Saturday, October 22, 2011

Would you be ok with a stranger holding your hands?

By: Rachel Morris

A discussion regarding norms is almost unavoidable when it comes to sociology. The possibilities of the discussion seem to be endless in regards to what topic brought it up. Someone could have been speaking of a co-worker who walks around the office barefoot or maybe they saw a tourist acting in a way that seemed so odd and out of place. In class we had discussed the unfortunate example of when the plane crashed in the mountains and the passengers had to resort to cannibalism to survive. I believe this is a perfect example of norms and how they can change in the blink of an eye to fit a specific situation.
This idea became abundantly clear to me this afternoon while in the nail salon. For those of you who have never had a manicure before, it is an extremely relaxing and enjoyable experience but at the same time it can be a very personal one as well. Basically you sit at a table across from a person whom you have never met and they cut, clean, file, and paint your nails; all the while they are holding your hands. I wondered in how many situations this would be acceptable. If this random person came up to me in the street and did the exact same thing would I be ok with it? Probably not, in fact I would think they were nuts. This realization became even more apparent when, at the end of the manicure you sit and wait for your freshly painted nails to dry, the same person who has been holding your hands for the past half hour begins to give you a back massage. One is rarely ever asked or even warned about the massage. Most of the time they have begun before you even know it is happening.  That being said however, I can honestly say that I have never once heard someone turn down the massage.  

Why is it ok for a perfect stranger to hold your hands and give you a massage in a nail salon, but completely inappropriate in just about every other situation? The only thing I can think of is the fact that from situation to situation norms change. They can change with time, place, person, and culture. What is normal in one instance might not be so in another.
This is an awareness that I hope to keep with me in the future. I believe it will help me to take the time to understand why people act the way they do in certain situations and hopefully because of this, I will not jump to conclusions because something does not seem “normal” to me.

11 comments:

  1. I think this a very interesting topic. One of which I probably would have never thought of primarily because I am a man(lol). First, as you stated this is only acceptable in that context (business). Outside of that it probably would be very wierd for someone to invade your personal space and grab your hand. There are some exceptions to the rule however. A person might be more accepting of such a gesture if they are somehow welcoming the extra attention.

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  2. Wow this is really good. Rachel you made many interesting points. I agree with you on how the situation can change how appropriate it is. We also see this when people give out free food in a business like environment and the person giving out the food is a complete stranger to you and yet you still take the food. But lets say if you were on the streets and the same person came up to you and offer you the same thing. The odds are you will turn it down because of the current situation and your norms have changed to adapt to the situation.

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  3. Aleshia SatterthwaiteOctober 24, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    The norms of our society are to stay in your own lane. I like how you make the point about holding hands in the nail salon. Under normal circumstances, we rather not have our space invaded. Over the summer, I visited a food court in North Carolina. While sitting in the food court a woman walk up and sat at my table. I noticed that there were no other empty tables available. The norm in North Carolina was different then Philly. In Philly, you find your own table or wait until a table is free before sitting next to a stranger. I must say what I experienced in North Carolina was not so bad because this total stranger begin to talk about the different activity that were going to take place at the mall. I found her to be very informative. Breaking my norm was not so bad after all.

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  4. Dudlene Jean PierreOctober 24, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    It's really interesting that you wrote this blog because I was having this conversation with my mom the other day. I totally agree with you because when I get my nails done I feel comfortable with the Asians holding my hands and giving me a massage even though I don't know them but if a random person comes up to me and dose the same I would pull myself away. I believe we just have to open up and understand that there are different ways of seeing things and that not all norms are the same for everyone.

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  5. I appreciate this blog because I too enjoy a mani/pedi as much as the next lady.Is the whole process a little intrusive of personal space?? Absolutely!Actually Im still learning to endure a similar space invading situation.I currently work on a Maternity unit in which i am forced to hold hands and wipe the tears of complete strangers on a daily basis!!YIKES.Im training myself not to cringe at this very moment.

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  6. I totally agree and understand what you're saying, even though I never had a massage or have my nails done. I guess the difference from my perspective is that with these situation is the fact that they have your consent. You know what to expect from a masseuse or masseur and the manicurist. However, when a stranger tries to hold your hand, the situation is different because you don't know what to expect from the person.

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  7. I've been a professional massage therapist for the past 10 years and I've run into just about every reaction you can imagine where receiving touch from a stranger is concerned. Most people simply enjoy the service that they get, while others are visibly nervous at first. I've found that for the most part people respond to my comfort level and look to me for cues as to what the norm is in that situation (getting a massage). In other words, I don't make a big deal about their discomfort and wait for them to realize I'm treating it like just another day at work. For the most part, this works. I've never had anyone ask to end a massage early, though a few have decided not to have one in the first place- though that's rare. Once I even had a client apologize to me for his attitude before the massage. He got a lot of benefit out of it and was happy he decided to have it done.

    The main difference between me and someone off the street is that I'm trained to do my job, and that training brings with it some experience and a certain attitude in touching people. They pick up on my cues that this is something I do every day for hundreds of people a year, and not some questionable person who approaches them randomly. The difference is in the context.

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  8. In my opinion, it is not a bad thing to have a stranger hold your hands because it does not have any bad effects.When people become sick, they are treated by strangers who they have never sew in their lives. Sometimes people even are obliged to dress up on from of doctors, no matter what are the genders. It should not be bad thing to have message made by a stranger and have a stranger hold your hands.

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  9. There are certain situations where it is okay to touch another person; whether it's holding hands, hugging someone, or even kissing someone on the cheek. In my culture it is custom to kiss someone on the cheek when you say hi. There was this one time I forgot myself and kissed someone on the cheek and she thought I was a lesbian. She was embarrassed and tried to explain that she was not a lesbian. When I figured out what she was trying to say, I quickly made it clear those were not my intentions and explained to her my custom. I simply forgot myselft at that moment since I don't usually kiss anyone on the cheek except close friends and family. It was pretty funny, but after reading this post it became clear how sometimes touching someone is not always acceptable and is quite uncomfortable. Only in certain circumstances is it okay to touch someone and we see it everyday in this world, whether it's in a nail salon or in a culture. We just don't really notice it as much.

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  10. Depending on the type of setting I think is very important in what make things seem acceptable. Also, whether or not u pay money for a type of service plays a part as well. Yeah, they may be a stranger, but if it's a professional job or it's place where I know people that go there then I would consider for it to be ok.

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