Personal Space, by Michael Matthews

As most of us know, but don’t often think about it, there is a social norm about personal space — don’t enter into someone’s personal space uninvited.  So I’m taking an introductory photography class next term, and so I needed to go to the HFAC and ask around about what’s required for cameras.  I found out roughly where I needed to go, and lurked about for a little bit, waiting for a stranger (a male—it would’ve been awkward if it was a girl, because I’m married!) to ask for directions.

The subject appeared behind me, walking the other direction, so I called out to him and began walking up to him and closing the distance between us.  As I was asking for directions, I kept walking right up to him and eventually got within a foot of his body, but on his left side.  When I finished asking my question, he paused for a moment, and he seemed kinda frozen—like he didn’t wanna look at me or make any sudden movements.  After his extended pause and freeze, he walked up the hallway and pointed out a lab to me where I could ask someone else for directions.  I thanked him and left his personal space.

I had to work at keeping a straight face and not smiling while pressing upon him.  Like I said, he seemed kinda frozen for a moment, and (typically male) didn’t make eye-contact.  Afterwards, I tried to approach the person I was directed to up close, but he was sitting down, and I wasn’t brave enough to squat down or get on my knees and sidle right on up next to him.  At least with the first guy I was able to move closer in, pretending like I was trying to look down his arm to see who he was pointing out.  I didn’t mind being that awkward.  If I had to choose between saying something I think is funny that no one laughs at later and doing something I think is awkward that gets laughed about later, I’d rather do something I think is awkward.

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  1. #1 by alylallatin on June 7, 2012 - 9:15 PM

    i like that you chose to violate the personal space norm. It is such an important part of society, but it isn’t something we consciously think about; it just is. Everyone knows to stay out of others’ personal space.

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