I knew as soon as I started it, I wouldn’t be able to stop. Having intentionally tried to avoid reading more on the subject, I wasn’t too tempted to start. But then something dangerous happened; I got bored. I had finished with work, and I was free to do whatever I wanted. I was on holiday and I had time. How dangerous could it really be? I mean it was just a show. There were only 13 episodes. So yesterday I took the plunge and started watching Orange is the new Black. And as countless others, I was hooked. I managed to limit myself to 4 episodes and got to sleep at 1 am, and as I lay in bed I wondered what I would do if I was in prison.
I’d have so much time on my hands. I could read, get fit or even write a book. And that’s when the danger of the show really hit me. Prison was actually starting to sounds like not such a bad place. Don’t get me wrong; I still don’t want to go to prison, ever. But if I somehow ended up there, this show made me feel like I might even survive. However, as fun as it was imagining myself as a prison bad ass I was quickly awoken from the illusion that it would be anything but horrible. The loss of freedom and trust from other human beings is terrible, the thought of being trapped behind bars scary, and further the thought of being trapped within yourself is even worse.
Yet it also got me thinking of something else. About why, when we are in restricted spaces, either mentally or physically some people do things they normally wouldn’t? Why does the real world fade away from them to such an extent that it is okay to find ourselves naked in a hotel room at a Turkish 5 star hotel with someone who isn’t our boyfriend? Why is it more “acceptable”, or easier, to cheat in confined spaces?
It was not only the semi-fictional world of Orange is the new Black where I saw evidence of this happening. When I got to sessions for the European Youth Parliament, where young people aged 18-25 get together in different parts of Europe for sessions to discuss EU politics, I see the same thing happen. People cheat on their partners. In the space of 5-10 days of intense discussions, debates and very little sleep, some manage to find the time (or the need) to “relax” with someone they have met at a session. Despite having a commitment at home to someone else. I often wondered why this was, how in an environment where there was so much else to do, a schedule packed with activity, how you could even fit in an affair, never mind find an empty space to do it in.
Of course there are plenty of people who have partners they are completely faithful to during sessions, people who are single who find connections at sessions and people who never encounter the romantic side the organisation has to offer. There are various reasons for why people participate, and overall the atmosphere is very professional. I don’t think this pattern I have observed is in any way integral to the organisation, in fact I could use any number of situations as an example of this phenomena I call infidelity in confined spaces, University being one of them.
I do not think it necessarily matters how far away physically you are from your partner, I think it is the mental distance that matters. The fact that you are in such different environments, which make you feel like you are alone and further away from each other. In addition to this, as human beings we crave contact. We want to be touched and held. And especially when you are used to that constant feel of another person on your skin, it is hard to go without it. To be in an environment of intense stress and intellectual stimulation, surrounded by people that you share close proximity and an intense connection with because of common experience, the opportunity is suddenly there. The chance to connect and be touched again. To feel like someone cares and thinks you are worth showing affection towards. And that can become dangerous when you detach yourself from the real world and this confined space becomes an exception to your life. An exception that sometimes leads to a mistake.