College culture is all about meeting new people. How you meet them can vary widely. Examples can range anywhere from two people laughing at a professor’s unintentionally double entendred-remark and striking up a friendship to laughing with someone at a dumb frat brother in the keg line and striking up a conversation. It is pretty easy to make friends in college, granted of varying levels of quality. And let me tell you, not a single weekend night went by without waking up the next day to find anywhere from 2-7 new numbers in my now party-worn flip phone. All of these new acquaintances and run-ins with strangers led me to think about how one really gets to know anyone and how well you actually even know your real friends.
The movie Before Sunrise encapsulates this random meeting of two souls: Ethan Hawke playing Jesse the American and Julie Delpy as Celine the Parisian. (Before Sunset was the unnecessary sequel. I wish they had left the film alone because the cliffhanging ending lent emphasis to the whole tone of “not knowing” and “stranger” encounters). Beginning their friendship over a few shared laugh on a train (substitute Psychology class, keg party, Trader Joe’s, etc.), the pair makes verbal note that they are hitting it off and decide to run with it and spend a day (and as it turns out, a night) together on their way to separate destinations/lives.
They learn things about each other in this one day that both had never divulged to anyone. They fall in love and the viewer believes it, because guess what? I think that this is possible. Why is knowing every facet of someone needed to be the qualifier of love anyway? After falling in love, the acceptance of quirks and flaws is more like bemused tolerance than a symbol of undying affection.
We are all in this world and who’s to say what circles we should stick to or what social boundaries there exist. I want to turn to the guy next me in Starbucks and ask what his favorite movie is. However, I won’t. I won’t because of the conventions of social norms and the fact that outside of college there aren’t that many times when people (attracted males excluded) are willing to just “strike up a conversation” without knowing you for four years: your back story, your present, and your future. It would be a better world if everywhere was as friendly as a southern town. Please understand I am not saying my future maternal advice will be for my children to gallivant around chatting up strangers, but I do want the world to realize that it is unnatural and bizarre that outside contact barely occurs. Try riding the T and checking out the forty-seven iPod listeners, five book-readers, and nine awkwardly unoccupied eye-averters. When you meet people in a unique way it always feels like it shouldn’t officially be happening. I hate feeling like your social circles are where you belong and outside interaction should be limited to “excuse me” and the sort.
Also, back to the movie, the proof that the travelers were compatible as strangers goes to show that there are millions of cool people out there who we will never even see or know. They are our unmet best friends and soul mates. Thank you Before Sunrise for my new life-plan where I will board a train to Vienna and indubitably leave one soul mate richer.