Healthy Normal American Boy

That’s what we sang back in 1976, when my small-town high school tackled a production of Bye Bye Birdie.

High school was not a shining social series of glory days for me.  I was always the last person chosen for teams in gym – at least, the last person before the captains were reduced to selecting from the dregs, those tough girls with black teeth and big bellies and vacant eyes who smoked in the bathrooms and beat up nerds like me.  I hated and feared gym class so much that I spent one whole semester hiding out in the library.  Earned a grade of 67% on my report card that fall – this, from a straight-A student.   I hated and feared the girls’ bathrooms so much that I peed illegally in a staff one hidden in the music wing.

I played violin in the school orchestra, a benighted ensemble that they always scheduled first at concerts (blatant audience entrapment).   My violin teacher never brushed his teeth.  He was a good kind man who despaired over me and who has no doubt gone on to the afterlife of his choice.  But those green fuzzy protruding teeth and the social death orchestra entailed led me eventually to  pack my instrument away.

I didn’t make the cheerleading squad, either.  At least not the right one.  I was, for several memorable weeks, a third-tier wrestling cheerleader.  We wore remarkably ugly 30-year-old itchy wool uniforms, the dregs of the athletic closets handed down through several sweaty generations.  The football cheerleaders sneered at us.  The basketball cheerleaders jeered at us. The wrestlers themselves found us depressing and disheartening.

To top it all off (or not), I was flat-chested and near-sighted and (given all these glories) rather quiet.

bye_bye_birdieSo it was a shock to everyone but me for me to be chosen to play the lead in our musical.

In truth, all the other girls wanted to play the adorable Kim MacAfee, the sweet apple selected for Conrad’s last kiss.  Me?  I got the Rosie role because I already looked middle-aged and I had dark hair – which could pass for Hispanic in our white-bread world.  As an outcast, I was free to cast out my inhibitions.  Having flunked gym and plunked out one too many pizzicato pieces and shrunk away from the Toe Hold Cheer, I was ready for anything.

These days?  I’m not ready for our Cannibal Cop.  As I read the news this morning (something I do my best to avoid), I was Rosie again, embroiled in a massive messy public relations stunt and poised to belt out,

For he’s a fine, upstanding, patriotic, healthy, normal American boy!

The Cannibal Cop’s cyber-plots were “pure fiction,” defense attorney Julia Gatto told jurors last week, “no more dangerous than a Stephen King novel or a horror movie . . . harmless sexual proclivities shared by many men on specialist websites.”

Now listen here! This gossip must stop!
He goes to church each Sunday and he doesn’t touch a drop!
He’s as decent as a minister!
He’s as sober as a judge!
He subscribes to ev’ry charity!
And his hobby’s making fudge!

Last time I made fudge, it didn’t involve chains or blood or fires (although I did roast some pecans and bled a bit when I chopped my finger along with the nuts).

What, then, is normal?

I admit to being jealous of my lingerie drawer on occasion.  My husband is a fan of 1940’s-style fashions and foundations, and at personally insecure moments I sometimes suspect he’s more interested in historically accurate costuming than he is in me.  Husband will snort at this misguided notion, of course.  But there it is.

It is fair, I think, to call his interest in seamed stockings normal — “a harmless sexual proclivity shared by many men.”  And by women – those hose are actually rather impossibly fun, as long as one doesn’t have to live one’s life trussed up in them.

(I’m a sucker for cheap alliteration.  “Those hose” is wrong grammatically, but they ain’t wrong morally or culturally or ethically.)

It is not fair to spin the Cannibal Cop’s interests on some spit of normalcy, to claim that the existence of a thing justifies its existence or to fall back on the “everybody’s doing it” defense.  Everybody is not doing it.  And, technically, he didn’t do it, either.  So I’m willing to bet that the case will be dropped, and our prurient interest will soon shift to the next big-news atrocity.

My grammy had a little plaque in her kitchen that read, “People are No Damned Good.”  It hung beside another that said, “God Will Provide” – she had hope, but few illusions.

We’ve always had weirdos and whackos – people who are no damned good just get more publicity, now.  It’s the fallen cop’s weird whacked lawyers who fascinate me.  They’re more debased than he is.  Could anyone really be paid enough to stand in court and sing, in his defense,

. . . he’s a fine upstanding, av’rage, modest, patriotic, healthy, normal American, American boy?

Years ago, my sister pieced together a film of my high school musical that her husband happened to discover interspersed on reels of old football footage.  What a hoot!  I may have to watch it again tonight, just to sing along.  I could even wear hose and heels, and act the part.  Husband would like that.


Normal American Boy song lyrics from the soundtrack CD “Bye Bye Birdie” are property & copyright of their owners & provided for educational purposes.

Educational – ha!  Find more at

One thought on “Healthy Normal American Boy

  1. A Dog Lover

    Since I don’t watch the evening news, I was blissfully unaware of this twisted individual until your blog post. I don’t think, even in the world of kink, that rape, murder and cannibalism could be classed as “normal” at all. Far from it.

    Hope they find something to stick him in jail with, because if they turn him loose, he WILL eventually carry out the plot. He was well on the way with systematic desensitization and having identified desirable targets.


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