Follow by Email

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Space matters

Maybe I have an exceptionally large bubble, or maybe other people have an exceptionally small personal space rule? I don't know, but either way, I think space definitely does matter. I just don't understand why people feel the need to sit on the same bench as you when there's plenty of other empty benches to choose. Or why someone sits at the end of your pew in church when there are a ton of other empty ones. Or why the hostess sits you at a table right next to another group when the restaurant is mostly empty. Or why someone chooses to go in the bathroom stall next to the one you're in when there are plenty of other open ones... I thought there was some reasonable (albeit unwritten) rule that says, "Give others space." I guess, though, that the word "space" could be a little vague and confusing to some people. Like those who live under a rock, maybe...

While I vehemently hold my position that these above preferences are totally normal and reasonable, I do admit that I might be a little rigid and "off" in some of my other preferences and behaviors. For example, when deciding where to sit in a doctor's office waiting room, I choose my seat based on a couple of critieria: 1) not sitting next to someone else, 2) leaving no more than 1 empty seat between me and myself if the office is small and/or crowded so that new people coming in could have more open seats not next to anyone (wouldn't be the case if I left 2 open seats between me and someone else), and 3) trying to leave large groups of seats open so that couples/families/friends could sit together. Nothing stresses me out more than having to find enough seats for everyone I'm with and seeing that people have left groups of 2 or 3 seats open, but that's not enough... When choosing a bathroom stall, I prefer to pick one on the end, but if that's not available, I try to pick one that's one stall over from any that's occupied. When we go to church, we tend to sit at one end of the pew and leave as much room at the other end open for people who come later and need a seat. (We would sit in the middle so people could fill in from both sides, but now that there's 5 of us, we take up a good portion of the pew in most churches!) If someone comes and the only thing they can find is in the middle of our pew, I move in rather than make them climb over all 5 of us. I get so annoyed when we get to church late (which is almost always!) and all of the pews are empty in the middle but taken on both ends by singles or couples. Then they roll their eyes at you when you ask them to move in so you can sit down... I also don't understand why all the elderly people sit in the pews directly in front of the crying room. This makes no sense on two levels: 1) wouldn't it be more logical to save those seats for families, so they can quickly bail to the crying room if/when their kid starts ripping pages from the hymnal, continually dropping their sippy cup on the hard wooden pew despite repeated parental threats of time out, and screaming "Church is yucky!!!" (hypothetically speaking!) and 2) although the crying room windows are mostly sound proof, nothing is 100% effective against the piercing screams of little wannabe athiests, so wouldn't these old folks prefer a quieter section of the church? Anyway, I digress...

I like to have my space and give other people theirs, but I don't want to be rude or totally weird and position myself too far away. One of my biggest difficulties comes when going out to dinner with a big group of people - I can never decide where to sit. I hate being in the middle of a group, because then people talk over me and I have to lean back awkwardly and pretend not to care that I'm not involved in this conversation, or I have to turn my head back and forth and wonder if my profile is really as awful as I thought it was when I was a teenager. But I hate being on the end, too, because then sometimes people might talk to each other and I'm left out. I have a lot of trouble when some people are already sitting down and I want to sit next to the people I came in with, but there aren't enough open chairs together. How do I decide? And do I do the nice thing and sacrifice myself for the group? Then I inevitably get stuck next to the weird guy who no one wants to sit next to... Basically, I think I'm a little bit socially awkward. Some of my closest friends have told me that when they first met me, they thought I was a bitch and standoff-ish. Ultimately, I've come to realize that I'm just not good at starting conversations with most people. I have a horrible memory so chances are, if I do know anything that we have in common or could talk about something funny that we both know about, I've forgotten about it. Also, I'm not all that interested or informed about generic conversation topics (the weather, sports, politics, and which celebrity cheated on their spouse with whichever other celebrity's personal trainer while avoiding x amounts of jail time by attending rehab). At the same time, though, I love to plan parties and events and will maybe even be an event planner in my next life (but I'm not so sure about the working nights and weekends thing...). I guess, though, that gives me a role and a function, and I could make seating charts and always put myself next to the cool people. Hmmm - I guess this becomes more appealing the more I think about it.

If I taught 7th grade health class, I would have an entire segment of the course focused on personal space and social etiquette. For now, though, I'll have to stick to teaching my own kids not to lick other people's faces, modeling appropriate behavior to strangers - even if that means running through my seating choices and stall preferences out loud, and using my time wisely with that weird guy at the work dinner to educate him on appropriate conversation topics. Sometimes it is like the blind leading the blind, but if I don't do it, who will???

No comments:

Post a Comment