“This is my dance space… This is your dance space. You don’t go into mine and I don’t go into yours.” – Johnny Castle
(That happens about minute 2:55 in the video… go ahead, swoon over dreamy Patrick Swayze… you know you want to.)
I have personal space issues. Like Vampires or Satan, I don’t go into someone’s dwelling or personal space unless I’m invited in (or they’re family, close friends, have given me prior permission,
are harboring the newest shipment of peanut butter kisses that only come out around Halloween)… and I expect the same courtesy. Invading my space uninvited is one of those triggers that can cause me to go from happy panda to angry porcupine.
I’m adaptable – personal space in Europe was much, much smaller than it is in the USA. I got that, I knew that going in, I was fine. But here in the good ole USA – personal space is vast. You don’t sit next to people in waiting rooms unless there is no other option. You sit in entirely different rows from other patrons in movie theatres until or unless you have to sit in the same row, let alone next to someone.
Here’s something many people don’t know about me. I was not a “hugger” until college. I blame college friends for turning me into an occasional hugger… damn you college (and current) friends! I was FINE in my personal space bubble. I was fine with waving Hello and Goodbye and the occasional handshake. Then I met all these people who wanted to pull me in for a big hug.
I can laugh now at the memories of those first hugs, but at the time – I was flipping out! Whichever friend had decided it was a good idea to hug me would go for it – wrapping arms around me in a big ole squeeze – and I would stand there, stock still, deer-in-the-headlights eyes, not breathing…. and they didn’t stop hugging. It felt like millenia was passing for the duration of those hugs and in an effort to expedite the, what I hoped would be rapid, end of these hugs, I’d futilely raise my arms from the elbows and give a “there, there” pat on their back. That usually sufficed and the hug would end. I’d take a deep breath of relief at my release.
Yeah, this is a pretty good depiction of what I look like when someone attempts to go in for a hug. via cheezburger.com
Oh, they worked on me. They hugged, they one-arm-shoulder-squeezed, some even added on the freakish kiss-on-the-cheek (stop doing that! I don’t know where your mouth has been! Cultures for which this is a norm get a pass because I’m cultured, damn it.). My GODS! There was no END to their incessant touching!?
Eventually, I grew to trust these people and many went from friends to “chosen family”; hell, I even married one of them – one of the worst offenders even! (Did you notice the emphasis on “these”? Yeah… more on that. Keep reading.)
But those people who I allow into my personal space are few and far between. I’ve not made a full leap to a “Hugger” (with a capital H), choosing to hug, touch, let alone get close to their personal space, only a handful of people with regularity.
What people who I don’t hug regularly appear oblivious to when they go in for one is the panic, the deer-in-the-headlights look, that I’ve held my breath and in my head I’m wondering, “Just how long do I have to let them hug me…and will they notice if I don’t really hug them back?” People I don’t particularly know who go in for a hug often receive my right side (I’m right-handed) and a one-arm-pseudo-squeeze with the “there, there” pat as I turn my head away or I thrust out my hand as I take a step back if I think of that move fast enough.
This is not to say that I don’t like hugs. There are people in this world whose hugs I quite enjoy, thankfully Mr. Muse is Numero Uno of those people. If this were proper Victorian society, I venture to guess that most people in the world would be presented my offered hand, fully encased in a glove.
Needless, after reading all of that, I bet you figured out that I like my space, because you, my Dear Reader, are a very smart person.
I spend a good deal of each day alone. If I’m around people for too long I become a very angry porcupine, all coarse and bristly, flinging quills about left and right (porcupines don’t actually “fling” quills). I even have my own room in the house. My room, my stuff, my mess, my space. It’s not set up how I’d like it to be at the moment, but it works for now; one day it’ll become my
“She Cave” Study complete with a “Stay Out” sign on the door. Okay, there won’t be a sign on the door.
But this personal space issue isn’t just my own space – it’s everyone’s. For example, Mr. Muse likes to do woodworking. He has a large shop to do that in and I leave him to it. I seldom venture into the shop because that’s “his space”. He tells me I’m welcome any time, but for me it’s taboo to enter without invitation. I don’t want to interrupt his personal “me time”. Once he asked me into the shop to make “Aldo Leopold benches” and I went, but I was very concerned about using things in a way he didn’t want them used. I realize that it’s our money that bought the tools, but in my mind, everything in the shop is “his”.
Mr. Muse is bemused by my formality over the my space/your space issue. I’m not a cuddler, he is. I don’t like to be interrupted when I’m working on something, he doesn’t mind. He understands, yet doesn’t (to a certain extent), and that is okay. I don’t like being touched unless an invitation is extended and as long as I remain a happy panda, all is well. I also get a little slappy/punchy if I’m held onto for “too long” which can vary greatly depending on the day.
Let’s agree to keep physical touching to a minimum and just shake hands on it… but only if we have to.
Are you a “Hugger”?
How do you feel about your personal space?
Most awkward personal space moment?