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What's in a Social Norm

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Social norms are generally accepted behavioural laws in a certain community. A person who does anything against social norms is considered as deviant. Basically, social norms are divided into formal or informal. Formal norms are written down and are actually laws, therefore, anyone breaking them will always be punished. Informal social norms present a way of living which the society leads, a set of rules people follow in their behaviour. Breaking informal social norms is not illegal, but often causes negative reaction from the society (Becker, 1982). This essay looks in to deviation from the point of view of informal social norms, and tries to define its relationships with community and social perception of deviants.

In order to study the mentioned subject, I had to break some informal social norm. That is why, I decided to take my girlfriend’s underwear and use it as a handkerchief for one week. I decided to use it during one of my female lecturer’s class. It was in the afternoon, and I sat on the front row where my lecturer could notice my action. When the lecture was about to start,, I pulled out my mischief. I took my girlfriend’s underwear from my pocket, brewed my nose and started to wipe my face with it. I made sure my lecturer was in a position to notice my move. I stretched the underwear and then started folding it slowly and carefully. My lecturer stopped in the middle of a sentence, looked at me with a sad face and frowned. I did not look up to see her reaction. Once I had finished folding the underwear, I put it back in to my pocket and moved my head sideway as if saying “let’s go on!” My lecturer had a hard time recollecting where she had finished. Even after she resumed her lecture, she seemed to be loosing the flow of words for some time. I could tell she was still disturbed by my action. Her reaction had drawn the attention of the entire class, though many, especially from behind, did not know what was going on. They could tell there was something amiss and were trying to find out what was the problem. The class was murmuring. One female student could not hold her amusement. Her mouth and eyes were wide open, she held her hands on her mouth.

From that time on, I became a centre of attention, especially among girls. Right after the class was over, fellow students were hovering over me. I could tell some were admiring me while others felt I had done a heroic act. I turned into a hero all over sudden. Everyone was talking about the incident for several days. The power of attraction created by this act was overwhelming. Sometimes I was feeling I was getting unnecessary attention.

The next day I wanted to repeat my naughty trait somewhere in a place with a lot of people. So I chose the college cafeteria as the next stage for my show. I made sure I arrived on time when many students queue for their meals. When I was about four people before the counter, I pulled my “handkerchief”, pretended to have sneezed and placed the underwear over my mouth. As I had done previously, I stretched the clothing before folding it and put it back in my pocket. The cooks on the counter noticed my actions and stopped working for a while. The students behind me broke down into laughter which allowed me to gain more attention. When my turn to be served came, the cooks were not looking at the plate they were serving on. They were actually looking at me trying to make out what was wrong with me. There were no students willing to sit next to me, at least of those who had noticed my mischief. Those who were not aware and sat close to me were glared at. I made sure I finished my meals before the rest of students. Once I was done, I dived my hand in to the pocket and pulled out the underwear and used it to wipe my mouth and face. I made sighing sounds like someone who had a delicious meal and was pleased to be full. The guy who had sat next to me missed his mouth and hit his nose with the spoon as he stared at me. The whole cafeteria was all eyes at me, and students broke into laughter here and there.  I walked majestically to the door as if nothing had happened. All this time, I held the underwear in my hand.

After this, I started being noticed. In fact, I became the hottest talk of the college. Whenever I passed by, those who saw me at the cafeteria would point at me while whispering to their friends. Ladies were more fascinated than men. I was receiving more smiles from girls than before entering the college. Even my girlfriend became a superstar in the college overnight. She was embarrassed and proud of this saga at the same time. She was perhaps the only one who was confident about my sanity. Many thought that I had lost my mind, especially considering the fact that I was not a talkative person. Some people thought that my girlfriend had given me a charm which turned out to be disastrous. My close friends started feeling tense around me. They could not recognize the real me beyond that underwear story.

After that day, I used my girlfriend’s underwear to blow my nose or wipe my face for a week. However, soon most people became accustomed to my habit, and their enthusiasm was slowly disappearing. Some people just got annoyed, while others smiled or ignored me. A great number of my friends did not want to communicate with me anymore. They were embarrassed to be seen with me. But a lot of people became closer to me than before. Those who were not close started showing some calculated interest in me. They would for example inquire whether I was done with my assignments or ask me to help them with a certain issue about some lessons. All their actions were meant to gauge whether my mind was sound.  Many were amused to find that I was actually fit in my assignments and up to date. This created more confidence among many who had started doubting my sanity.

Later, when I dropped this habit and stopped using my girlfriend’s underwear as a handkerchief, people were a bit confused, and there still was some doubt that this will never happen again.

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