How much do you value your personal space? Do you have people who invade it?
When I was a teenager we had a family friend who used to stand just a bit too close to me. I wasn’t alone – friends said the same. He wasn’t creepy, but just didn’t realise that I would have preferred him to be a little further away.
My side, your space
I’ve been on the other end of this problem. I vividly remember walking into the first music lecture of second year of A-Levels. I was a little dishevelled and fashionably late after my hour’s bus journey. The girls in my class were all looking astounded and seemed remarkably quiet. I soon worked out why – the gorgeous trumpet player from the year above was resitting the course. Unfortunately he wasn’t so wowed by my presence.
Later on in the year, I reached up to pick a leaf out of his hair. He stepped back so quickly I nearly fell over. It made his feelings about the invasion of his personal space perfectly clear.
Little children in my personal space
As a parent, personal space doesn’t seem to exist. What is yours is also theirs. One morning I woke to find my little girl’s eye centimetres away from mine. That was a shock to the system. As they grow up, the contact gradually reduces over time. I remember a friend telling me that she missed the feel of little hands reaching up for hers. After years of sometimes feeling touched out, it can be bizarre to no longer have that constant sensation.
People often apologise for their toddler leaning on me or holding on to my leg. “It’s fine, ” I respond. “I hardly noticed – I have children, too.”
And here’s the thing. I was on the tube this week. I think the last time I had the pleasure was during the last millennia. In York, the closest we seem to get to strangers on public transport is if we have to sit next to someone we don’t know on the Park and Ride. It’s a bit different from being rammed into someone else’s armpit. There was no friendly banter, except from a fellow Northerner. I was with some children and needed to communicate with them as they became hidden behind the next batch of passengers that embarked. No eye contact from the commuters when I spoke the children’s names.
It was suggested to me that the reason for this lack of communication is to defend that personal space. Yes, we aren’t comfortable being pressed into the man’s hairy legs (my daughter’s words). But once we look that person in the eye, there is a further degree of intimacy. And that is just one step too far.
Discomfort from invasion
So, I have a dilemma. There’s a very sweet chap I come into contact with a number of times a week. He’s considerably younger than me. This bloke is not someone I would wish to avoid. However, he stands in my personal space. For me, the reassuring thing is that I’ve checked with a couple of mates and they feel the same.
I see my options as follows:
1. Do nothing
2. Take a step back when he is taking to me (aka Mr Trumpet)
3. Put my hand out and say, “Too close”
4. Sit him down and explain
If you were in this situation, what would you do? Or as the invader, how would you like to be treated?
For more posts like this, follow Secrets of Heaven on Facebook