What do you do when someone intrudes on your boundaries? How big is your bubble? Chances are, your bubble is different from mine. And mine currently is different from what it used to be. In my twenties, it seemed perfectly reasonable for a stranger to approach me in a bar and put her hand on my thigh. I appreciated that kind of boldness. I tend to respond to direct inquiry much more readily than wishy-washy innuendo. These days, god help you if you put your hand on my thigh. And you had best not touch me in a bathroom.
I don’t have any problem throwing you the fuck off me. It has been years since a zealot tried to accost me with Jesus. Or some drunk felt I’d be happy to converse with him. In the old days, I said “no” and then explained myself. I’m saying “no” for this list of reasons. It’s nothing personal. Yeah. Actually it is. I am not a wall for you to lean against. Or a mouth for you to rest inside. Or a handhold of any variety. I don’t give a fuck that you’ve drunk too much and are saying things you’d regret if you had any chance of remembering them. I don’t owe you any explanation for my “no” — ever. That word, all by itself, is the end of it.
And that’s clear enough. But what about the rest of it? What about the friend who keeps getting her drama all over you? What about the coworker who cannot refrain from saying inappropriate things? What about those people who think commenting on your body is fine as long as their observations are complimentary? If something makes you feel weird, say so. It doesn’t matter if you can’t explain why it makes you feel weird, because you don’t have to explain it. You don’t even have to know why it makes you feel weird. Feeling weird is reason enough to say, Stop. Stop.
You are not obliged to accept anyone’s help. You are not a bitch for refusing to take gifts. Nobody who corners you has good intentions. I don’t care how long that person has known you. I don’t care what kind of rough time they’ve had. Your bubble is yours — whatever its shifting shape. If that means you don’t want men pacing behind you on the sidewalk, cross the street and don’t feel guilty. If that means you set your bag next to you on the bus and don’t share a seat, then take up your space. It’s yours. Your space belongs to you alone.
1 thought on “Othering”
It’s fricking incredible the lengths to which we will go to not be confrontational. To not hurt people’s feelings or have them think we are strange, rude, overreacting, etc. I’ve given people a lot of permissions; it’s the good southern girl thing, I suppose. I find myself compensating like this all the time, but you’re right: why do I owe you an explanation if you make me uncomfortable?
Tangentially: Denmark is famous for its good little soldiers. They are fascinating. Sometimes I wondered, if I fell off my bike, would anyone stop. God forbid they make it worse by acknowledging my embarrassment.