As I walked out of my grad class yesterday, everyone high-fived each other, wished everyone good luck on their papers, exchanged phone numbers and set up times to hang out again. My class itself threw people together from all walks of life–undergrads and graduates, married and single people like myself, those who are teachers, those who have no interest in teaching, those who go home to children, and those who go home to drunk room mates. We spent four weeks together, forty glorious hours, and for some reason, we felt like a family.
So, of course, being me, I asked myself why we felt so bonded to each other and began thinking about what exactly binds humans together. Here is what I came up with:
1. Shared struggles: When I think about all of the teams I have ever been on and all of the different personalities that are consequently thrown together, I am amazed that there was not more all-out-brawling-hair-pulling-out. I actually cannot think of any situation where two people literally did not get along and had to be separated. For some reason, when people share a similar struggle, whether that be running suicides until you throw up, reading an obscene amount of literature in a short amount of time, or trying to find shelter in the pouring hail, when we all struggle through the same obstacles, we acquire some kind of understanding and unfailing, sometimes unspoken bond.
2. Secrets: My most favorite quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray is “When I like people immensely, I never tell their names to anyone. It is like surrendering a part of them. I have grown to love secrecy. It seems to be the one thing that can make the modern like mysterious or marvelous to us. The commonest thing is delighftul if one only hides it”. While, of course this quote speaks to Basil’s desire to keep Dorian’s picture hidden, I think it also speaks to the nature of how secrets bind two people together. Consider secret organizations, such as the Free Masons, the Oddfellows, the Klu Klux Klan, Greek fraternities and sororities.
Perhaps my favorite part of being in a relationship are the secrets. And no, I don’t mean secrets, like a secret other boyfriend on the side or the secret thirty pounds you don’t mention on your online dating profile. It is the secrets you create together and don’t tell anyone else about: the times you steal your parent’s truck to see each other, the times you told your friends you were late because of ‘traffic’ but you actually were just making out in the parking lot, the secrets you share when you forget your sibling’s birthday, the secrets you share during heart to heart conversations that you vow to never share with anyone, even after your break up; the times you got caught in the school parking lot by a cop, the time one of you broke the bowling alley lane and you both walked away like nothing happened, the time you drunkingly peed on a Ford because “it is a P.O.S. Ford”, the time you threw a party at your house, got arrested, and thrown into detox. Those kinds of secrets. I also love the secrets you keep from each other just to watch the sheer elation on their faces when it comes to fruition; perhaps it is a surprise plane flight, a surprise visit at work, a surprise anniversary dinner, a surprise care box. As Dorian Gray says, it adds mysterious, excitement to the ordinary.
All of these types of secrets bring people of commonalities together, we hold secrets, and ask each other to refrain from sharing with anyone on the outside for the benefit of the larger mass. Secrets bind people together because secrets transcend our own physical existence and binds us to something much larger than ourselves.
3. Gossip: I can’t tell you how many friendships, co-workerships, room-mateships I have seen formed from gossip, especially when you look at the realm of ‘women’. A common dislike for someone else binds us together. Here is a recent conversation I heard between two women: “Do you see that girl over there? She looks like a cow. I can’t believe she is wearing that outfit. Doesn’t she understand that no one wants to see her utters?” And, the follow up, “Oh my gosh I know. I was noticing that too. Doesn’t she have clothes that fit her?” Or, we have these kind of conversations: “I went on a date the other night with this guy who no joke looked like a sloth. He had no eyes holes or chin. And his teeth were kind of marijuana stained”. And, then in both situations, the women start laughing, making more fun of these people, exaggerating the cow-ness and sloth-ness, and becoming best friends in the making.
Perhaps the bond is that they both know they engaged in some kind of immoral, mean behavior, so if one rats on the other, the other has to admit to participating and not intervening in this ‘bullying’.
4. Food: If you ever see people eating together in a book or a movie, it is never just about them eating together; it is about them sharing some kind of communion, some kind of innately human experience. Everyone, no matter what gender you are, what nationality you come from, what salary you earn, has to eat. It is a fundamental aspect of living. So, when you see people eating together, you see them sharing some kind of bond. Perhaps it is a bond about how terrible and stomach-wrecking the dorm food is. Perhaps it is a bond about “what kind of tomatoes you used in this pasta sauce”. Perhaps it is just a bond about I am effen hungry so you better get me to some food fast (this is usually me). We got out to dinner with friends, we host tea parties, we provide food at weddings and funerals. If you ever need to connect with someone, just offer food.