News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists


Only gorgeous can invade personal space

Some people don’t comprehend the concept of the personal space bubble.

It’s an age-old issue.

You’re having a conversation and the person gets closer and closer while you back away farther and farther.

Cavemen probably handled this problem with the fat end of a wooden club. Of course, that’s socially unacceptable today.

People, like yard dogs, are territorial. We don’t want others invading our space.

If you doubt the importance of this issue, go to Google and type “personal space bubble.” You’ll find more than 2.27 million entries.

At a site called Webs to Awareness, you can learn about the science of proxemics. In 1963, researcher E.T. Hall investigated man’s use of personal space.

For those of you who are proxemically challenged, please carry a retractable tape measure in your pocket and adhere to the following guidelines:

6-8 inches: intimate distance for embracing or whispering.

11/2-2 feet: personal distance for conversations among good friends.

4-12 feet: social distance for conversations among acquaintances.

12 feet or more: public distance used for public speaking.

If you haven’t brushed your teeth since 1964, add 30 feet.

If you’re ready to tear off your sleeveless undershirt and fight, the proper distance is zero to 4 inches.

The science of proxemics includes a cultural factor. Americans allow much less intrusion than other nationalities. It’s almost as if oceans separate us from the rest of the world.

Our 15-year-old, Addi, first informed me of the proper terminology after another girl at school failed to respect her personal space bubble.

Addi says there should be no continual leaning in when you’re in class so that no matter how far you move the other way, your shoulders are touching.

Then, in almost the same breath, she told me about the time that a musician named Jason Dunn hugged her at a Christian rock concert.

“Why did you let him invade your personal space bubble?” I asked.

“Because he’s gorgeous!” she explained.

“So let me get this straight,” I continued, trying to follow teenage logic. “It’s improper to invade another person’s personal space bubble unless you’re gorgeous.”


Scott Morris is managing editor.

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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