On triggers and violating personal space

I’m one of those people who places tremendous value on personal space. Get too close, and I get very uncomfortable very fast. I only cuddle my cats and my fiancé. I only hug close friends and family members. I’ll shake strangers’ hands, but that’s about it.

Some people are naturally like this, but for me, I know it’s a repercussion of PTSD; something I’m trying to figure out if I need to manage better or learn to live with. For people who aren’t aware, this might make me come off as a huge bitch. Consider the following scenario and let me know:

Today, I’m at my favorite coffee shop and notice the big red couch is free. Yes! That couch is never free! I happily sit down and stretch out. It’s a lovely change of pace for the hard seats that make my butt go numb after a while.

Enter an adult male who sits right next to me on the same couch. Worth noting: there are only half a dozen other patrons in here. There are plenty of other available seats (including another couch and cushy chair). I try not to flare up, but he’s sitting six inches from my foot (I’m guessing). I can smell him. Like a reflex, I start to sweat.

I think: Well, what right do I have to tell this guy where he can and cannot sit? I don’t own this couch, and this is a public space.

I think: If this punk doesn’t get up right now, I’m gonna have a conniption the size of Texas.

The guy did get up and leave eventually – allowing me to breathe again. Maybe I’m letting my personal issues get in the way of respecting others, of being charitable and understanding in a public vicinity, where people are free to move about.

But this isn’t the first time I’ve had guys sit near me when there were plenty of other seats available. This guy in particular didn’t seem like the type who enjoyed getting a rise out of getting too close, but I’ve seen others make intimidation a spectator sport: pulling out my headphones to tell me I’m pretty, following me when I get up and waiting outside the restroom door to ask me how I’m doing, asking me what book I’m reading and if I come here often, even when I’m giving VERY CLEAR SIGNALS that I want to be left alone.

Why do men do this? Why does anyone do this?

This guy today probably saw the couch and thought, Oooh. Comfy couch! and nothing more. The bitchy-looking girl with the “I’m Silently Judging Your Grammar” t-shirt was probably an afterthought, if I was even a thought at all.

I probably overreacted. Freaking out about sharing my seat space probably wasn’t the most ‘Christian’ thing to do. But given the history of people – typically men – who don’t understand the boundaries of personal space, even in public, can you blame me?


2 thoughts on “On triggers and violating personal space

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