Weeks ago, I sat on a plane on my way to Miami. Unfortunately, the plane was quite full and I drew the short straw: a seat in the center aisle between two men.
I don’t prefer sitting between anyone on a plane, especially between two complete strangers, but I understand that this sometimes has to happen. So I sucked it up. I could do this. Neither man was overly large, so I assumed that I wouldn’t have the feeling of being “squished.” The flight was only two hours, I’d be okay, I told myself.
If only it was that easy.
As we sat waiting for the plane to take off, I slowly became annoyed. Yes, it was odd that one kept scratching his crotch and it was kind of annoying that the other wouldn’t stop coughing or messing with his nose. I could handle all of that. It’s gross, but whatever, it’s human nature.
No, what I couldn’t handle was how they began to take over my space. Both men took my arm rests so I was then left holding my arms close to my body or on my lap so as not to touch them.
I have noticed this occurs to me in different public areas. A man sits down next to me on a bench and he spreads his arms out or his legs so that I must scootch all the way over to the edge of the bench. It often happens in the line at the grocery store where a man stand two inches away from me. “Move back!” I want to yell. Give me space.
It’s just not space that I have to fight for either – I sometimes have to fight to be seen by men.
Days after my experience on the plane, I stood first in line to go up into one of the towers of Sagrada Familia (an amazing church in Barcelona). Before the attendant could scan my ticket, he had to readjust the scanner. As he did so, a man (another tourist) marched right on up with his wife tagging behind him and stood right next to me. I looked at the man trying to figure out if he was going to ask the attendant a question or something, because that would have been fine, but no, the man pulls out his ticket and shoves it toward the attendant, waiting.
When the attendant finished, he turned to the man to scan his ticket which prompted me to clear my throat very loudly and give both men a hard stare so that the attendant turned and scanned my ticket and the rude tourist (sort of) apologized.
Why is it that both men didn’t even to seem to take notice or respect my space in line?
I truly believe that men don’t even know that they are doing these things, so I can’t say it’s a malicious action. However, unconscious it is though, it’s not okay with me.
On the other hand, I have to consider what I would do if it were women invading my space — I would definitely speak up or at least do something to show that what they were doing wasn’t okay with me. (There have been many a time a woman has tried to cut me in line to the bathroom!) So if I’d say something or do something to a woman invading or ignoring my space, why wouldn’t I do the same to a man? Is it because we, women, are conditioned by society, our families, our friends, the media not to confront men? Probably.
But here’s the thing: I take up space in this world and my space should be just as respected as anyone else’s and if I allow others to disrespect that space, I’m disrespecting myself.
So what did I do on the plane ride? I took back my own space. I spread my legs. I spread my arms. I thought, “if these men don’t move, that’s fine. My arm will continue to pressure you.” Yes, I could have just asked them to move, to give me my armrest (since they had their own), but they never asked to use my armrest so why should I ask for it back?
And slowly but surely the men sitting next to me began to notice. They pulled back their arms and used their personal arm rest on the other side. Whether they realized what occurred or not, I’m content.
I took back my space and gained more respect for myself and that’s all that matters.