Navigating Social Norms and Putting Myself Out There


ohRecently I decided to write a satirical post about how sexy pregnancy is (spoiler alert: it ain’t).

I wrote it out and thought that it needed some editing, but was otherwise funny. So I showed it to my husband. His response was, “Um, maybe I’m not your target audience.” It’s true. Most of the people who read a mom’s blog are, you know, moms. So I ran it by a handful of my friends who had been pregnant and experienced all of its social disgraces. The responses ranged from “Ewww” to “I like the idea, but only this part and not this part.” But everyone’s “this part” was totally different. One woman thought the fart jokes were hilarious and another said that they made her want to vomit.

lonely boyI could have mellowed out the post (less bodily fluids, more nursing bra humor), but decided that that wasn’t really me. But therein lies the problem.

When I write a blog post, I have to decide how much “me” I’m going to put out there.

I’ve always felt a little challenged when navigating social norms. I’ve learned to do the socially acceptable dances by carefully watching the people around me. And, fortunately, in adulthood, I have more freedom to choose who those people are than I did as a child. But OMG do I eff up sometimes. I can’t even begin to count the number of times that I’ve suddenly realized that I’ve seriously pissed someone off and I HAD NO IDEA that I was doing something wrong. But I live and learn and then don’t make that mistake again. Moving into new social groups has always been a challenge though and becoming a mom has been no exception.

Goggles for navigating social norms.The internet has been a godsend for helping me figure out how to “be” in the mom world.

Internet forums mean that I can carefully analyze responses and attitudes before I post anything, as well as hopefully make sure that my responses are going to be interpreted as I actually mean them. But oy. It’s exhausting sometimes. I try to say the things that will translate into someone else’s head the way I mean them in my head, but really, I far prefer to be blunt. I mean, we all fart, can we stop pretending that we don’t?

hippie judgementThat all said, I’ve come to realize that social norms have their place. I was raised in Berkeley, California surrounded by the very idealistic notion that you should be able to present yourself in any way, to any person and they should love you just as you are. But it took me a while to realize that the preachers of that message often only followed that message for their own defined set of “any.”

I still believe that you should be able to present yourself in any way that makes you comfortable (that doesn’t harm others), but it is naive to say that your choice doesn’t send a message.

People are going to perceive you differently if you wear a full mask of makeup than if you wear none at all. Or if you prefer Crocs to high heels. I could idealistically say that that is wrong and that we should all look to the inner person beyond the façade, but the truth of the matter is that we evolved this way so that we could make snap decisions about friend vs foe and hopefully save our hides. It’s better to acknowledge it, be aware of it, and even use it to our advantage.

our own personSo when someone prefers X to Y, often they are allying themselves with the social norms of the group that makes them the most comfortable. Some choice differences are acceptable within a social group (chocolate vs vanilla, jogging vs umbrella stroller, etc), but some separate us. Car choices tend to follow political and gender lines, for example. You’re also likely to shop at similar food and clothing stores as your social group and you might judge the people who shop at the “other” store. Or the moms who follow the “other” parenting advice.

funny hairWhen I write a blog post, I have to decide if I’m going to put myself out there and maybe push some social norms or if I’m going to play it safe and ally with my “crowd.”

I don’t love conflict, but I love growth and learning. I love pushing my own boundaries, but I don’t love forcing others to push theirs. Do I make the indecent pregnancy joke about peeing during sex acting as a free lubricant with the hope that I can make women laugh about things that generally suck, or do I write a naval gazing post about the WAY.TOO.MANY. thoughts that go through my head when I want to put myself out there for the world to see? Perhaps just a little of both.


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