Opinions, Column, Featured Column

How to Meet Your Neighbors (The College Edition)

Imagine opening the door of your home to a horde of small, female strangers exuding awkwardness, shoving a dozen donuts in your face and yelling, “These are for you!” Nightmare? Dream come true? Who’s to say? Either way, my neighbors don’t have to imagine—they lived this predicament last Tuesday when they met me and my eight-man for the first time.

I, for one, have been dying to meet the neighbors since we moved in. This might be because I find painfully awkward situations unreasonably fun. Or maybe it’s because I’ve always dreamed of having that quirky college hall experience where everyone hangs out and gets into trouble together. Or—and this is the most likely source of my yearning—it’s because my hall is composed of one legendary eight-woman (trust me), one eight-man of which three-eighths is named Ryan, and a final eight-man that (as far as we recall) only contains men who hail from Long Island. I don’t know about you, but those are three groups of people I’d like to know. 

In attempting to achieve my dreams of Animal House-level hall camaraderie, my roommates and I have established varying levels of contact with our hallmates over the year. We tried starting a prank war with the Long Island boys. We got one of the Ryans to take a polaroid of us in the hallway. There was one epic but unrepeatable Scrabble-related encounter with the Long Island boys. Alas, none of our attempts went anywhere. We remained, for all intents and purposes, complete strangers. 

I’m aware that this is a problem of my own creation. I suck and rarely participate in the awesome events our RA plans expressly for the purpose of hanging out as a floor. But as it turns out, Boston College as a whole doesn’t really have a culture of knowing your neighbors. It’s a lot like the greater United States in that way. 

So, I still suck, but I suck in a context in which pretty much all of us suck.  

To get a better idea of the extent of the problem, I polled people around campus. Most students I talked to didn’t know any of their neighbors or they only knew one, and essentially no one interacted with their neighbors on a regular basis. This tracks with data on neighbor relationships throughout the nation. According to Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans say they “know only some of their neighbors” and “never meet [their neighbors] for parties or get-togethers.” 

Isn’t that a sad state of affairs? I want to live in a world with neighbor relationships of the Stand By Me/Goonies/E.T./Sandlot variety—a world where neighbors know each other and at some point in between highly unrealistic, wholesome hijinks, they help each other become the people they were meant to be. It’s disgustingly cheesy, sure, but there’s something undeniably appealing about being close enough with the kid next door that you’d risk: your life/your life/your life/your stepdad’s Babe Ruth signed baseball (which is “worth more than [Smalls’] whole life” anyways) for them. 

So I set out to remedy my stranger-neighbor situation and create some ’80s-movie-level friendship. I figured the first step would be a solid introduction that incorporated donuts, the official food of friendship. Then, because I am a wuss and could not bring myself to go to my neighbors’ rooms alone, I roped the majority of my eight-man into going with me. After rescheduling (read: chickening out) three or four times, I finally gathered the donuts, the troops, and the courage. It was neighbor-meeting time.  

We started with the girls, figuring that would be easiest. It was. One of them opened the door, heard my spiel, and immediately invited us in, lamenting that she was the only one home. Her dorm was gorgeous. (Ours, comparatively, looks like trash, but it’s our trash so who cares.) I complimented the Animal House poster in the common room. My roommate Aroub embarrassed all of us by taking a picture posing boy-band style with their Obama tapestry. We discovered we had classes and friends in common. Overall, a 10/10 first encounter. 

Next up: the room with all the Ryans. One of the boys opened the door and immediately looked overwhelmed. I attempted to assuage his fears by explaining that I write a silly column, and I was trying to meet all of our neighbors, and I just wanted to give him donuts. Looking slightly relieved but still wary, he invited us in to say hi to the rest of his eight-man. Their room was also way cooler than ours and, like the last room, featured a classic Animal House poster. 

We never got the memo, but we’re working to remedy our lack of John “Bluto” Blutarsky decor ASAP.

Not knowing what else to do, we all went around and said our names (Molly saluted them when she said hers, which she will never live down), chatted a bit, and then left. Aroub later told us that one of the boys—who emerged after I gave the whole here’s-why-I’m-here speech—had made a gesture of intense confusion (and maybe fear) while mouthing “what the—?!” behind my back. God forbid an investigation of mine end without someone thinking I’m completely insane. 

So be it. I hope he enjoyed his donut. 

Lastly, we approached the door of the Long Islanders. We had had virtually no contact since pranking them last semester, so tensions were high. Aroub knocked aggressively and then jumped to the back of the pack, leaving me alone in the front with the donuts like a sacrificial lamb. Eventually, the door swung open to reveal three of them, two of whom were shirtless (and impressively shredded). They justified their lack of clothes—completely unprompted—by saying they had been playing chess. I demonstrated unprecedented self-restraint by not asking all the questions I had about that explanation and, instead, just bestowed the donuts upon them. We had a short and deeply awkward but not unpleasant chat, and then we all went home. 

My roommates expressed a range of reactions to the experience. Aroub’s favorite part was “meeting the cute blond boy” (which one she was referring to, exactly, the world may never know). Ivana loved getting to know our lovely lady neighbor, who was incredibly sweet. Molly enjoyed “how Aroub embarrassed us—because we joked about it beforehand, and then she did.” And best of all, Bea offered a heartfelt review of the experience, saying her favorite part was how “everyone welcomed us” and “how lovely other people are towards strangers.” 

Ultimately, everyone agreed that meeting our neighbors was really fun. Was it awkward? Deliciously so. Did we embarrass ourselves? Surely. Do they think we’re crazy? Of course. But while I wouldn’t say that we’re Stand By Me-level friends with any of them, now there’s a teeny tiny chance that someday we could be. And that’s good enough for me. 

February 2, 2020