I completed a social experiment this weekend, and I can’t decide whether to be proud of myself or not. I attended an on campus cohort for the English and Digital Humanities degree program, and I decided at the last second to test everyone without letting them know that they were being tested. I know that when worded this way it seems ominous and like I was being cruel, though I assure you this was not the case.
Going into this weekend I was all nerves. I am never sure how to act around people I don’t know, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I don’t think that the 430 mile trip (one way) with twin two year-olds made things much better in that regard. The first day I got up and put on jeans and a kind of British looking gray sweater (that i love, but picked specifically for it’s arm covering capabilities). I spent the whole day with a great, seemingly open group of like-minded people, exchanging ideas and learning more about each other and about the program. The second day I felt more comfortable, and I wore a white sweater that covered my arms but was fairly sheer (picked because it covered my arms, but just barely). The second day was more in depth work, and I started to like and trust these new people more and more. Then on the third day, I wore a short-sleeved green shirt that completely showed my arms, revealing several very large pieces of artwork to these people that I was learning with.
I admit that I did these things partially for self preservation, but also because I am endlessly fascinated with the human psyche and why people behave the way that they do. I come from kind of a small town, so while I love my tattoos, (half sleeves of both The Lorax and Alice in Wonderland, among others, in case anyone is curious) I have had mixed reactions to them. I have had everything from my Grandmother crying, to dirty looks, to people stroking my arm and asking a million questions. I think that in general woman in our society are expected to have tiny butterflies on their shoulder or foot, if they have any tattoos at all. Despite some changes, there is still a bit of a stigma surrounding tattooed women.
So how did my experiment turn out, exactly? Much more beautifully than I could have imagined actually. Maybe it is a testament to their good manners, or perhaps it is because I am in Portland, (a city which seems to be a bit more laid back about such things) but it didn’t seem to change anything. I was still looked at and treated exactly the same. Maybe the real social experiment here was whether or not I could truly succeed at being myself with a group of people. Either way, I consider my experiment to be a success.