I love to play sports and I have always been a bit of a tomboy. I grew up with four older brothers, so what do you expect? My brothers taught me all about sports and in our household it was more about jersey shorts and burping than it was about dresses and makeup, if you know what I mean. I am now an adult, a married woman at that, and I still like to wear jersey shorts and play sports.
Something I have noticed, however, for years, are all of the stares and dirty looks I get. All I am wearing are jersey shorts and T-shirts. I mean, come on. We live in Arizona and it is cooler to wear light jersey shorts than it is to wear heavy jean shorts.
When my husband and our kids go out, I get stared at by people who look at what I am wearing and then give me dirty looks, especially by other women. What’s really confusing is when I will hold the door open for someone in public and they won’t tell me “thank you,” but they will give me “the look.”
All I am doing is dressing like I have always dressed, and anyone that knows me doesn’t see the problem with what I wear, but it seems to be a problem for people who don’t know me.
Whatever happened to not judging people based on their looks, but on who they are as a person?
— Dressing Comfy in Ahwatukee
Dear Dressing Comfy in Ahwatukee,
Your letter reminds me of a psychology experiment a fellow friend and I did together while attending Mountain Pointe High School.
I have always been a huge tomboy myself because I was mostly raised by my brother and my dad after my mom passed away when I was young. Whatever they did — I did. Whatever they dressed like — I would try to copy them.
One day, we were asked to conduct a social experiment for our psychology class. While everyone else was doing projects on personal space and what people would do when they would see someone drop money on the ground, my friend and I decided to try something different.
We wanted to see how our peers would judge someone based on how they dressed. We wanted to see if our peers could look past someone’s clothing choices and judge them solely based on their character. Because I was a tomboy who did not dress like the average teenage girl did, I was the perfect candidate for the job.
For one week, I dressed to different extremes while my friend/class partner observed our peers reactions and recorded the data. Nobody knew about our experiment except for our teacher and a few girls that volunteered to help me with hair and makeup, and to borrow girly clothes.
You have to remember, that for years, our peers have only seen me wear jersey shorts and T-shirts, so keep that in mind as you read on.
Day One, I wore a sundress with brown hiking boots, my hair down, and no makeup on. Our peers reacted in a way that they were slightly confused as to why all of a sudden I was wearing a dress to school for no reason, but everyone still spoke to me like normal.
Day Two, I came to school somewhat different. The night before I put dirt and spaghetti sauce on a shirt and let it dry overnight, and I rubbed dirt all over a pair of pants and ripped my shirt a little. The next day, the shirt was, well let’s just say perfect for the experiment, and I had no makeup on, did not brush my hair or teeth, and even messed up my hair pretty bad and went to school. That day I had double the amount of people ask me why I was dressed like that than I did the day before. We also found that when people saw what I looked like they would stare and walk the other way. I was also getting laughed at by people I did not know. My class partner took pictures of how everyone reacted.
Day Three, my girly friends put my hair up in a prom-style up do, put makeup on me, and I wore a fancy prom dress to school. I had a few guys that I did not know approach me that day, as well as a lot of people that ignored me the day before actually came up and talked to me.
Day Four, to throw everyone off, I came to school with my normal jersey shorts and T-shirt. People that knew me but didn’t know what exactly was going on just reacted relieved that I was “back to normal.”
Day Five was unlike the others. The girls did my hair, makeup and nails, and made me look very pretty — an uncomfortable pretty. I went to school in pink flip-flops, pink capris, and a hot pink tank top. The people that were laughing at me all week suddenly began talking to me, some of the guys asked me out, and I was getting dirty looks from the girls, and uncomfortable looks from the guys.
We received an A+ on our project. We concluded, based on all of the data we collected, that people unfortunately treat people differently based on the clothes that they wear.
During that experimental week, I was the same person all week, but I was treated differently each day by my peers whether I knew them or not.
My class partner and I were hoping that our experiment would teach our peers a valuable lesson in life. That judging people based on the clothes that they wear or on how they look is hurtful and does not match up accurately to who they are as a person.
Perhaps the people that have been giving you hurtful looks can read about this social experiment and realize that what they are doing is hurtful. In the meantime, if you are comfy wearing jersey shorts and T-shirts out in public, knock yourself out.
• Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle “Mikey” Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School. She offers free peer advice, however, Mikey is not licensed or trained, just a fellow friend to the community. All inquiries made to Mikey will remain anonymous unless legal issues occur. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.myaskmikey.com.