There is a difference in the conversations I have with a random stranger encountered at a convention, restaurant, or store, and the “stranger” I run into at work or around the neighborhood… a difference in interaction between the stranger I’ve never met and will never see again, and the stranger I see on a regular basis, but don’t know well enough to not call a stranger.
For the casual acquaintance I know through work or proximity, I keep myself cheerful and mundane. Small talk about weather or recaps of the latest game… whether they’ve seen the latest episode of one random show we both keep up on… simple, light, meaningless.
When I run into a stranger, a true stranger, an individual I’ve never met, and probably (hopefully) never will again, it’s a different conversation. Those are the individuals, if they’re interested, who I share the bottom of my soul with… I share everything I would never share with an acquaintance… even many things a friend might never hear about.
Growing up in relative isolation as a teenager, the majority of social connections I made were brief, fleeting encounters with adults from whatever city I happened to be visiting at the time. I had no friends my own age to share with, to gain perspective from. I had so much inside me I wasn’t allowed to discuss with anyone. So when I found a willing ear, one I didn’t have to worry about judgment from because I would never see them again, a flood of emotions and memories would rush forth, trying to tell everything before someone else could come along and put the cork back in the Niagara Falls of my emotions.
Why is it so much easier to bare my soul to a complete stranger?
I think the reason has to do with my social anxiety, and overall desire (which most people have) for everyone to like me. Paired with how weird my past is, the different sorts of psycho-social abuses I have received, and low self-esteem, it almost makes sense for me to trust a stranger more than a fixed entity in my life.
Humans are social creatures. I spent most of my life deprived of the ability to develop strong, emotion, social connections. Before the age of 25, I only had one person in my life I ever would have counted as a best friend, and I hadn’t seen her for five years when she died in a car accident, which I didn’t find out about until 3-4 years after the fact.
Paired with the “ambassadorial spirit” my parents ingrained in me (my social duty was to make them look good), I wasn’t free to share my true thoughts and feelings with the majority of individuals in my life. It wasn’t about being honest, it was about making them think my parents walked on water… and I was good at it.
Strangers are still my comfort zone, and friendships remain difficult because I feel the weight of keeping them.