Here’s a little something to consider. As usual, I was in a situation to think too much. So now, here’s my babble.
HOW DO WE ASSOCIATE OURSELVES WITH OTHERS AND IN GROUPS?
I was a sociology major in college for a reason… However, at this point I cannot truly remember what the reason was. I know why, really I do. Because I am interested in the society you live in and identify with. I want to know what makes you different from me and me different from the guy that lives across the street from me – besides the fact he’s male and I am female, of course.
I’ll explain my meaning behind the above question. Who do you most identify with in society? I’ll elaborate on this to get your mind turning. You associate and identify with many individuals out there and you may not even realize it. Why? Because we stereotype ourselves as often as we do others and we do it list wise…or categorically.
List wise? Make a list of you…according to where you are right now. What and who are you? In order, list your sex, sexual orientation, skin color, religion, nationality, etc. But do not make that list in any random order. Put the most important description of yourself first in the current situation. Where ever you are, check to see if that list changes later tonight when you get home from work. Or when you set out to meet your friends at a club.
Here is mine, in a nutshell right now. I am:
Which will be #3 on this list would actually be determined by the social situation. People at my job will more than likely not know I’m pagan. And for that reason, #4 might end up #3.
Now, look at the list above. If you saw this description, which one of these characteristics of myself is more important to me? The fact that I am female. To you it might not be your gender; it may be your skin color/racial group or your age. Also these may change according to social settings.
Let me tell you how you more than likely associate yourself to certain individuals, in say, a group of 250 people. And again, these could differ if we change social situations.
Let’s say you do not have what I like to call a brotherhood profession. A brotherhood profession is a group of individuals (& their families) that stick together due to their career choices (cops, firefighters, soldiers, nurses, teachers), or maybe they’re a fraternity or sorority group. These people tend to socialize in the same nightclubs, bars, restaurants, parks, and many may live within close proximity to one another in areas such as “cop neighborhoods,” etc. Sometimes the veterans of these professions will segregate themselves from the general populations…no matter race or creed or sex. I’m not saying they don’t socialize according to gender or race, but they are a brotherhood first.
We’ll work with the ladies. I’ll use myself to help you see my process and see if you can relate. Scenario: I am the new executive secretary to the CEO of BS Corporation. It’s a big, hectic, position. I’ve been there three months and know everyone in the small group surrounding my immediate work area. I am also familiar with most of the faces in my department. As time goes on, I will become very familiar with people in other departments. But, right now, my knowledge is limited. So are my nerves.
The company Christmas party has started without me. I’m single and no friend could go with me on such short notice. You see, I really didn’t want to go to begin with because I don’t really know everyone that well and I hate large gatherings.
I walk into the company Christmas party. There’s already 200+ people there. What’s the first thing I do after my entrance? What would you do? I mean, besides grab the strongest whiskey-something you can find? You stop dead at the entrance and scan the room like a burglar looking for loot.
So my eyes fly over the room. What am I looking for? First, I’m looking for the co-workers I sit closest to at work every day. It’s a start right? A connection? But, I can’t find them, so who would I personally look for next?
I look for the closest table of ALL females. Because my race means little to me when trying to make a connection, I look for a predominantly female table. I may be Caucasian but whites really don’t identify with each other like other races often do. I mean, what do I have in common with some 20 year old white man besides our color? I find a table that seats 10 people and there are 7 professional-looking women there. I don’t recognize them, but that’s where I’m going to head. There’s one white woman and the rest are a mix of black and ethnic-looking. I don’t care. We ladies understand one another. I’ve found my home for most of the night.
So, okay, what if I didn’t find that table of women? Next on the list? I might search out Caucasians second. Okay, so I spot the mixed table of white folks. There are some ladies, but mostly men. And, guess what? I think they’re all 25 years old and by the looks of it, they’ve beat me to the bar 10-fold. Should I join them? I don’t think so. I don’t want to be the odd man out…being over 40, I mean.
Moving on. The table I seek out will have older adults. Hopefully, as old as I am or older. I spot them. Older 40s through late 50s. Oh, it’s all men. No. Oh wait. Is that dude my boss? The CEO? Never! Moving on. I spot another group of mixed individuals. I’ve seen some of them elsewhere throughout the company but never had a chance to say hello. They are not “the boss”. Some are administrative assistants, and I’m pretty sure the Afro-American dude is an accountant from the 3rd floor. I talked to his wife outside the office yesterday. She told me it was her 40th birthday. They all look my age. I’ll head over there.
So I sneak up the table of 40-somethings, a blended crowd of men, women, mixed race and ethnicity…and I’m sure D.J. is from Jordan. We all get paid in different brackets, but we all make less than the CEO and are overworked. We won’t get loud and embarrass one another either. It’ll be a nice night.
But what if I’m the shy type? The above might not take place. So now what? I revert back to my school days before I had the guts to hit that girl over the head with a food tray. I casually walk the floor, grab a drink and head over the a table that has only two people. Some odd-looking, white middle-aged guy with thick glasses and a younger white female who’s attention is on her cell phone. I don’t head for the table because they are white, I go there because there are few people. I can tell other people are or were sitting at the table but might be gone now. Maybe they left, or are dancing, or cleaning out the buffet. I take a seat that is vacant, glasses and plates untouched.
They guy looks at me and I nod to him. “May I sit here?”
“Be my guest,” he says.
He looks relieved that I’m there.
Next scenario. I get on a Chicago city bus. It’s packed and there are only a few empty seats dotting the bus. Now this is a true story. So how did I decide where to sit?
My brain’s reeling with stereotypes in the short 2 seconds it takes for me to pinpoint a seat. I pay for my ride and I see very few empty seats. I scan the bus: Empty seat, but that guy in the wheelchair is blocking it. Can’t help it. It’s the handicapped section. Empty seat by elderly Chinese guy. He eyes me suspiciously. I know immediately he’s not keen on me sitting next to him if I don’t have to. There’s an elderly Chinese lady. She looks harmless enough and normally I would choose to sit by a woman, but she is totally turned around in the seat talking loudly with the 2 Chinese people behind her and it’s annoying. Empty seat by old white dude who smells like urine and is singing Amazing Grace and talking to Jesus. Other empty seat by some late 30-something white guy who looks like a Charles Manson in the making. He’s watching me, checking me out and rubbing his beard. Oh, I don’t think so Charles! Last empty seat is next to average-looking black guy reading a college textbook and listening to his Ipod. He never looks up. I sit next to him before someone beats me to it. In my opinion, my brain decided he was the only “normal” person on the bus.
Now, it’s your turn. Put yourself in the above situations. How do you seek out comfort when you have so little control? I’m especially curious about men. How do you guys deal with the same circumstances as above?