Chik-Fil-A hosted their annual “Cow Appreciation Day” last week. If you went to the restaurant fully dressed as a cow, you got a free meal. If you wore just a little cow gear, you got a free entree. We decided that it would be fun so we made some simple costumes from white clothes we already had by taping on some printed cow spots. We pinned some beanie cows to our hats and off we went. We each got a the full free meal so it was a free dinner for us in exchange for just a little bit of creativity and effort.
The whole evening was pretty fun, too. Several other “cows” were there so we got to see how other people dressed up. The management had the cow mascot out playing games with the kids and all of the staff was dressed as cows. It was a fun summer activity. Something different, something silly, and something free.
Of course, when we got there some jerk behind us in line had to say, “No way would I humiliate myself like that just for free food.” I just smiled and said, “Okay.” Personally, I think he was a little jealous that other people were getting free food and he wasn’t. Maybe he was just one of those people who had to bring other people down to make himself feel superior. Whatever prompted the rude comment, it got me thinking: Was I really humiliating myself for free food? And was it worth it? Is there a line for free stuff that shouldn’t be crossed?
Chik-Fil-A isn’t the only retailer to offer free stuff in exchange for patrons acting a bit silly. Other places have dress up days in exchange for free things. When the new Star Wars movies came out, our theater offered discounted admission if you came dressed as a Star Wars character. For Cinco de Mayo, the local Mexican place gave free food to those who came in dressed in Mexican attire (think ponchos and sombreros). Our hometown minor league baseball team has all kinds of giveaways if you’re willing to sumo wrestle, dress as a hamburger, or catch plastic mice in an oversized pair of pants. While I’ve never done any of these things, I don’t think it’s humiliating. It’s a fun chance to get a little crazy, do something different, and get some free stuff in return.
True humiliation requires that the person feel ashamed or embarrassed and is usually brought on by the actions of someone else. For example, when the school bully stands up in the cafeteria and waves your underwear (stolen from gym class) above his head and makes comments about the smell, that’s humiliation. There’s nothing you can do about it, it’s embarrassing, and it injures your dignity. By contrast dressing as a cow, by choice, isn’t humiliating. Now, if someone forced you to do it and then invited your boss who has no sense of humor along to see you, that might be getting close to humiliation.
The point is that no one who was in that restaurant that night looked like they were being humiliated. They looked like they were having fun. Sure, some looked a little sheepish when they first walked in, but they quickly caught the spirit and enjoyed it. Even teenagers, who normally fear public humiliation when they have to do something out of the ordinary, were in there having a good time. No one forced any of us to do it, none of the staff poked fun at anyone, and it was a fun family activity that ended up saving us some money on dinner. Far from humiliating, if you ask me.
Now, if you’re uncomfortable with this kind of thing, by all means don’t do it. If you’re going to be uncomfortable the whole time and wondering what people are thinking, you won’t enjoy your freebies. If someone tries to force you into it and you know you’re going to be miserable, practice a firm, “No.” If you’re desperately worried that someone you know might see you and not get the joke, don’t do it. If the activity requires you to do something you don’t agree with morally, don’t do it. Only you can decide how far you’re willing to go for freebies or discounts and you should never do anything illegal, unsafe, or that makes you uncomfortable or unhappy.
But if you can laugh at yourself and have fun doing the activity, by all means enjoy your freebies. If other people choose not to participate, just smile and let them pay full price. If they make rude comments, take comfort in the money you’ve kept in your wallet and the fun you’ve had.