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 shitton of people. Luckily you have your home, which most likely will include very little space and roommates, but at the very least (hopefully) has a room that has a door that you can close and maybe even lock and probably be alone in. This is the salvation for the lack of boundaries you have in literally every other aspect of your life in the big city. But you may end up finding yourself in the unfortunate situation of meeting someone who turns out is an all around beautiful human being, who accepts you for who you all, and who then makes the mistake of accepting your hand in marriage. Dude, this is totally fortunate you may say, from way atop your high horse. Is it? Is it really though? What do you know? And who are you? And why do you keep feeding your horse edibles?
Navigating boundaries with the person you want to spend the rest of your life with is an interesting experience, to say the least. My fiancée and I have been living together for 83% of our relationship, which is a weird way of putting it but it took me too much math to figure that out so I’m keeping it. Point is, we’ve had some time to figure out a lot of our boundaries. Which is to say she’s had a lot of time to figure it out, cause again, I have no boundary issues. Also I promise that’s the last time I try to make that joke work. It took a lot of conversation (a theme that will be recurring), a lot of patients, and some professional guidance (something I couldn’t recommend more). Now, I would be a complete dingleberry (incidentally a way harsher word that it sounds) to say that I know all there is to know about boundaries. I mean all I really know is that you need to delineate boundaries with a giant wall of some sort, amirite? USA! USA! USA!
[I apologize to any future post-apocalyptic people who may be reading this — I only slightly knew at the time that this whole wall business would be the start of the end of civilization as we knew it, and instead went for a cheap laugh. It’s kinda just what I do. Also, kudos for being able to cobble together a computer and rediscover the internet. Also also, sorry that what you found was this article.]
But here are some things that I have learned:
The bathroom, as we all know, is a sacred place. It’s where we’re most vulnerable. There’s a reason dogs look at you while they’re doing their business. They’re thinking “I’d give my balls in order to do this in a room with the door shut and not out in the open with this guy right HEY WAIT A GODDAMN MINUTE I ALREADY GAVE MY BALLS.” I don’t need to belabor the point that this is a touchy subject (see this story for proof). Indeed this is where boundaries need to be respected almost more than any other situation. Some of this is logistical. Bathrooms aren’t always the largest, so brushing your teeth at the same time as someone just isn’t physically possible, unless you enjoy someone else’s toothpaste foam on your mouth. But it’s also a matter of privacy. So if you are the type of person who likes to pee with the door open, you’ll need to make sure that preference is OK with your fellow dweller(s) early on (be it roommate, family member, or significant other). Now, I’m not trying to make a statement about just how fucking weird you are if you pee with the door open, let alone liking it. Just sayin’ you should make sure it’s cool with everyone else. And holding a conversation with someone in the bathroom when the door is closed is wrong regardless of your definition of boundaries. It’s hard enough for some of us to text while we’re on the porcelain throne, so whatever you need to say can wait until the door is open. I promise. And if you’re the type of person who prefers to poop with the door open, well then, you’re just a dick.
Now I know this may seem like the least likely place to have boundaries but hear me out. Which I realize is an impossible task given this is written word, but “read me out” sounds stupid. What does that even mean, “Hear me out”? I mean I’m not an idiot, I get that it means “let me make my point to its completion before you judge me you judgy asshole” (or thereabouts). But what’s the etymology there? Probably comes from that twat Shakespeare (you know who you are). In one of his plays he probably wrote something like “Doth thou my dearest hear me out the window?” because some jagoff was trying to get laid by yelling at a lady through a window late at night, and now, like nearly all of his lines, it’s just ingrained in our language. I, digress.
Now I’m not saying that you have to have boundaries in the bedroom (though some call them safe words [GIANT WINKY FACE]), but it’s important to talk that through. If one person likes to cuddle the night through, but that means the other person is not going to get any sleep, that’s clearly a problem. And that doesn’t mean that by not cuddling the person doesn’t want to be close to you. They just might not be comfortable with that closeness. They may be weirded out if they end up breathing in your exhalation. Or it may just be too hot. My parents ended up going with two separate blankets and pillows because my Dad prefers a fluffy goose down set and my mom basically sleeps with a sheet and a glorified pin cushion. Hell, you may find that your boundary extends to sleeping in separate beds. I’ve talked about that with my pal Scott at length (and he wrote an article about it here). Like I said, it’s just about talking that through with your partner and figuring it out.
Talking Things Through
Speaking of which, talking things through is a boundary that needs to be sorted. Wait but didn’t you say that conversation is the key here? Isn’t the whole fucking point of this that you should be talking things through? Well yes and no. Look, I’d love it just as much as you if things could be figured out without having to talk to people. But much to our chagrin, non-verbal communication is painfully limited. So talking is a must. But are you going to talk about everything? Bare it all? Even that time you did that thing in the 7th grade? You know what I’m talking about. Look, intimacy is important, and I think I can safely say that my fiancée knows me better than anyone who’s not related to me. But we humans are pretty goddamn crazy, and sharing every little thing that goes on in our heads or has happened in our past is not what I would consider healthy. And I don’t want to know what that thing is that my fiancée did in the 7th grade. I barely want to know the things that I did in the 7th grade. That was an awkward time for all of us. Right? Wait, don’t answer that.
The Golden Boundary
Lastly, and most importantly, is the greatest boundary of them all. I’m talking, of course, about farting. Under no circumstance should you blatantly fart in front of each other. Yes, I know it’s natural. No, you shouldn’t be ashamed of passing gas. And no, you shouldn’t put yourself under physical duress to avoid it. But don’t nobody wanna hear or smell them butt burps. It’s just not OK. So if you have to do it, do it discreetly into the couch cushion. Or in a well ventilated area. But don’t call people out for doing it. And don’t just let em rip in front of each other. That’s as much for your self-respect as it is for the other person’s. And if you choose to do it anyway, at least acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation by maintaining eye contact throughout.