Space takers

Dear President Trump,

I am devoting this letter to a catalogue of some the day’s instances of men taking up a lot of physical and/or emotional space.

First, on my way to work this morning I was accelerating towards an empty crosswalk when a man came down some adjacent stairs and walked right into the street without looking. I wasn’t in danger of hitting him so it wasn’t scary, but he didn’t even look toward the car, just stared straight ahead and claimed the street as though it was his own. There was nothing wrong with his behavior, it was just foreign to me and my way of being.

Second, on my way into the hospital I rounded a corner just as a man with a name badge made a huge “I’m going to spit” sound and launched a mouthful into the bushes. He seemed not at all phased to have someone witness this behavior.

Third, when I was going through emails this morning I saw that our service line leader, who was hired less than 6 months ago, is quitting. In the email, he went to great lengths to reassure us that he’s going to be fine, that he’s lined up a really good job back in his hometown and he’s going to be much happier there. Hmm.

The final instance from today involves a young woman who works for me at the VA. She found an incredibly creepy note on her windshield from a man claiming that she smiled at him yesterday. He said he is watching her, that he’s a registered level 3 sex offender, and that he feels they have a deep cosmic connection. There was no direct threat, but there are enough red flags that we have to take precautions. Thus, I spent much of the evening strategizing how to involve the VA and/or Seattle police so that she can park in a restricted area and get escorts to and from her car.

Only the last of these instances has anything to do with safety and clear boundary violations, but they all feel to me like examples of ways some men get to take taking up space for granted. I don’t want to behave in these rude, self-absorbed and even scary ways, but it sure would be nice to feel as though it’s truly ok to take up space without having to apologize or express boatloads of gratitude for it. It would be nice to just get to be.

May we all be safe to take up space and just be.
May we all be happy to be conscious of how we impact others.
May we all figure out healthy parameters for our space taking and giving.
May those of us who haven’t paid attention to space taking try some radical empathy.

Tracy Simpson

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