Personal boundries should be honored


Oh — hello Socorro, it’s been a while since you’ve been Scrooged. So, without further ado, here is a bit of crankiness about boundaries.

I’m nonplussed to find myself having to ask adult people not to put their hands on me, but (sigh): If you see me in public, do not — do not, do not — give me a hug, pat me on the back, grab my arm or touch me at all.

If you are convinced you will die a horrible, unseemly death if you don’t have physical contact with me, then try shaking my hand. However, do your best to keep in mind I don’t owe anybody physical contact just because I am a moderately attractive woman.

I missed a public meeting last week due to anxiety over this issue. For some reason, people who attend meetings of this particular board think I go there to be assaulted, when actually I am only there to do my job. Several weeks ago, one creepy old gorgon was rubbing my arm so aggressively I half expected her to start humping my leg at any moment. She thought — just because I haven’t said anything — that she had carte blanche to make me her plaything.

I am here today to let her — and indeed, everyone — know:

1.) I am not a teddy bear.

2.) Keeping your hands to yourself is a cornerstone to a peaceful, well-ordered civilization, and should be people’s default setting.

I do not possess what you could call an assertive bearing, and am most painfully aware of that. But on a page I’m 13 feet tall and bulletproof, so it is here I say what I really think. Yet people should also realize that just because they read something I wrote does not mean they know me.

Let me put another bullet in the chamber: another story, this time about a man, a local community leader who deals with business people and politicians all the time, who should definitely know better than to put his hands on the media. Let’s call him Scary, in the interest of protecting the guilty.

This happened several weeks ago when some community leaders assembled for a luncheon presentation. Scary goes in for a hug as soon as I arrive. I step aside and offer a handshake; he looks offended, but takes it like a man.

He should have caught on to the hint, right? However …

During the luncheon, Scary started hovering over me like I’m his mistress or something, repeatedly putting his hand on my back and flirting.

By his actions, Scary was communicating: “I don’t care what your preference is. I am going to get in your space and disrespect you, because only my preference matters anyway.”

So here’s me touching you back, Scary. How do you like me now?

It’s not just me, OK? Scary behaved inappropriately enough to give a very handsome but married man the impression I was “available,” if you take my meaning. I am no social genius, but after a few minutes of conversation, even I was able to piece together that Married was looking to have a drink with me. I told him I wasn’t a sports fan and split.

Thanks, Scary. I wonder how many of those people now think of me as “available.”

The irony about people like Scary: They would never dream of inviting me to their homes or to an Xmas party, yet feel perfectly comfortable invading my personal space for a hug or whatever without so much as a by-your-leave. They can’t even be bothered to get to know me well enough to find out if it’s all right. Why is that?

Some ladies I know (and love, believe it or not) told me all this hugging and touching is a “cultural thing” in Socorro. Apparently I’m the Big Bad Wolf because I don’t want it in my life. Every time I hear “cultural” in reference to this, I think about how lynching black people seemed to be part of Southern culture for a time.

One very nice lady argued the example of lynching in the South is different because people were “actually getting hurt.” With the patience and humility of a saint, I gently explained that “hurt” is a matter of degree; just because nobody’s dying or being hospitalized does not mean nobody is getting hurt. With equal saintliness, my friend conceded the point.

“Cultural” does not mean “acceptable,” and it’s no excuse.

Yet it seems all I hear when I broach this subject is excuses. It is as if I were speaking against these ladies’ very own husbands, yet none of these particular ladies is actually married at this time.

So much for sisterhood. In this matter, as in so many things, I find myself utterly alone.

At one point, I suggested the epidemic of domestic violence and child molestation in this community could stem from a “culture” that refuses to recognize women and children have their own inviolable personal space. Oh no, that’s not true, my sisters tell me, with tones of contempt I could not fail to notice in their sweet voices.

The ladies doth protest too much, methinks. But what do I know? I’m not from around here.

One of these ladies even wagered there is just as much raping, wife beating and child molesting in the area where I grew up as there is here. It’s a moot point since these things are so seldom talked about, let alone reported to authorities.

So I guess I’m going to be the bad guy now, or the “boogie lady,” because I don’t want people touching me — and worse yet, I said as much. Oh well, prick my black, godless heart and see what happens, but keep your hands off me.