When I was younger, I had absolutely none. I went to a school which practically had no personal space as a whole — we all hugged and hung on each other all the time, every day. To me, it was normal.
Then I came to Emory. And I’ll be honest — the average person’s personal space was so big it was a culture shock. I was even snapped at once when I went to automatically hug a friend (Tonia, I love you!). And it was a reality check, because most people in the world did not grow up in such a close, touchy-feely community, and I had to adapt to such a reality.
Three times in the past week, I’ve snapped at someone who touched me without some vague semblance of my invitation. At Flying Biscuits, a lead who I dance with every week went for a hug, and I backed off. While I was at work, a boy went to poke my stomach, and I snapped at him. And then the same boy’s twin brother, a day later, snuck up behind me and poked me in the side. Let me tell you, I whipped around and laid into him. I snapped so loudly and so angrily that patrons were staring (oops) and that I am sure he will never ever poke me in the sides again.
Dancing, of course, is a bit more touchy feely than most communities — we hug and hang on each other at exchanges. But for me, it’s changed. I only really hug and hang on with whom I’m close. People whom I talk to almost every day, even if I only see them once every three months. People with whom I’ve shared a special dance weekend with, or had a heart-to-heart felt moment with. But then, if you’re in that category, I’ll be as touchy-feely as if I were back at Rabun Gap, and hanging and hugging and cuddling is all good.
I just…if you’re allowed in my personal space, it’s because you’re honestly special to me. It was a hard lesson to learn at first, but I’m glad now…because now, it’s important to me, too.