I don’t remember the first time I talked about “my bubble.” It might have been middle school. I do know I remember in my young-childhood-life the adults who invaded my bubble space and my reactions to them. Most of them were church-people, well-meaning, and loving people in many ways. But as extroverted adults, some of them felt it their right to impose hugs, cuddles, pats, or clothing-fidgets on me. “Oh sweetheart, let me re-tie your bow, it’s crooked!” or “Look at you [HUG]!”
There was an older gentleman (older than my parents) who regularly wanted to hug me. And it made me uncomfortable. I remember being in fourth or fifth grade and telling him no. He looked to my mother with an expression of “are you going to let her do that?” I don’t remember exactly how my mother replied, but the end-result was that he stopped hugging me. I suspect it was a quite intelligent explanation that as a young lady (you know, 9? 10?) I had the right to exert independence and choice of who is allowed to touch me.
The thought of “my bubble” came to me later, I know that much. I was probably trying to explain to someone why crowded places made me uncomfortable. Too many people squishing into the space where I want my bubble to exist. Oh, if I have warning and planning I can deal with crowds, but I don’t generally like them. When I saw this comic a few years ago, I realized other people had also adopted the bubble-idea. The one things this comic doesn’t address is the variability of the bubble.
There are times and places where my bubble is bigger and places where it is smaller. There are people for whom my bubble is bigger and smaller as well. What makes it difficult to navigate (for anyone that isn’t me) is the intersection of all the variables which need to be applied. So this week, because I am mentally prepared to have my bubble invaded, it is skin-tight. I carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer and tell myself this refreshes my bubble (seriously, this mental game works for me) when I begin to get overwhelmed. If however the wrong person crowds into my bubble (since I’m meeting people I don’t know, this is a threat!) my bubble can expand and I’ll need more space. Step outside, take deep breaths of cool air, and then approach people again.