I was tapping my fork nervously. My napkin was slowly getting crumpled. “Kate,” I said vehemently, “I am being so good right now.” I bit my lip and kept it tight, keeping my mouth shut. The boys next to me in line at Firewok were talking about football, specifically, the quality of the games this past week. “Really good. The NFL looks really, really good. A lot of great games,” said one. As they listed game after game, it took all of my power not to say, “How about that Bills game? They really crushed Kansas City, am I right? We may have a playoff team on our hands, for the first time in over ten years!” Eventually, I felt it was my Buffalo-sports-fan-duty to say the Bills were good, especially since one boy was wearing a Patriots t-shirt. “They did have a good game this weekend, right?” He reaffirmed, smiling. “Yeah, they did!” I smiled back. I had no idea who this guy was, but we had a small connection relating to football. Sure, Kate was annoyed that I broke my silence. “I already tweeted about how proud you made me!” she scolded. But I was proud of myself for breaking the age-old adage of “not talking to strangers.” We have this advice ingrained into our consciousness from a very young age, but when it comes time to go out into the real world—college, we are forced to talk to strangers every day.
Our floormates are strangers, at first, but we soon can call some of them our closest friends. Our professors are even stranger to us, considering we don’t have the same luxury of friending them on Facebook, something we can easily do with our floormates. People around us on the Metro are all strangers, but we aren’t forced to interact with them, save the occasional “is this seat taken?” and “Excuse me, please.” And why don’t we? There was an extremely cute guy in a gray suit, sitting by himself last night when my friends and I were riding to Dupont. Why didn’t I “pop a squat” next to him and strike up a witty, engaging conversation, and win him over in a romantic comedy-esque fashion? No one is that forward in reality, and when people are, they are embarrassed by rejection or mocked, like the guy that sat down next to Serena last night at the shuttle stop. He introduced himself, asked about her, and was being polite and friendly, yet I made eye contact with Kate and made a face during the conversation, and we joked on the shuttle ride home about “that weird guy” who was talking to Serena. I admit, I was a little jealous of her, though—the guy was cute, conversation harmless—it’s fun to meet new people and to learn new things. Why are we as a culture encouraged to group off into cliques and only socialize with people we are familiar with, and scoffed at when we attempt to talk to/make new friends?
It’s hard to be open with new people at first, but the barriers of awkwardness and novelty can be overcome quickly via shared interests and common ground. That’s why I joined a few clubs at this Wednesday’s Activities Fair—I wanted to meet people, and further—make new friends. This is a happy medium between talking to absolute strangers and our floormates; you’re taking the risk without the possibility of true rejection, since you’ll be continuously spending time together.
Who doesn’t dream of a chance meeting on the street—girls, let’s say in an accidental cab dispute, or a dropping of a SmartTrip, recovered by a handsome stranger? Or, for the guys, if you accidentally throw your Frisbee across the quad a little too far or share an elevator with a single pretty girl? If we were more encouraged to talk to strangers—to be forward—we may be more likely to make new friends, develop new relationships, and just make basic human connections more easily. And, as a girl with somewhat hopeless romantic aspirations, I think that we should stick to the basics once we get to school—the reverse of what we’re always told, that is, to feel free to talk to strangers.