Many of us, when asked, say we love to meet new people. Different people, people who do not belong to our list of acquaintances and everyday life, people with whom we will not have the usual conversations, with the usual exclamations, the usual reticence, the usual laugh, and the usual silences. People whose features have not yet been scanned by our eyes, whose voice inflections are not yet familiar to our ears, whose movements and gestures, actions and reactions we are eager to observe, curious to decipher, because they are not yet known to us, expected and foreseeable. People who are still a mystery to us, whose character, personality, temperament, points of view we are still groping, trying to grasp. Isn’t it true? Isn’t that all the fun of meeting a new person is all about?
Of course not! This is part of fun, but not at all of it. Perhaps, it is not even the most fundamental part!
The ultimate magic of meeting new people is not in the people we get to know. In the new creatures so far unknown, in the universe we can find in them. It is, actually, in ourselves, in the people we can become when we are with them. In the new that is contained within us, always, just waiting to emerge, and seizing the opportunity before this stranger. In the multiple editions of us we keep inside and now can choose to bring forward, to make public. In the possibility of reinventing ourselves in this shifting terrain we are just stepping into and trying to map of the new acquaintance.
For, in the company of people who know us, we are a certain person. A person with certain patterns of behavior, thoughts and opinion. A person who hates slamming doors and listens to jazz nonstop. A person who prefers salty food and who puts softly but tyrannically an end any political subject that begins to take shape in dinner table conversations. A person who reads sonnets and is terrified of modernism. A person who treads on the heels more than on the toes, who dresses a lot in cold colors and does not understand or bare religion of any kind. A person who, when grimacing, pulls the right corner of his mouth back and widens his eyes. A person who just puts the right strap of the backpack on the back.
When we are confronted with people who do not know us and do not expect this from us, we can reinvent ourselves. We have a chance not to be plagiarized by the force of others’ habits and expectation, to be an original and unpublished version of ourselves, with little or no resemblance to the more traditional one.
We may be someone who does not care about people slamming doors and is little given to irritation at large. Someone who listens to hip hop or flamenco. Who prefers food without any kind of spice, and sweet to salty. Who is interested in politics and keen on postmodern poetry. Who steps lightly, barely tapping on the floor and dresses combining thunderous colors and devoted smiles. Who admires all kinds of faith and faithful people and observes and studies religions with fervent passion. Who changes grimaces for absentminded smiles and, actually not being into the relaxed style of the backpack, uses an elegant cross bag.
We can be someone who has not made the mistakes we have made, nor carries the blame we carry. We may have future prospects and dreams, desires and fantasies that our acquaintances would never associate with us. We can rewrite our past, accidentally blurring out of memory parts we want to forget, emphasizing others that we don’t usually remember. We may have a personality somewhat different from the one we usually describe ourselves, perhaps a sense of humor that hitherto had not characterized us. We can suddenly have different tastes and preferences, or not have any, and be so out of our ordinary. Have an altogether different character, other faults and qualities, overcoming that shyness or moderating our outspoken manner that we discover to be no more than a product of our imprisoning routine self!
One of the great charms of meeting new people, I say, is in being able to enter a foreign territory that we long to discover with an identity card that is not necessarily the one we carry in our country. It is the freedom to be who one wants to be at that moment.