WHEN SUMMER AND WINTER MEET


Abstract
When Summer and Winter meet for is when my family and If go to the beach with winter coats on in the middle of the summer. Our Social Deviant Assignment challenged us to step out of our shells and commit an act that is out of social norms. Depending on the degree you are accustomed to in life, can determine a huge or minimal reaction to the people around you. The deviant act that I choose included my two sons, my husband and I. In my paper, I have included people’s responses (both facial/comments), and my sociologist perspective on this occurrence.
Body
Since I am a conformist, I found this project tough. On July 3, 2011, at 12:30am, at the Indiana Dunes, my family and I ventured to the beach and committed an act of defiance. I chose this time because I knew the beach would be filled with families since the Kids Fun Activity at the Visitor Center was going on at 1:00pm that day. I tried to set up the event in my family’s heads about how it was going to happen few days prior to the day. I let them pick their coats, hats, gloves, etc. to make it more fun for them but no one was happy about this including myself. By the time D-Day came around, there was a bit of arguing and dismay in the car prior to the event, but I did threaten with lunch and who was going to have it if they did not participate. Why threatening works with my family is beyond me. After all that stress, I went with it and brought my family with me because I felt more comfortable committing such an act with others versus myself. My husband and I did a recon of the area and thought it would be best to walk straight up the center of beach where it seem hundreds of people were already stationed. There was a mix of family, young adults and a handful of elderly people. We would commit the act for 5 – 10 minutes because I was concerned about the heat and the kids. Also, he would take the kids ahead of me so I could view people’s reaction.

As I stayed in the car getting the kids dressed for a blizzard, my husband placed our blanket and belongings out in our section up by the water. He came back and said, “Ready?” I thought to myself, well here goes nothing. We walked on the pavement to the beach entry and passed a few people who seemed busy with their own belongings; I felt relieved and thought no problem so far. As we approached the beach on a perfect sunny day, we started to pass several families’ that were headed in the opposite direction. The best thing about walking at the back of the pack was the people’s reaction. Some people looked, glanced and then looked away. As we entered into the open sea of people, that is when our deviant project took its turn. I heard a few children who were about 5 – 7 yrs old ask their parents why those kids are wearing coats. Some responses were mind your own” and one interesting comment was, “Honey they must be cold”. As our trudge through the sand with flip flops, bathing suits, winter coats, hats and gloves continued, the looks of confusion, staring and shaking of heads was carried by most around us. As we approached our little section of the beach, some boys around 10 – 13 years old started to point which embarrassed my older son. I could tell things were going to start getting heated with the Armstrong Family. As we plopped ourselves onto our beach chairs, an elderly couple came up to us and said, “Sweetie, it’s not safe for your kids to have those warm coats on in this weather. Are you not from around here?” At that moment, I had to stop our little experiment and graciously commented back to the lady. The moment I relieved my family of their duties, it was like to sun coming up for the first time.

I have a theory on life which is actions speak louder than words. I have found several pictures that will explain how people reacted and my thought process to their actions.
EMBARASSED. As my family and I walked up on the pavement, my thought was people were too occupied with their own belongings to notice us, but I believe they had seen us and did not want to get involved with whatever they perceived us doing. Instead, they made themselves look busy.

CONFUSED. The combination of looking away and confusion by others at the beach was an overall expression. As for our reaction, my husband is a trooper and kept his head straight and held onto the kids. He had tunnel vision and was not going to stop walking until he arrived at our blanket. Our kids on the other hands, one like the attention and the other one complained of being hot. Myself, I had a little smirk on my face ready to apologize to anyone who would listen. Again, like I said in the beginning, I am a conformist and do not like to step out on a limb.

POINTING OF FINGERS. This happens by mostly young children and some young adults who seem to be in high school. I was more concerned for my children’s feelings than my own at this point. As an adult, I know what scrutiny may feel like, but for their little egos, they may not understand. As for comments made (i.e.: they must not be from around here) with the finger
pointing, I was angry at some of the comments made. As a Jr. Sociologist, I tried to take myself out of the situation and critically think things through.

HAND ON THE HIPS. The elderly couple who was genuinely concerned might as well come over and had their hands on their hips. For the others who shook their heads and had their hands on their hips, I wish I could hear what they were thinking. As for the lady, she was genuinely nice, but as a mother, I was upset with myself because the heat was a concern of mine prior to starting the project. I had to bite my tongue and say, “Oh thank you and yes we are from around here.” It made me feel naive which I am not.
The several ideas that helped me assess the situation was: values system and understanding norms through gestures, Dramaturgy, Cooley’s concept on self-development and looking-glass theory, conformity/groupthink, and racism with prejudice attitudes and discrimination.

Our values are present cultural standards by which we determine what is good or bad, right or wrong. Then tying in the idea of norms which are rules developed for appropriate behavior based on specific values that are conditional. Wearing our winter clothes challenged both society’s values and familiar norms. The gestures, which were pointing of fingers and shaking of heads in disapproval, placed our behavior in the BAD or WRONG category. Just a handful of people smiled at us out of courtesy.

The Theory of Dramaturgy, developed by Erving Goffman, is the interaction in which all life is like acting impression that the performer makes on others. The front stage, or what the audience sees, that part of ourselves that we present to others; whereas, the back stage is the demeanor that incorporates our true feelings and beliefs. I was an actor in my own scene. With my casual smile and look of embarrassment, the people probably did not say very much to me because they could feel that vibe that this wasn’t right. As for my back stage, I wanted to crawl in a hole and abandon the project because I felt humiliated.

Cooley has three main stages to self-development. The first step is we imagine how we appear to others, and then we draw general conclusions based on the reactions of others. Lastly, based on our evaluations of other’s reactions, we develop our sense of personal identity. This entire process is referred to as Cooley’s Looking Glass Theory. I interpreted my 11 year olds behavior during this act of deviance. My son is in his “tween” age and wants to be socially accepted by his peers. Even though we did not know anyone there, he decided to act silly in the situation versus be embarrassed like myself. Kaden thought to act silly and foolish creating more attention to the situation. He has been known to be a class clown and not always act within the social norms. With this said, he sees himself as funny (which he is often) at any expense.

Conformity is the degree to which we will alter our behavior, attitudes and views to fit into our perceived expectation of what is appropriate.In this situation, I wanted to conform to the majority rather than opposing members of the group. I wanted to identify with the people around me and fill the expectations of what you wear to the beach. By committing this deviance act, I gave up my freedom of choice to be part of an out group. Going along with conformity, is the idea of Groupthink. This is the term for a group’s decision to conform to what they believe is the consensus of the rest of the group. When a strong leader and group cohesiveness is present, groupthink is more likely to occur; which in this case, my husband and our family unit made a decision to wear our winter stuff on the beach and no one was going to stop us! At one point, we were psyching ourselves up to commit this act.

One of Grave’s five pillars of racist is “races have genetic differences that determine intelligence”. With the basis of this specific pillar, the negative attitude and unfair treatment from certain individuals towards my family, they might as well called me stupid at the same time as they glared. I took the comment “are you not from around here” as an ethnic comment since it was not the first time I have been asked this question. I understand the woman was trying to be nice, but she was trying to impose her views on the safety of my children. Although I did agree with her, she made it a point to educate me. I found this offensive. Why did the woman only look at me and say something? My husband was right there. Is it because he is a white male and intimidating in stature? Or he does not look approachable? Or is it because I am only 5’1”, a woman and a minority? She might as well have asked me if I knew how to speak English because that has been a question I have heard before also.

Therefore my summer event that included winter acts was an eye opening experience in some sense. The ability to take myself out of a situation and interpret the scenario from a Jr. Sociologist’s point of view is a humbling experience.

References


Introduction to Sociology: Lecture 3 – The Sandbox, Chapters 3-5
Introduction to Sociology: Lecture 4 – US and the Others, Chapter 6-7
Introduction to Sociology: Lecture 6 – Flight of the Human Race, Chapters 10-11