Heather Tinkham 6/19/2010 Sociology Breaking Social Norms I chose to do my assignment on a norm that I didn t know existed until

I broke it. While sitting in a local movie theater, something made me remember my late husband and I started to cry. Well in my current mental state, once I begin to cry it is impossible to stop. So there I sit, in the middle of the Rave s front lobby, by myself, crying. It was awful once I remembered where I was and what I was doing. I felt immediate embarrassment, and awkward. When I finally stopped enough to become aware of my surroundings, I looked up to find not 1 but three Rave employees walking towards me, one with tissues, the other 2 with worried looks on their faces. I was asked if everything was okay, and if there was anything they could do for me, and I was asked, so politely, if I would like to sit in the manager s office while I got my bearings , like I was on a ship. I declined the office, but I went to the ladies room and composed myself, and on the walk there, I noticed the half a dozen people surrounding the bench I was on. No one said anything but some pretty fun stares and some other looks, which I m not sure what they meant so I wont comment, but a few were almost hostile, like I would go postal at any second. So based on this occurrence, I took it upon myself to test out this social norm I had never thought about. I decided to find normally fun places; I picked three to see if there was any variation based on the size of the establishment and age of the establishments target group. Once I picked the place, I had to refine my strategy. What exactly would be the norm? At first, I thought maybe it was too awkward for people to see a perfect stranger so intimately displaying themselves. And while I believe this was some of the reason for the worst reactions, I think there is a different norm here, which I inadvertently broke. Normal humans, at least the majority of us, like to believe that everyone but us is relatively happy. The grass is greener, theory. So to see a stranger, in a so-called entertainment facility, sit and cry, pretty hard, hits a deep nerve, that reminds us that maybe everyone has problems. And not only that, but also, you then feel a sense of hopelessness, because this person you don t know is obviously hurting, and you cant help or even offer basic comfort, because you are a stranger. This is a hard lesson to be taught at a movie theater. So, I took the experience at the Rave as my first experiment. While I received many odd stares, and both curious and worried looks, none of the observers said anything directly to me. The only words I even overheard were from this adorable little boy, who had to be around 4 or 5, asked his mom, Momma, why is she crying, was Shrek sold out for her, too? This, from a child, made me realize just how odd I must have looked to the public.

as my sister commented he looked at you like you were violating him. overall. those under 8 or so. The reason I picked Putt-Putt is because it was my husband s favorite place in fort Wayne. While I was sitting alone in the car. It was at this point I realized. a popsicle stick with a face painted on it from a little boy. almost sobbing. What I didn t expect was the instant sadness when I pulled in and parked my car. and I can t say their notes are the most trustworthy at this point. During this unscheduled break. im okay response. and told the kids to run inside. So I called in an assistant. because I could hear them giggling for the full half hour I sat there. At this point. sitting at a table by myself. which I thanked him for and moved on. not only did I learn that people are more shut down and tunnel vision while in the mall. mostly older women. again with my SSCA s Amanda and Morgan. She walked up and asked if I was okay. My last foray into the social norm experiment found me at Putt-Putt. mostly younger college age. They reported that a few people. In the half-hour I sat there slightly crying (because I also learned its hard to cry while watching kids on the carousel) I was offered 3 hugs from girls. because the parking lot gave me enough to write about. my sister Amanda. and if I needed anything. But I felt so much love from children and such support from those too young to realize even a crying person is still an unknown entity and should be left alone. and I lost count of the offers to ride the ride with the unicorn or horsie. because they are 16 and in the mall with cute boys. on a Saturday around 3 pm. which wasn t a scheduled cry for the experiment. who brought along her best friend Morgan. We ll for the first time during this experiment I didn t give the normal no. I felt mostly concern and some slight derision. I sat at a table next to the carousel . because that s my favorite and makes me feel better! So. but I also learned that children. softly crying. and that this was our favorite place to have date night and I just started talking to her about all of it. And a few guys. While conducting this second leg of my experiment. I started crying. This part of the experiment ended before I made it inside. looked disgusted. I started the day out at Starbucks. We retried the experiment on a bench next to Sears and H&M. which is the feeling I got from the parents of the children who offered me pretty much whatever was at hand. I told her about my husband and his suicide. taking notes. not the experiment but the grief and all of that stuff. I know this. . who took to calling themselves the social scientist crazy assistants or SSCA as they kept repeating randomly all day. that if I am crying I cant tell if people are giving facial expressions that I can t see. the only reaction I noticed was a nice older gentleman asked if I d like a tissue. The last place we tried was the most fun. No one approached me while I seated there. from young adults. I was sitting on the bench and they were inside the door to Sears. a wonderful lady in her late 60 s with her 4 grandkids. would show signs of concern or worry through facial expressions. I told my assistants to run in and purchase the tokens I had to bribe them with to get them to help me. so that there was an abundance of people to violate? . and we had our last date there for Valentines day and I knew it wouldn t be hard to cry there. to make me feel better. at the mall. personally. it was real. are curious and they aren t fans of sadness in others.My second experiment I played out at Glenbrook Mall. while my SSCA s sat across from me. pulled up next to me.

and no longer offer our Popsicle sticks or favorite seats on a merry-g-round. all I need is to sit by the merry-go-round at the mall. and awkward in the vicinity of such obvious anguish and sorrow. someday. It wasn t until I had been offered help by a child that I realized how different the help offered is from an adults. and how the child s obvious need to help others grows out of us until we can just glance at such sadness. and she always took it upon herself to see if others who are distraught need anything. especially if that person is acting outside of what we consider normal behavior. as she said. And how anything offered by a child is so much more sincere than anything offered by an adult. without trying or even knowing about it.Well as I found out after. or in my case the woman who cries at everything . the lady at Putt-Putt. and she. It was much easier to understand this norm. and hearing how closely related our stories were. I may need something. she had lost her husband of 39 years last fall. I believe breaking this norm. This experiment didn t teach me much about the adult population I didn t already know. and I don t want to be the boy who cried wolf. and there are always children there to offer everything you could need from a stranger. messes with people on an emotional level. because young kids haven t yet been taught to offer something without truly meaning it. too had been caught in parking lots and aisles crying. Like I stated in the beginning. . it calls into question basic theories we all believe to be true. But I did learn that if I am ever feeling sad or lonely. After meeting Ruth. It makes us feel helpless in the face of the unknown. because. we are pretty tied up in our own lives and have a hard time offering support or help to perfect strangers. we so often violated in our grief.

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