October 8, 2012
“This is my space and this is your space.”
This quote is frequently utilized by my daughter, Devin, who finds it offensive when someone enters her “bubble.” She has never been a “huggy-feely” person and she is quick to let people know by utilizing her not-so-subtle facial expressions when they have crossed the line into “her” space. If her expressions made sounds, you might liken it to that of a freight train whistle. Yes, it is that bad.
I, on the other hand, am the definition “huggy-feely.” I adore giving hugs, shaking hands, kisses on the cheek and sitting close to the person next to me in a booth while having dinner. These things have never bothered me and many times I take for granted that they don’t bother others.
That is wrong thinking on my part and to tell you the truth, even I can become a bit claustrophobic when someone invades my personal space.
Although I do like a good squeeze from a friend, I do not particularly enjoy feeling a stranger’s breath on my face. That comes close to sending me into orbit. After all, I can think of absolutely no need for a person to have their face that close to mine if I don’t know them.
However, in order to not offend the person, I usually take two steps backward to regain my level of comfort. Nevertheless, they frequently follow me and end up where we started; too close!
When that happens, I continue taking steps backward in hopes of gently guiding the person into understanding that they are unintentionally causing me a great deal of discomfort. This only works until I back into a wall. At that point, the game is on.
Once I have hit the wall, I will come up with any strategy within my mind’s grasp to get away from the trespasser. I will look at my watch and say “Oh, dear! Look at the time! I have to go, but it was very nice to talk to you!”
If I am at work with a customer, I walk to my desk and ask if they would like to have a seat — on the opposite side!
There are many forms of personal space violations.
One of my favorite pastimes is to rub a pregnant belly. I simply adore the miracle of new life and my most treasured moments thus far have been both of my pregnancies. Therefore, whenever a pregnant belly appears, I race for the “rub.” There is something therapeutic about feeling a little foot or elbow give a sweet nudge.
The only problem is that not every pregnant woman enjoys others rubbing her belly. That makes sense to ordinary people. Why it doesn’t make sense to me is unknown, if not a little disturbing. I have learned that reaching for that belly is considered trespassing into personal space and I now ask permission before I push others out of the way to get the first rub.
Funny as it sounds, my friend, Carla Halane, recently pointed out that rubbing a bald head is something that makes her twinkle. Yes, Carla enjoys rubbing the slick man’s skull as it brings her some sort of comfort. (Don’t judge!)
However, not all balding men appreciate being approached by a woman in need of that sort of therapy. They may be self-conscious of their lacking follicles or they could be like Devin and simply have personal space issues.
Regardless of what inspires us to invade the personal space of another, we must begin to make ourselves aware of these violations. Some people don’t mind making their angst clear to us, but others are timid and may choose to endure our insensitivity by avoiding confrontation.
Therefore, I will plead with you on behalf of Devin, pregnant women and balding men to pay more attention to the personal space of others.
A good rule of thumb in measuring personal space is to extend your arm forward and turn a complete circle. That space is yours (unless you’re at a Kenny Chesney concert) and you have the right to maintain that area as your very own.
Respect and courtesy for others should remain in the forefront of our minds at all times. It provides people with a perception of our character and integrity. Trust comes with a feeling of security and if we begin relationships by making new friends uncomfortable, it takes much longer for them to come to a point of anticipating “huggy-feely’s” from us.
The moral of this week’s column is: Don’t be one of them! Find your personal space and don’t be a trespasser.
Have a great week!