I grew up during the peak of the Star Wars fad and had I not been genetically predisposed to favor my He-Man toys over my Chewbacca action figure, I might’ve paid more attention to space. I only knew of it what they said about it at the beginning of Star Trek, that it was “the final frontier.” Space was something confusing, big, and daunting. Who needed it? Well, as it turns out, most of us do.
Actual space, the space above us where the sun burns and galaxies collide, is a complicated mass of mathematics and physics. I have spent most of this year studying a microcosm of space, the space that exists between humans. Although not quite as overwhelming and endlessly possible as actual space, the space that human beings require can be just as complicated and is equally affected by numbers and science.
They say that actual space is relative, like time, and so indeed is human space. People need space, although at varying degrees. I spent two months living out of a suitcase in two of my friends’ living room. One of them needed little space at all and the sight of my unemployed ass sitting idly on the sofa when he got home from work was a welcome one. The other friend required much more space, actually the specific space in which I’d been sleeping, and he jumped for joy when I finally moved on and he was able to reclaim the couch as his.
Human space can be trickier than even the most confusing Carl Sagan or Stephen Hawking book. Unlike deciphering the distance between planets, you never know exactly how much space a human needs. New relationships are a doctorate level study in space. You spend half your time trying to figure out when it’s appropriate to call, to text, or to ask to see that person again. You don’t know if your perception of space is the same as theirs. What if they require more distance than you do? And if they do, then what does that mean? Do they just simply like to take things slower than you do? Or are they orbiting around someone else’s sun and you’re just some loser supernova dying off in the distance?
Trying to describe how much space you require in a relationship is a lot like trying to describe your own genitalia. You know exactly what yours looks like. You know it inside and out. However, words will inevitably fail you should you have to describe them. And like your own genitalia, space is just something that is always there. But you never really feel the need to discuss it with anyone unless it is immediately threatened.
Space is a science. And like all sciences, there is an underlying element of math. Human space is no different. The space that we need is our own unique algebraic equation where X equals the numbers of times you think you were in love divided by half the times you let somebody down multiplied by the number of times your best friend banged your boyfriend. And like the formulas that make up actual space, at first glance the numbers in human space look random, jumbled, and meaningless to the point that you’d rather give up than try to solve it.
Just as that geeky junior high school science teacher we all had tried to do, we try to make others understand space. It’s not easy. And many of us will fail. But at some point we have to grasp the beauty, and the power, of space.
Live long and prosper.