Guest column by Ellie June, senior communication studies major
‘The Smokers Bench’ is what they call it—located three drunken steps latitude, two longitude west of Chapman’s social status quo, precisely where I met my best friends freshman year. Fraternity parties and dorm kickbacks rattled my inherently defiant moral compass straight for an existential crisis. I assure you I was not alone. I met many others like me at the Smokers Bench cold nights thereafter.
There’s something welcoming in the air of nicotine and angsty, fluid conversation that invites impartial new friendships. Strangers meet other strangers after others are long gone to sleep, and before Orange Cab Co. trollies home the rest to fill the parking lot with howling kids high at the prime of their youth.
Then it happened—I quit smoking, and shortly after lost touch with deep, seamless friendships. Questions arose like: “Why is it so difficult to make friends here?” I reevaluated my habits, juxtaposed them to my more socially competent roommates, and at last realized I was doing it all wrong. Here’s how to not make friends:
1. Believe you are superior: intellectually, socio-economically, aesthetically, etc. The reason smokers gathered was not only because it was a designated smoking area, but that they believed, we believed, we were spending our time more purposefully and poignantly than those socializing in rowdy crowds. Someone is always better or more knowledgeable than you at something, so let him or her prove it.
2. Avoid mainstream media: deactivating Facebook, refusing to watch TV/movies, not texting, etc. The aforementioned use of media ultimately motivates this: that to submit to popular media is to submit to doublethink, the inability to think for oneself. But if consumed in moderation, popular media brings together those who would not have met without some common ground to initiate conversation, i.e., this week’s “Sons of Anarchy.”
3. Believe in the word awkward: Don’t say it, don’t think it, don’t believe in it. Awkward social contexts don’t exist, unless your Grandma Penny is meeting your new punk boyfriend at Thanksgiving. We must be able to open ourselves to communication with anyone, regardless of prejudgments. Don’t rule out the possibility of a good conversation because you’re uncomfortable approaching strangers. They’re likely just as uncomfortable approaching you. So don’t perpetuate the cycle, and thus the rift in human connection.
4. Commit seriously to a romantic relationship: Romance is beautiful, and relationships are healthy for young people, to an extent. Your single friends will in due time grow jealous of your relationship. Your beau may lose touch with his or her friends too, so you two will have no choice but to stay home with a box of chow mein and reality TV, missing the opportunity to meet new minds, albeit how awk—stressful it is to be so vulnerable to strangers.
Bottom line: stay open, stay accessible, stay single—unless your marriage is arranged, in which case you have other issues to tend to. On the bright side, you may die from a heavy, regretful heart but certainly not from emphysema.