Respect the Damn Bubble, Y’all

Last week, I made my first trip out after the lifting of the lockdown. I was picking up something at Harbor Freight and, as I’m standing in line, some guy comes up behind me. Close behind me. Like, in-my-back-pocket close. He never actually touched me but I could feel him, all breathing and existing and shit. It was unnerving as hell. Especially after a couple of months of minimal contact with others. So much so that I posted the following on social media:

All in all, it was a less-than-optimal outing.

In the comments of the post in question, someone gently pointed out that the CDC had dropped the social distancing recommendation a few months prior. And, while that’s true, it really wasn’t the crux of the issue. Because, for me, the issue isn’t about preventing the spread of a disease, it’s about a small degree of comfort.

A New Word

As you may—or may not—know, I am neurodivergent. The dictionary says that I differ “in mental or neurological function from what is considered typical or normal”. Or, to put it more simply, my brain is wired differently than most. My particular version of this is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder with a side helping of Autism Spectrum Disorder. That means, among other things, I have certain social and/or sensory issues that make life, let’s say interesting.

The Pandemic’s Silver Lining?

I haven’t done what you’d call exhaustive research on this, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only neurodivergent person to love social distancing and to be less than thrilled that we’ve seemingly abandoned it now that the vaccines are available. If you were to ask an ND (neurodivergent) person about it, they’d probably give you an earful over how it took a global pandemic for us to get even a smattering of the accommodations we’ve spent years begging for and now, even that little bit is fading away. To say we’re pissed is an understatement.

A Little Perspective

Am I overstating things with that “global pandemic” bit? Maybe. Or maybe there’s something else here. The truth is, every moment in a public space is a compromise for someone like me—one that’s almost never resolved in our favor—and I’m never completely at ease in them. With my social/sensory issues, being out in public can be a lot. If you stand too close to me—and by “too close”, I mean within about 6 feet—it makes me super uncomfortable. Like “crawl out of my skin” uncomfortable. And, don’t get me started on shaking hands. Are there alternatives to the handshake? Sure, there’s fist and/or elbow bumps. And, while these aren’t great either, at least they don’t come with a laundry list of unspoken rules for me to obsess over like a goddamn handshake. And hugs? If I don’t know you pretty damn well, I’d appreciate it if you’d keep your fucking distance.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What it Means to Me

When I started writing this, I told myself, “Self, be nice. Don’t get on your soapbox and rail about neurotypicals and their apparent lack of concern about your needs.” But, that’s kind of out the window now, huh? Sorry if I’ve hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s not that I don’t love you guys, I do. And, I’d love you more if you respected my goddamn bubble.

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