Friday, June 10, 2011


A good friend of thongcharm (shout out, BG!) once talked to me about how people take up space. Particularly, guys. Apparently, the machismo thing to do is to take up a lot of space. That's the sub-conscious goal of sitting with spread knees and generally expanding your physical presence. It creates the impression of being very large.

I don't think it's just guys. Presence in a room can outsize a person, regardless of their physical size and gender. A tiny woman can walk into a room and command attention and take up a lot of "space." Having just spent a lot of time in Israel, the land where space is at such a premium and is heavily doused in Drakkar, I have put some thought into this.

Normal: Some people seem to take up an amount of space roughly equivalent to their physical selves. My husband is one of them. I don't think he is perceived as being larger than life -- but I also don't think he's perceived as smaller.  These people tend to seem comfortable as they sit and move about - almost unaware of any alternative. They take the space they take, and they don't think too hard about it.

Extra Space: Some people take extra space. Those fall into 2 categories - those that are simply larger than life, and somehow, with their personalities and stance, seem to occupy extra space. They look like they extend beyond their chairs - not with obesity, but with just extra them-ness. Someone, the world is slightly small on them. And the second group - those that seem to struggle to make it appear that they take more space - the little napoleons. That's the guy who seems to pointedly use the arm rest on the plane or extend his foot under the seat in front of you. He is almost trying too hard. Teenaged boys tend to fit this group - in their scrawny form, trying to seem massive. Not all of them outgrow it.

Small Space: Some people take up less space. Women often fall into this group, and I know there are many times when I'd like to take up much less space, not because I'm on a diet, but because I'd rather not be seen, noticed, observed. I want to watch without being a factor in the environment. Men can do this too - they often come off as shy or puzzled. There seem to be two groups here - one that simply IS inconspicuous and easy to overlook, for whom it is natural to be small; and the second for whom being small is some sort of apologetic ongoing struggle. Of course, by struggling to shrink their footprint, they often take up a lot more space than if they simply accepted their own size.

I know I fluctuate - and I'm sure everyone does - between different states - but I think my default is simply to be normal sized. Few - a rather successful few - women achieve true extra space with grace (and without implants), avoiding some female Napoleonic equivalent. For bad examples, tune into any Real Housewives of Anywhere. When men complain women like assholes, they typically mean the extra-space guys. When people talk about "nice guys" they fail to make the distinction between Small Space guys and Normal guys.

It's an interesting way to bucket the world - like any bucket scheme, it has many flaws. But - it's working for me this week.

1 comment:

Rob S. said...

Nice. People also do a lot of this work with their voices--think people at conferences, especially during Q&A sessions, all the way down to certain species of frat boys.