebrate by taking that vacation in Bangkok with a travel company or if they are rich they holiday three times a year. They fight their little battles with their bosses and their maids. They cry themselves to sleep when the husband beats them silly and smile when they patch up things in the morning. They even stand up for themselves when the building society demands a unjustified hike in maintenance. But that is it. Small little battles that follow the rules. No big wars.
The non conformists spend their entire lives fighting a battle too. A bigger one perhaps. But they have prepared for it. They are armed to the teeth with their little theories and their ill disguised scorn for the conformists. Their battle is almost pleasurable to them. They enjoy the discomfiture of the people around them while they jump the red signals of life. They almost are laughing at the others all the time. Of course they must have hard days too but for the most part they cut the umbilical cord connecting them to the rest of civilization a long time ago and hence feel no affiliation. An indifference.
But the sorriest situation by far is of the closet non conformists. Their minds are always in a completely different plane from their bodies. Everyday is a battle in the truest sense of the word. They don’t enjoy this battle primarily because it is mostly with themselves. They know what they want to be and are not brave enough or strong enough to be all of it.
They pack their tiffins and go to work when they would rather stare at the sky and think about alternative galaxies with alternative life forms. They wear their formal best and congratulate the couple at weddings when they would rather wear their torn jeans and lie on the beach for hours talking to whoever happens to be available.
They watch as non conformists go mapping the desert with only the clothes on their back. They fight the urge to leave their own oases to join them everyday. And win easily. But it is a hollow victory. Because they want to lose.