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When Claiming Personal Space Goes Too Far

Staking out 100 sqft. of beachfront for two people—is this how most of us act in everyday life?

My parenting journey began in New York City when I was living in a predominately Haitian neighborhood in Brooklyn. Every day I traveled to work on the 2/3 trains, my belly increasing in size and the rising summer temperatures of New York becoming unbearable (especially on the trains that did not have air conditioning). 

When I would get on the train in the evening in Union Square, the Haitian women would already be well adjusted in their seats, traveling from the Upper East Side, likewise tired from taking care of upper class Caucasian children and their high-maintenance parents. The Haitian women would see my extremely large belly, smile, and typically pat it as I walked by them searching for a seat to no avail. Never was I offered a seat—pats on the belly and gender predictions, but never a seat.

Once my son was born, I was exhausted from the daily fight of living in NYC. I loved this city—I loved the fast pace, the diversity, and the arts—but I was exhausted from having to fight for every square inch of personal space. I was tired of carrying my overpriced Maclaren stroller up four flights of steps to our apartment, tired of being crammed next to strangers in trains with a baby strapped to my chest. I was ready to go. I needed more space!

Ironically I now reside in a small GHI (Greenbelt Homes Inc.) townhouse with my wife and two sons. I actually prefer small spaces, because I believe they keep us from acquiring more than we need. I adore living simply: everything in our space is used, and we value the items we have acquired.

This past week, we went on vacation to Myrtle Beach, SC. It was the first time there for our family, and I was taken aback by the aggressive beach tent culture. Each morning around 6 a.m., other vacationers would be on the beach claiming their ideal oceanfront space with giant 10' x 10' foot tents. What happened to beach umbrellas?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I see the value of a large tent when you have a lot of family to cover from the sun. But I was often appalled by the fact that only two people would be under one of these giant tents. Why would you need that much space for two people? Why did these people feel the need to get up early on vacation to fight for prime location? There is enough beach for all of us to enjoy—we just need to live within our means.

It made me wonder: if this is how people acted on vacation, is this how most of us act in everyday life? I hope not. I hope all of you reading this will take a moment and think of your own space and how you use it. Are you aggressive in claiming the rights to your personal space, or is that something you could let go and reduce the amount of stress in your life?

Give it a try.

Next year, the beaches may very well be filled with large tents, but I hope some of us will offer some shade to our neighbors as well. 

Gretchen Schock is a mom, a writer and a yoga instructor. Check out her creative writings and crafty goodness on her blog, www.CocktailMom.com. Or come to a yoga class and be inspired!

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