Let me start by saying that I’m a touchy-feely person. I love nothing more than a genuine hug or to be close to someone. The one caveat is: that’s with people I KNOW. When it comes to strangers, distance is the name of the game.
There are cultural norms that guide how close we stand when we talk to someone. We’ve all encountered a close talker. It’s awkward and off-putting. Personally, I lose focus on the conversation at hand because I’m so worried about this person hanging out on my tonsils. I’m aware that, in some cultures, this is perfectly acceptable. Know your audience. If I were in a country with a culture of close-talking, I’d just deal with it. I’m not ignorant. But, on a daily basis, I’m in America. Dealing with Americans.
Getting even more personal, let’s talk about touch. When a stranger touches me or my child, uninvited, I get angry. There is typically nothing about my body language that communicates to a stranger to touch me. NOTHING. And definitely not anything my child is doing, other than being stinkin’ adorable. That being said, at least once a week, one of us is getting touched. Being that I have zero desire to touch a stranger, I can’t understand why one would choose to touch me. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid touching someone because I think it’s rude. But not everyone lives by the “keep your hands to yourself” credo. And that’s where we run into an issue.
In the United States, we tend to stand about 4 feet from one another when we talk to those we don’t know. Stand any closer, and someone is likely uncomfortable. Also, and it should go without saying, but I’ll say it – personal space is a thing. We typically have a bubble of anywhere from 3 to 6 feet in non-crowded situations. When you pop that bubble of personal space, everyone feels weird, whether that be standing too close or actually physically touching someone.
There have been recent studies about how often people wash their hands after using the bathroom. I’ve gotta tell ya, things aren’t looking so great. Because of that, I’m even more put off by people touching me. The numbers don’t lie. And even more than that, my eyes don’t. I have seen women just sprinkle their fingertips with a little water – NO SOAP – and head out of the restroom. Or they just don’t wash them at all. Gross. And these people are likely the same ones who sign up to make everything for a potluck and always want to shake someone’s hand. Ugh!
Given the straight facts and what I’ve seen with my own two eyes, give me my personal space and I will DEFINITELY grant you yours.