She laughed. “I’ve seen it three times.”
We both grinned. “I’ve only seen it twice, but I’m going again this weekend,” I told her. We talked briefly about how much we loved the movie and how happy it made us.
A young man stood in line in front of my friend. I’d age him somewhere between 12 and 14, though I’m awful at estimating ages. He had a young, round face. An older man stood in front of him, and I can’t say for certain whether they were brothers or father and son.
The young man joined our conversation, which would have been fine, except he alluded directly to spoilers (which will not themselves be referenced here--this isn’t about the movie).
The young man’s older companion never turned, never looked our way.
I said, “I stayed off the Internet for two days before I saw it, so no one would spoil anything for me,” laughing in a nervous attempt to avoid confrontation.
My friend glared at the air in front of her. She described how everything had been spoiled for her through the comment section of an unrelated news article.
The young man laughed, his hands shoved into the pockets of his hoodie, his eyes shifting side to side without making direct eye contact with us. Granted, I wasn’t making direct eye contact with him either--I’m terrified of eye contact with strangers. (Just ask Paul about the time I wound up next to him in an otherwise empty elevator without realizing, “Hey! That’s my boyfriend!” until he was already trying to kiss me.)
While I shook my head emphatically, my own hands shoved into my own pockets, my friend said, “No! That would have been terrible. You shouldn’t have even done what you did earlier. That’s a dick move.”
At this point, I looked up the line at the young man’s older companion, worried we were about to get in trouble for cursing in front of someone’s son.
Nothing happened. The conversation fizzled. But I’ve continued thinking about that guy, who I’ll admit I called “a little prick” once he and his father/brother/ice-cream-buyer left.
The guy had a young, round face. He seemed nervous. We were two older girls who liked Star Wars--which isn’t rare by any metric, but often presents itself as unusual in people’s minds.
I don’t think he was “a little prick.” I think he was trying to be cool, to prove to us that he was above being shackled by the silly rules of social consideration. And I wish I’d been as brave as my friend and spoken up.
Instead, I’ll do the admittedly cowardly thing and address him where he’ll never see it, but potentially, some other young man or woman might.
Indifference and apathy impress no one.
Sitcoms and romcoms and your buddies and bullies have lied to you.
The most impressive thing in the world is passion. And I don’t mean jealous, violent, break-plates-on-the-walls passion, or romantic-hero-on-horseback passion. I’m talking about “an intense desire or enthusiasm for something” -- for anything.
Your friends and your potential love interests will be more likely to stick around if you love something without shame, but with childlike enthusiasm.
--When she’s up on stage playing the drums with the band she cobbled together.
--When he’s grinning over the newest release of the book series he loves and rambling on excitedly about the cover art or the box set or the illustrated map of the fictional universe he wants to hang on his wall.
--When our friends are working together, bent over the same joint art project or designing a computer program or debating the rules of a board game.
We as people want to surround ourselves with others who appreciate us, who’ll defend and support us. Again, not in the jealous-barroom-brawl sense, but in the sense that if our names come up in conversation, you won’t shrug or chuckle sarcastically or scoff at the idea that you care about us.
We want enthusiastic friends and love interests. Enthusiasm attracts enthusiasm--apathy and cynicism only attract more of the same.
Don’t try to prove to anyone that you are superior, that you are above caring. Because I speak from experience--when you actually stop caring, when you drown out and hide the things that make you vulnerable, you cease to care about yourself, and no one will know how to be enthusiastic about you.
I definitely reached a point where I tried to be “tough,” and I’m still clawing my way back toward enthusiasm. I’m trying to push myself to express excitement for my loved ones, for my interests, even if it I risk exposure to ridicule. And I know the weight of stereotypical gender roles makes it even harder for boys and men.
But if you start now, you might not develop the lifelong habit of insulating yourself. You might have better luck making eye contact with people. And you might not feel compelled to ruin the joy of others, just to demonstrate how impressive you want to be.
Impress us with your passion and enthusiasm. Love something. And protect your love instead of yourself.
Additional props to my friend Hannah Roberts for her enthusiastic note.