I like my space. You can ask any of my friends, because I never see them, what with the importance of having my own space and all. OK, I’m only half joking, I see them sometimes. OK but really, my personal space is very important to me.
Now this should not be misinterpreted as antisocial behaviour (you can read in a previous post how I’ve grown to dislike being social), this is just our given right as human beings. The kind of space I’m talking about though can be violated on numerous occasions throughout the day; if you let it happen of course. Usually leaving your bed (if you’re sleeping alone – although again, I also like my space in my bed, but that’s a problem for another post), and then leaving the house to join the crowds on public transport, automatically puts your personal space at risk. If you live in London, you’ve probably accepted that personal space went the way of cassette tapes and dungarees many, many years ago. But I want to reclaim it, and blame others for this decline into mayhem where I have to breathe someone else’s air.
For example: The London Underground member of staff telling me to “move down inside the carriage, using all available space”. Er, how about we don’t encourage people to push each other into filling the last air hole available in a cramped, summer-heated carriage carrying us through tunnels like the short-sighted moles that we are? Because no, I don’t want someone’s armpit to be the thing I have to smell for thirty minutes, whilst I clutch my backpack between my legs and hope that no one’s feeling pick-pockety that morning.
I think we need to redefine this term “available space” for one thing. What it should really mean is, just as Johnny says in Dirty Dancing, “this is my dance space, this is your dance space”. That means, stay at arm’s length, sweaty suited man who has removed his jacket and is pressed so tightly against me, I’m fairly certain that if the train jerked forward suddenly, he’d get some great grind action and a jerk of his own.
And who else is to blame? Well, the commuters (myself included) for even getting on the tube in the first place. But my qualms do not only apply to the wonders of public transport, I’m also talking about someone getting into your emotional space and fucking you up that way. What I mean is, someone who stresses you out; maybe it’s your boss at work, or that one parent who will not stop reminding you how you’re disappointing them by not conforming to what they feel are social norms, or a friend who always gives you their pointed opinion even before you’ve formulated your feelings about something that’s happening to you. Sometimes people get into your head space, and you start to hear their voice as your own, considering what they would say and feel. And then you’re angry and more stressed that you’ve let them get to you in that way.
Nothing quite ruins a nice quiet time alone, like another person appearing. Some people can’t help but get into your stuff and swirl your brain around until you don’t know what’s up and what’s down, and you’re relying on them for an answer. Like the sweaty backed commuter, hell-bent on stepping back towards that one open inter-carriage door window even though you’re standing in front of it trying to avoid being stood upon and having someone else’s sweat on your face; sometimes people just cannot help but get in your way.
Which is why it’s so important to master some inner space if you can; even if you’re like Ed Norton in Fight Club imagining you’re in a cave with your spirit animal, at least it’s something (I wouldn’t recommend then going on to start a fight club by yourself though, people are less receptive to those things than the movies depict, which is a real shame because who couldn’t do with a fight club?). It’s easier said than done, and I find myself daily cursing the people who stress me out and get under my skin, but I always end up being mostly frustrated with myself for letting them do it in the first place. Eventually I reclaim my space again, and I cherish it to be honest, even if people are always trying to cross that line between comfortable and “why on earth are you touching me right now?”
I think we should value our personal space, and appreciate it when we have it. Yes, it would be so easy to let it turn into isolation, but I see it more as just being in the world, knowing that you are a part of something, and being around people without having to touch body parts with strangers against your will. If you’re really lucky, maybe you find someone who also appreciates personal space, and eventually wants to get into yours. And maybe you want them to also. And maybe you get laid. Boom, sex happened after you found inner peace; this is the dream.
Wow, guess I was feeling philosophical in my rant today.
Image credit: alien by Lluisa Iborra from the Noun Project