Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Space. The final frontier. I'm not talking about outer space though. I'm talking about personal space. You know, that invisible bubble around us filled with nothing but air. Disclaimer: If you enter this space without my approval, I can't be held responsible for my actions. If you're a close talker, I will step away from you during our conversation to re-establish the bubble of protection around me. It means when I put my items on the belt at the supermarket that those items are mine even though I haven't purchased them yet. And if you touch my stuff or my cart, it's like you're touching an extension of me. Every American knows these hard and fast rules.
But when you leave the states, these rules don't apply. Because, lots of cultures don't have this concept of personal space. And I'm positive some languages don't even have words to translate thoughts I have about space. Like, "Get out of my bubble you glutinous space hog". And that was the clean version. You should not be close enough so I can smell the onions from the Moroccan salad you ate last night. Or that I am showered by the spittle that sprays out of your mouth when you guffaw. Or that that your proximity in a crowded room confirms the violating fart that is assaulting my nostrils came from you. My friend Faith calls this phenomenon, boom slang. (I'm not sure if that's hyphenated, two words or one, to be honest.) I must admit, I have committed the above lesser crimes against personal space at some time or another. Yes, even boom slang...
Everyday, I encounter numerous spacehogs. They crowd me at the checkout line, desperate to get to the end of the register to bag their groceries. Never mind that I'm in front of them and haven't gotten to the end to bag mine yet. This may or may not involve them hip checking you with their shopping cart in their haste. Paying involves tucking my wallet into my chest trying to covertly extract the correct amount of cash without them seeing into my wallet. Even though I'm positive they still can. Likewise, they stand too close when you're at the ATM withdrawing cash. When I am at belly dance class there is one woman that no matter where I stand in that class or how much I shimmy away from her, she is drawn to me like a magnet. And I just can't shake her. I didn't even get into strangers touching my blond children for luck. And how much my kids hate that.
While I do realize that none of this is ill-intentioned, it is wearing. Oh, I try not to get angry about it, but sometimes I fantasize about elbowing people and ramming shopping carts at them while oogling their wallets and rubbing their brunette kids on the head in the hopes that I can make my point. Right after I boom slang of course.
Or maybe I should just shout, "I'm American and I like myspace". Because there I can be connected but yet totally maintain my aloof distance like a true American. Although, I know myspace was so yesterday. Now, everyone's moved to the more invasive breach of privacy and social networking called spacebook. And I'm also guilty of that, but at least no one can smell me there...
A good read: Alone Together by Sherry Turkle