It's fun and it's educational

In order to earn a degree in communications I had to take a class in Social Psychology. There were very few classes that made me wonder if I ought to change my major - this was one of them. Not that I think I'd have enjoyed a career in a related field, but because the class was a blast. I wanted more. No, I never did take another, I was on a mission to graduate at a certain time. Adding classes to the required list of credits would have loused that up.

To this day there are several things from this class that float around in my head. Things I see that make me say "A ha! I remember covering that in Social Psych!" Funny, I don't often say that about my ID Science class nor my "Programming in Basic to avoid real math" class.

We were once assigned to challenge a social norm. A classmate spent the day in his medical scrubs. I don't think any of us flinched. Another decided to attend a movie on her own and talk loudly through the whole thing. You can imagine her results.

I had a plan. I needed a helper. We weren't supposed to have them. I made my pitch to the professor. Sure it was easier to buck tradition with an accomplice but really, my project couldn't be done other wise. She agreed, although in the end I think I was docked a few points on my grade for it.

Joe and I hit the mall one deary rainy day. I had such a crush on him, not that he ever knew it. We were pals. He made me laugh. I made him smile, just not as much as his girlfriend did.

We walked a lap around the upper tier looking for the right victim to test our theory on. We found her, or actually them. Three bored employees at a branded jewelry stores. Joe made himself comfortable at the engagement ring counter. I stood behind him with a hand on his shoulder - perhaps not totally necessary for the assignment to be successful, but do remember my crush.

Predictably the sales person waiting on us would take rings from the case and hand them to me while she directed her conversation on price to Joe. She started with a big hunk of marquis-cut diamond. Before I could speak, Joe shook his head. "No, I don't like that. I like this shape better." He pointed to a lovely square cut stone with smaller stones on either side.

The woman stopped and stared at him for a moment. She looked at me with alarm. I could see her thoughts. "Oh sweetie, run from this controlling son of a b(*$&." I smiled sweetly and told Joe to go ahead and look at whatever he liked. She sighed a little and handed me the ring he was pointing to with excitement. I looked at it briefly and handed it to Joe.

"Yeah, this is what I like. Let's get this one," he said.

"Sure, honey, whatever you like is fine with me," I said as I hugged him with on arm around his shoulder. He slipped an arm around my waist to one-arm hug me back.

The woman turned quickly but I still saw her scowl. She had no idea what we had in store for her. It wasn't what she thought. "Do you know your size?" she asked with her back to us.

"No, actually, we'll need help figuring that out," I told her.

She grabbed her collection of sizing rings and selected one that is near average for a woman's ring finger. She started to reach for my hand. I pulled it back. "Oh no! It's not for me. He's wearing the ring!" I said in mock-alarm.

She didn't blink. She didn't speak. She didn't switch sizing rings. She grabbed Joe's hand and shoved that size 7 sizer right over his not-size 7 knuckle. Yes, she got the sizer neatly stuck on his hand. She panicked. He panicked. The other two employees on shift located hand cream in hopes of helping the sizer slip off. As they worked to wiggle the wrong size off the "engaged" man's hand, I kept pushing forward.

"I'm going to wear my Grandmother's ring. We want to honor this as a partnership so we're both getting engagement rings," I explained as I watched Joe's red finger emerge sizer free.

"You know," he said, clearly bent on making a point now. "Back in medieval times the man did get the diamond." He glared at the store's staff and rubbed his sore finger.

They started to trip over each other. They couldn't get us out fast enough and that was fine with me. I was done. I was hungry. The food court was calling and then we had promised to stand with my roommate while she flustered employees at a toy store trying to find a baby doll for a her 9 year old nephew - yes she was in my class as well.

Joe, however wasn't done. He sat there and pushed further. He wanted to know about their credit policies. He wanted to know what the warranty was. He wanted to make them squirm as payback for his throbbing finger. They were clearly doing what they could to get us out.

"Well clearly you don't want our business," Joe said. He adjusted the gold chain around his neck and touched his watch briefly. He fingered the small set of pearls on a gold chain that hung on my neck. "That's a shame because we both like jewelry and we buy a lot of it." He walked out. I gave them a weak smile and shrugged. I ran off behind him trying not to laugh before getting out of the store.

As a parent, I realize that this was excellent preparation for life with young children and sales clerks with hard and fast gender rules. Do you know if you want to purchase a child-size broom you need to look in the "girls" section of the toy store? We didn't mention to my son where it came from.


Nic said...

Ok, totally cracking up here! What a great story. :-D

Here from Michele's.

margalit said...

What a great idea for a social psych experiment. It would have been great to try it with every jewelery counter in a big mall to see if you got the same reactions every time!

Here via Michele

craziequeen said...


good exercise........ :-)

Michele sent me...


Chatty said...

Love it!

I also had to take that class. Works well as a teacher too!

Michele sent me!

kenju said...

That is the kind of experiment I would love to participate in! I would love to see them squirm.

Michele sent me.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Wish you had this on videotape.t's Hilarious!
Here from nowhere but me coming to visit you! (lol)

panthergirl said...

Oh man... I'm ALWAYS telling people about the various things we did to buck the norm in our social psych class!! (I stared at men's crotches on the subway. You'd think they'd love that, but they were completely FREAKED OUT!)

And I am totally with you on the gender bullshit. Yep...girls are supposed to love playing with brooms and ironing boards. Grrrrrr!!!!

Here via michele! Love you, woman!

Robin said...

I loved your experiment...what a RIOT! As for the girl stuff for a little boy; I decided with my 3rd (a boy) that I would NOT limit him to just boy toys like I had with my oldest son, but that I would provide both and let HIM decide. Well, turns out it really is true that "Boys will be boys!" He didn't look twice at any of the girl stuff and only would play with matchboxes or trucks. So much for my social experiment of being a "Renaissance Mom"!

I'm here from Michele's today!

Shane said...

i wish i coulda seen the looks on their faces. great post
Michele sent me

Paige said...

Ah that old gender problem, I mean role problem. Whatever, if its good for one then its good for the other

mommyof4 said...

Great story! I am going into social work and I love to hear aboout these gender roll test!:)

Undercover Angel said...

LOL! Great story! Thanks for making me smile.

honestyrain said...

ha! great post. thanks for a laugh!

here via michele's and glad i came :)