Tuesday. Early January. Mid-afternoon. Norris.
Sweat had started brimming my forehead. My eyes began anxiously darting from corner-to-corner. My stomach was grumbling and I swear I could have developed a nervous tick at that moment. No, I was not being held at gunpoint nor was I in any situation of equivalent concern. Instead, like any normal day, I was sipping on my Norbucks and catching up on some reading. Soothing and totally non-frightening, correct?
Well, for the first several minutes, as I sat there quasi-eavesdropping on the couple seated across from me, it was. I was loving it, feeling as collegiate as can be, sitting there with my coffee and impressive-looking textbook.
Suddenly, without my consent, a normal (and possibly even cute) male comes to my couch. He sits. He stays. In and around my couch. My personal space? Gone.
Apparently this male had just not seen the two other open couches on either side of mine. Or could I have met him before and he remembers me while I embarrassingly have no recollection of him? Could he perhaps be interested in me as more than a couch-sharing buddy (I was blessed with a good hair day that morning…)? Somehow, though, the most likely response seemed to be that he was a convicted felon (think Joe Lo Truglio in Superbad) looking for his next target.
This is where my story began. My once deliciously hot beverage had now become lukewarm and typically overpriced. My once intellectually-stimulating biology textbook was suddenly in a different language not known to mankind. And as for my once attractive enemy? He now belonged in a bell tower with Quasimodo, only minus the ultimate catch of Esmeralda.
Unfortunately, I am not the only one to suffer from such Personal Space Invasion Syndrome, but it seems to affect the American people as whole. Yes, I sound like a pharmaceutical commercial, but for good reason. Why did my perpetrator have to sit on a different sofa than me if mine was clearly the most comfortable looking? Why did this invasion of my personal space send my butterflies to flutter in my stomach beyond what should be anatomically possible? And more importantly, why do we as Americans have an unrealistic comfort zone for personal interaction?
It is a shame that our culture treats social situations the same way I did in kindergarten. Our lack of tolerance for this invasion of personal space represents some of our country’s odd behavior. We can take a cue from many European countries, infamous for tolerating and even encouraging close physical contact between acquaintances. And allowing that possibly cute guy to sit next to me that afternoon would have been a huge step toward making America like our classy neighbors across the pond.
College students like myself, while typically the most liberal demographic, remain some of the most conventional about personal space. We are thrust into an environment where constantly coexisting with other young adults is the very heart of a college experience. By not openly allowing that possibly cute male to sit next to me that Tuesday, I realized I was not only being unfair to him, but to my whole experience at Northwestern.
So, to the possibly cute boy who sat next to that neurotic brunette a couple weeks ago – I apologize. Give me some time, and maybe I’ll even be willing to recreate that Norris rendezvous one day.