With time, the human world has gradually settled down as an organized society as a whole, where everywhere some dogs or don't have been identified, labeled and accepted universally. Out of them, our behavioral process tops the list with its vast, pattern-weaving nature, more because of its utility as a primary tool of communication and a necessity to constantly monitor its flexible nature. By now it is clear to the society that we cannot escape various statuses and the roles that are associated with them even after death. Between, statuses would come and go, so are the roles, perhaps some of us would even be able to surpass they establish Master status to create a new one, some might degrade himself to the lower status; In all, status is such a yardstick of the society that we cannot do without - it is a complex and flexible setting through which we would continue to know the world and the world would know us, while both deciding our actions basing on each of our statuses. This essay, thus peeps into this interesting world of status and roles, while bantering on the first date of its writer under the kaleidoscope of Erving Goffman, the revered sociologist.
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Status locates our position in a given social situation, like when with parents, I am their children, when at class, I am a student, when in a group, a friend, and so on. We are a bundle of statuses, one differing from the other, carrying different responsibilities which command specific approaches to meet them. With time we gain some statuses or lose some; but all the while we live within a set of various statuses, that helps us in determining our roles at various segments of the society and also helps others to decide on their roles while interacting with us. Much like when I meet my professor at the stadium, then both of us are the spectator, and thus both support for our teams, we may even sit on the opposition benches. But back at studies, he is my professor and I am there to learn from him, to see the world of knowledge through his eyes.
A set of various statuses accompanies me everywhere, each of which contains status-specific assignments. This way of thinking helps me picking up the right status and thus the roles assigned to it. That makes it easier for me to avoid dancing Salsa in front of my professor, a role that is scheduled for friends' meet, where I have a status of a good Salsa dancer. Each person's status set is mostly unique because it evolves from one's close environment
Master status top-seeds in our status chart as a tool for the society to determine a person's social standing in brief. This also has a changing tendency at various points of ages; when someone is a child, it's her parental status could serve as her master status, when one is a student, his studentship could serve the same, or when in a profession, that profession turns out to be someone's master status. Usually the later stays longer.
The practice of 'evaluating' a person through his/her master status has its negative faculties as well - someone's illness or inability in any form could be negatively exploited as his/her master status, add to that the tendency of some to use gender as master status to reap some benefit!
There are some statutes which would last all along one's life, like one's nationality or parental identification. These are automatically gained after the birth, as well as some biological identity, like blood group or DNA, etc. I may not like my parents or my biological specialties, but I cannot deny them anyway.
It's something we achieve through an event: be it our own activity or by virtue of the ascribed status. The former situation occurs when I try myself and become a good athlete, while the later takes place when I inherit a property from parents and achieve the status of a property-owner.
Statuses work as standard guides to the roles that would complement them. In general, a role can be termed as an expected bundle of status-specific behavior or activity. .Like, study (role) is associated with students (status-holders); now study consists of various other activities or behaviors etc. This brings in the point that role is supposed to be governed by the environment- like if I am Chinese student living in China, I would start my first lessons in Mandarin, or appear in the examinations that are regulated by the law of the land.
The beauty of the role lies in its ability to overlap the confinement of one single status and spread into some other statuses. Like when I, being a Chinese student, choose to teach Mandarin on behalf of an NGO in Africa - there my role as an educator (another status) stems out of the role I played as a student of Mandarin. Thus, considering the broader base, roles can be bundled as 'role set' at times, though it is always pattern weaving and brimming with the possibilities to create new avenues.
It is clear that roles and statuses are entwined, but the problem arises when two or more statuses disagree about the possible roles in them! Like when I, being a Chinese educator fall in love with a native woman in Africa while teaching her, while a part of my education opposing to get involved in such a situation. Thus, this is a role that is stemming out from another status of mine (a conservative Chinese), which directly opposing the role that is stemming out of my status of a lover (in fact, a sub-status stemming from my educator status!).
This generates role strain in a single status in me; that is, in my status as a lover and puts me in a situation where I have to resort to 'role exit' in one or the other. Like, I might have to abandon either my lover status or my 'Conservative Chinese' status!
Goffman (1922-1982) a sociologist, has provided an interesting analogy to our social interaction, by saying that our everyday behavior, so orchestrated by our statuses and roles, seems much like a premeditated act resembling the actors performing on a stage. This synthesis of the proceedings gained popularity, which Goffman called 'Dramaturgical Analysis' - the study of social interaction in terms of theatrical performance.
Dramaturgical analysis actually raises the scope to define and refine our statuses and roles, where our status is used as a part in a play, and roles are considered to be the scripts complete with dialogues, while our actions are taken as our presentation of ourselves. Therefore it judges people from their personal performance.
Looking back to the day I went for the first time on a date through the kaleidoscope of Goffman I cannot deny his theorem as far as it goes.
I see myself wearing red brick shirt with navy blue jeans (costumes that already got acclamations from friends as fitting items to any budding lover), and approaching to their backyard garden (the primary setting), while she is already waiting there, clad in a yellow polka dotted, black frock (I could not appreciate such a costume under broad daylight).
I see both are blushing, doused in nonverbal communication, taking time to gather ourselves; then, like a gentleman, (gender performance, or what!) I'm proposing her to take seats on the nearby bench, to which she coyly nods in assertion (gender act, her side of the story).
Once seated, I enacted a typical Babe Ruth smile (someway I liked his heroic antiques, a la idealization), being oblivious of the periods that have passed between giving birth of several trends of smile invented by several heroes; but not for long, as she laughed out much in style of Shakira the hipster (her way of idealizing!), which puts me in some embarrassment and also into thinking of changing the line of actions in the mould of Leonardo Di Caprio!
But I needed a transition for that; I needed to hide my embarrassment and also to ascertain whether she likes Di Caprio. For that I decided to apply tact; I gradually brought in a light discussion on the movie Titanic. Soon it was found that she didn't like Caprio and that again put me in a soup, finally resorting to the reevaluation of our statuses as a lover. Because, I could not find anyone else to idealize then and there and that helplessness in me gradually started taking upper hand; on her front, she also did not show any sign of shifting her base from the Shakira-type, looking at me as if I am just a glass before her world!
It seemed that the roles we have constructed as lovers contained scripts that heavily mismatched! It was so because both of us had to build our realities from our surrounding cultures that were different, and it was because of that she laughed at my Babe Ruth antiques and I frowned at her Shakira-rescue laugh.
Needless to say, that was our first and the last date. Now I find that it was a thought, however, vague it be, was perhaps played a stellar role in our minds that we both failed to impress each other because we didn't possess those specific elements in us that could have helped to impress each other. From the sociological point of view, this can be termed as our mutual exodus from the roles that we thought were there for us to play, but our roles conflicted and both of us did not want to carry on with role strain.
As of now, I have decided to first work on all possible roles that are associated with winning a girl, to practice in constructing them, and then to proceed for any date!
The statuses and alongside, the roles, are the natural outcome of the social process, and thus are ever evolving. This makes the subject so enigmatic and thus, ever interesting. The high and low tides of a profession might determine different statuses for two persons born in two periods; One set of behavior might be discarded as obsolete, only to bounce back again after some time. That is why it works like a wonderful jigsaw puzzle all the time. It is understood that behavior is guided and shaped by status and role, but there is an ironic beauty lies in the process as well; where status and roles get equally guided by the behavior.
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