Let’s Talk About Boundaries
I’m sure you’ve seen the clip of Omari Hardwick getting too close to Beyonce at the NAACP Awards by now, but personally, I haven’t. I’ve tried to watch it but as soon as he starts leaning in, my body freezes up, and I quickly exit the browser. I can’t do it. It’s something about the pending struggle to maintain a smile while clearly being uncomfortable that makes my stomach turn. I’ve been there before. There’s always that one person who gets a little too close and a little too personal. Just thinking about my last encounter makes my body tense up in flight or fight mode. In the year of our Lord 2019, I’m still struggling to understand why any man thinks they have permission to touch Beyonce, me, or any other woman without expressed permission. Back up, back up, you don’t know me like that.
Politeness and manners have been beaten into me since the day I was born. It’s always, “hello, how are you today?” “Yes, sir, no ma’am.” “It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Hell, I still say all of these things with a certain amount of respect in my voice regardless of whether or not the intended audience is worthy of it because I fear that if I don’t, my mom will pop out of nowhere and beat my ass. I remember as a child, being told “give Deacon Curtis a hug and say thank you” or “don’t stand there child. Give your aunt a kiss,” so it’s no wonder at time that I, and other children, struggle to maintain autonomy of our physical space. As a child, I seemingly had none, and as a result, it became normal to deal with unwanted hugs, kisses on the cheek, or, in extreme cases, sitting on the lap of folks I don’t want all for the sake of being polite.
It wasn’t until I was in my mid 20’s that I decided that regardless of how rude it might seem, I don’t have to hug that uncle or that aunt if I don’t want to. I don’t have to touch strangers in the name of fellowship during the “welcome” section of a church service. Hell, I don’t even slap my neighbor five if I don’t want to. While it may seem like I’m being an asshole, what I’m truly doing is practicing self love. I’ve stopped pushing myself beyond what I’m comfortable with for the sake of not offending others. Other people don’t have to like it, but they will fucking respect it.
While I understand that kisses on cheeks are customary forms of greeting in some countries and cultures, please don’t let it get you fucked up in these streets. Don’t take it as an opportunity for intimacy with another person. It’s a greeting, not an invitation. And that’s clearly what Omari Hardwick did. Once is a mistake, two is a fucking intention. Please understand that you are not entitled to a hug, a kiss, and or even a fucking handshake from anyone, and this is not dependent upon your social, economic, familial, or religious status. A violation of space is a violation of space. An unwanted touch is just that, unwanted. If you don’t know someone on a personal level, there’s no reason for you to be touching them in the first fucking place. While I’m sure that Beyonce may have met Omari Hardwick before, I’m pretty sure that there has been nothing in their previous interaction to indicate that she was okay with that man kissing her cheek. And not only is that a problem, but his, and other men’s inability to recognize that speaks to a larger problem we have in our society. If I don’t know you like that, please back the fuck up off me.
I encourage all of us to start understanding and enforcing all of our spacial boundaries, And please note that these boundaries are not just limited to an area that’s within arms reach. Sometimes, there’s people that need to back allllll the way the fuck up, like out the door fuck up. And that’s okay, and we should tell that to our children as well. Personally, I have started telling my younger cousins that they don’t have to hug me if they don’t want to. A simple hello is just as good. I don’t want them to still be struggling with body autonomy at my age. While I know that the fight to maintain my personal space is an uphill battle because I never want to cause a scene, I’ve come to realize the importance of peace of mind. Back the fuck up folks, it’s that simple.
PS: For those of you who want to seem so fucking charming, please realize that you are not Gomez Adams so there’s no fucking reason for you to kiss me on the hand. It doesn’t endear you to me, rather it makes me want to wipe off my hand and reach for the nearest bottle of hand sanitizer.