First of all, where on earth do ‘social norms’ come from? Who is making these decisions? Is it superstars? Royalty? The heaving masses of self fulfilling prophecy sheep?! As much as I love sheep, I have to say that as soon as humans start acting like them they become somewhat of a problem. The power of a conjoined conscience of masses is quite unfathomably mighty and breeds all sorts of peer pressure situations we’d all be better off without, not to mention some ridiculous fashions… Here are a few things that flummox me the most about social normality… (I’ll try not to make this read like a guide to life for the mildly autistic)
1) Making friends
It’s not ok, above the age of about 8 to approach someone you don’t know and ask if they’d like to be your friend. This seems like a fairly obvious thing to say, but don’t tell me you’ve never thought- ‘wow I like her style/ accent/ the book she’s reading- I think we’d get along like a house on fire!’, and wished you could hang out. I think this is ever so sad… we’re missing out on the opportunity to make some really great connections just through social politeness and restraint. Why is it weird? It’s a compliment! And that’s just when you’re the same sex… it’s a whole other ballgame if it’s opposites. I’m pretty sure that any guy you approach just on the grounds that you look like you’d really get along would do one of three things: a) tell you that he already has a girlfriend, b) run as fast as he could, or c) swap numbers and think ‘I’m in there!!’. I think this is partly why I keep ending up in retail jobs; I’m pretty much paid to compliment strangers and keep up the conversation throughout the whole jolly transaction (you never know when one of those customer surveys is going to pop out the receipt printer!). I almost feel like I can say whichever positive things I like when I’m serving in a shop- as if you can somehow hide behind the name badge (even though it’s my name). I still wouldn’t be able to get away with asking someone to be my friend though.
2) Wearing clothes
You will often find disagreeable people commenting on the vulgar view if a woman wears something with a very short hemline (or equally quite the opposite reaction). In the same way, you will find people shrieking with embarrassment if they suddenly reveal their underwear in some unfortunate incident. But what’s the big deal? When you go swimming you wear a bikini or at best (in terms of coverage) a swimsuit. In this situation it becomes ok to be almost naked. You’re all sharing one big bath in scanty little pieces of lycra and you don’t raise an eyebrow. Is it really so shocking then, to see the same bits and pieces (much fewer actually)on the street? Ok, so it’s a case of matching clothes to purpose, but still- if we could all calm down and get naked it might get us to stop being so judgemental. I’m just saying.
3) Eating a meal
There are individuals who eat their pudding before their savoury meal, but these are the naughty, strange people who will spoil their appetites, right? It’s a funny thing that it is so bizarre to eat one course or flavour ahead of another when really they all end up in the same place. I wonder how it all began… Who decided to start with savoury and finish on sweet? I have to applaud them in some respects. I don’t feel full unless I’ve eaten a savoury meal, nor do I think I’ve finished until I’ve had something sweet. Thrilling stuff I know but it’s part of the list nonetheless.
4) Saying ‘Hello!’ to strangers
Whilst our mums and teachers always told us never to talk to strangers, one cannot avoid meeting them during everyday life. On any high street, in any park, and in every shop you will encounter them in droves. My question focuses mainly on the brief and fleeting encounter when only one or two people are involved. Take, for example, the walk through the park to work. You pass a man walking his dog. Do you say ‘Good morning’? Smile? Deliberately divert your attention elsewhere? You see the latter seems to be the most popular reaction to this frequent occurrence and I frankly find it rather strange and borderline rude. I think if there is no-one else around, if you are passing on the same piece of footpath, and if you are not blind then you should at the very least smile an acknowledgement at the other person. The chances of them pouncing on you and chopping you into small bits are pretty slim and won’t be changed much by how you react to them. I am all for a hearty ‘good morning!’ as I pass strangers. I get mixed response. Most will at least smile at you. One particularly rude well-to-do couple in their 60s absolutely blanked me recently. Perhaps I seemed oddly threatening with my cheerful demeanour, short stature and positively thuggish mid 20s panache. In all seriousness, it really is the pinnacle of rudeness. But then perhaps once you reach old age it’s time to ignore strangers again…?
Also, it’s worth adding that whilst we might quash the initial piece of advice on reaching adulthood, the additional piece that always seemed to follow still stands: if a stranger asks you to get into his/her car, the answer is still ‘no’. Even (especially) when there are sweeties involved.