Social Norm Violation by Tatiana Herman
I go to the gym about two to five times a week and have been doing so for the last two years. It’s an unwritten rule that you exercise only in attire made specifically for exercise. This includes sneakers, sweatpants, basketball shorts, yoga pants, baggy shirts, tank tops, and sports bras.
I decided to violate this norm by wearing my sunday clothes to the gym. I wore a nice blouse, a skirt, and yes- heels. I also had my hair curled and unrestrained. I proceeded to walk and then jog (lightly for safety reasons) on the treadmill. After a few minutes of that, I walked over to the machines and used the ones that I could manage while remaining modestly covered by my skirt. I finally left fifteen minutes later as I couldn’t take the embarrassment any longer (and I was worried about injuring myself due to restricted range of motion).
As I went through this ordeal, I was hard-pressed to make eye contact with anyone. I couldn’t bring myself to look at anyone directly at first and just relied on my peripheral vision. Some people were either so absorbed in what they were doing or trying to be polite that they didn’t stare at me. However, there were also plenty of strange looks that came my way from other people. In fact, for a moment as I was stepping off the treadmill, one of the trainers looked like he was about to come over and say something but then changed his mind when I got off. I eventually looked at someone and they just gave me a bewildered look and looked around to see if anyone else was seeing the same thing.
I normally pride myself on not embarrassing easily and on not engaging in behavior that would elicit that emotion in the first place. However, this experience made me realize that as open-minded as I try to be, I have certain norms imbedded firmly in myself. By the time I left I was really glad I’d chosen a location that I don’t visit normally. While I am grateful for this eye-opening experience, I don’t plan on ever doing anything like that again.