There’s a phenomenon that happens in movie theatres.
Maybe you’ve seen it.
Maybe you’ve taken part.
Two guys walk into an auditorium and sit down, leaving one empty seat between them. They don’t fill it with jackets, popcorn or candy; it’s not a placeholder for a girlfriend or a late friend. The seat just sits there, unoccupied, for the duration of the show.
It could be psychic residue from the unwritten Guy Code that prevents men from standing next to each other at urinals (which begs the question, why don’t they just space the urinals further apart?). In that instance, though, I can kind of understand: I mean, if you’re not a look-up-and-stare-at-the-wall-like-you’re-deliberately-trying-to-not-notice-the-penises-on-either-side-of-you kind of person, this must be a traumatizing couple of minutes.
But in a movie theatre, everyone—for the most part—has their pants pulled up, and the crowds are full of strangers. So what’s with the over-extended personal space, guys? Are you really so afraid of bumping elbows with your bro, or having some random, immature douchebag assume you’re part of a gay couple that you have to put up an invisible barrier/beacon of heterosexuality?
It used to make me laugh, but now I just find it sad. I never see women sit apart from each other. I’ve only seen a married couple do it once (which is part of a whole ‘nother column). It’s exclusively a dude behavior; and not just a scared frat guy thing: for years, I’ve seen all kinds of men and boys sitting in these bizarre plush punctuations, and wondered to myself, “Did I not get a memo?”
I have no idea why this bothers me, and I should probably let it go. But there’s something so fundamentally closed-minded and wrong about the gap seat—particularly in a movie theatre, where the whole point is the shared experience—that I don’t think I’ll ever get over it.
I can only pity these proximity-phobes, and hope they keep their distance.