We need to introduce ourselves to a term called ‘personal space’ because clearly, we haven’t a clue of its existence. When I say ‘we’ I mean fellow Pakistanis.
As a child we grow up with every possible person in our face, quite literally. Whether it’s a harmless kiss, a hug or the slightly more annoying pulling of the cheeks, no one really understands how menacing this intrusion is for the parents, and for the child who obviously can’t express displeasure for a very long time. Three different people came and forcibly gave ‘gutti’ to my first born; unclean fingers and honey of dubious descent was not my idea of giving the baby a healthy welcome to the world. It resulted in a terrible rash.
It doesn’t end when you grow a little older. All intrusions continue with people taking your hands in theirs and not letting go. Aunties on the prowl for potential brides for their sons can hold your face in their hands, they can pat your head and then feel your hair for its pedigree. Looking and staring is of course just as much an intrusion as touching and feeling but it’s harmless in comparison. This intrusion into one’s personal space can step into ‘harassment’ territory if you’re not careful. Have you ever stood in a queue with the person behind pressing up against you? The last time that happened to me my wallet got stolen. There’s a very thin line between being felt up by a man who brushes up against you in a crowded supermarket aisle and the woman who feels you down during a security check at the airport. I don’t know about you, but I feel very violated each time.
That’s not all. How many pregnant women have had their bellies fondled by aunties who swear they can determine the gender of the baby just by touching them; they don’t care if you don’t want to know or worse, if you just don’t want to be touched. People can touch your clothes to determine whether your lawn is pure or polyester. They can touch your engagement ring to get a better look at your solitaire. Sharing a room and using your hair brush (hopefully not toothbrush), borrowing your clothes (avoid), shoes, jewellery…not only is this unhygienic but it is definitely intrusion. And yet we grow up with these features as a norm.
Celebrities actually suffer space intrusion the most and so you’d expect them to be most sensitive to the issue. How many times have I seen actors and actresses uncomfortably consenting to selfies with clingy fans?
This is the culture we grow up with so when a video of Hania Amir in a plane went viral it was hardly a surprise. The issue: the gentleman sitting behind her was squirming to avoid being caught on frame but she continued, making fun of him in the process. It appeared as if the starlet was abusing her position as a ‘celebrity’ in a situation that was both uncouth and undignified. I wonder what would have happened if a male star had done the same with a lady in the background; the Twitter patrol raised this question quite furiously. Hania Amir apologized but the damage was done; being a woman did not excuse her immaturity and neither did her age. She was in someone else’s space and as trivial as it may appear, it is wrong. Plus, anyone following her Snap Chat would know that this behavior isn’t uncommon for her.
Celebrities actually suffer space intrusion the most and so you’d expect them to be most sensitive to the issue. How many times have I seen actors and actresses uncomfortably consenting to selfies with clingy fans? Sometimes it gets very uncomfortable as fans clamour over them for a closer, better frame. I have to say that I miss the time of the autograph when no one was in anyone’s personal space and you had to maintain respectable distance from your screen idol. We really do need to understand the importance of personal space and what better place to begin than with influencers?
- This article was first published in Instep, The News on Saturday, Nov 11 2017