crowded subway

Personal space is a beautiful thing. It’s that wonderful little cocoon of privacy that gives us the ability to navigate the treacherous comings and goings of society without screaming like a banshee at the next goddamn person that bumps into you when you’re on a crowded subway. Clearly I have no issues with personal space, and the more people I can have both physically and emotionally closer to the inner core of my being the better. But I wanted to give a shout out to you weirdos who prefer to have a buffer zone of sweet, sweet dead space between you and the people around you. Which, to reiterate, is in no way shape or form me. Also, can you take a couple of steps back? I feel you breathing on your computer all the way through the internet.

Living in a densely populated area like New York, any qualms with personal space are going to be exacerbated. Between your commute, your work, and your social life, you tend to have to deal with a metric sh*t-ton of people. While this can be exhausting in and of itself, the hardest area in which to navigate boundaries and personal space would be your home life. Due to the insanely high cost of living here, you’re more than likely going to need to live with a roommate. And where in other areas you can have a nice and quiet home where you can lock your door, close your blinds and be completely closed off from the outside world, here you have to limit these actions to your own room, and are forced to interact with someone else, even if it’s just avoiding eye contact as you quickly shuffle to and from the bathroom in the morning. So in the spirit of the subject of boundaries, here are three areas where a policy around boundaries is tantamount.

The bathroom is a sacred place. It’s where we’re most vulnerable, and as such is where boundaries need to be respected almost more than any other situation. If you are the type of person who likes to pee with the door open, you’ll need to establish that preference early on with your living buddy (be it roommate, family member, or significant other). This of course goes on to include having one person showering while another person is in the bathroom for any reason (be it toilet-related or not). Hell, even just being in the bathroom brushing your teeth at the same time may be something that violates boundaries. That being said, holding a conversation with someone in the bathroom is wrong regardless of your definition of boundaries. And if you’re the type of person who prefers to poop with the door open, well then, you’re just a dick.

Public Transportation
If you’re forced to use public transportation because you live in an urban area, congrats, you’re going to be testing the limits of your boundaries. If you choose to use public transportation because you know it’s more environmentally-friendly, congrats you’re a dirty hippie tree-hugger. I mean it’s not like I don’t want to be environmentally-friendly, I’d just prefer it if I didn’t have to smell someone’s lackluster attempt at brushing their teeth while sweating my face off from the stress of having multiple people pressed up against me. The boundary policy around using public transportation is one area that is a universally agreed-upon policy. Which is that you should always be actively trying to maximize your space. If the bench you’re sitting on clears up and you stay planted directly next to the person beside you, there’s something wrong with you. This policy is rooted in personal safety as much as space. Who knows what a complete stranger who chooses to stay close to you is intending to do. You do get a slight reprieve if you’re playing a game on your phone or reading a book and don’t immediately notice this, but you have at the most 2 minutes to figure it out before you’re given suspicious stares by those around you.

Friends With Potential Attraction
The most nuanced area of boundaries, this one also has the most potential for things to go terribly and horribly wrong. This area revolves around hanging out with friends of yours with whom there’s a potential for mutual attraction. If you don’t have clearly defined boundaries, you have a scenario where one friend’s action means something entirely different to the other friend. And trust me, you don’t want to end up having to explain being pantsless while watching Dr. Who all because your friend happened to absentmindedly place her hand on your shoulder. While I personally would always advocate erring on the side of more personal space, this is one situation in which it absolutely is imperative. If you don’t know, assume it’s a boundary that should not be crossed. The interesting thing with this one is that issues with this can come up regardless of the type and depth of friendship you have with someone. You may know a person’s deepest and darkest secrets, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve sat together on a couch and watched the aforementioned Dr. Who, clearly an undefined boundary. I’m speaking entirely hypothetically of course. My pants stay firmly on my body.