Thanks, everyone. I'm reassured to hear that you don't think I was totally out of line in my response.
Just to clarify -- a couple people mentioned stepping backwards so he wasn't in my personal space. Unfortunately, the way things were set up and how close we were to the wall already, there was nowhere to step back. But I will keep that in mind for the future.
I'm picturing your personal bubble to be a little bigger then normal because you were conversing, that he was within normal handshake distance. IF he was closer I would have moved until he was at normal handshake distance.
I don't think my personal bubble is all that much larger than normal -- I live in a BigCity and am crowded into public transportation all the time with no problems. And I'm a pretty touchy-feely person with my friends most of the time -- the difference being, of course, that they're my friends
. Also, he was not
in normal handshake distance but much closer -- picture the hand held out for a handshake with the elbow bent and held right next to the side of the torso. Plus leaning in with the upper body.
About other people's disabilities and my personal space: Maybe I'm just more lenient because I work with young kids, who invade my space all the time. I don't mind a "spectrum" kid touching me - I've had them (we are talking 5 year olds) run their hands down my front, including right over my breasts. It's a kid. Doesn't bother me.
I've worked with kids before in multiple contexts, including teaching tiny ones ballet for years. They cross all sorts of physical boundaries and invade my space and it doesn't bother me -- but I think that's largely in part because (a) they're kids and (b) I have a relationship
with them. Even in the very first class, when I just meet them, we have a relationship
from the get-go.
I went to a local dance club one night. During lessons, we're expected to change partners around the circle. When I got to one particular young man, he, first, insisted on talking non-stop during the lesson so I had to shush him and tell him that the instructor was teaching and we needed to pay attention, and second, he grabbed me several times in a very inappropriate place.
That's interesting because Jen's convention was a partner dancing one -- they have competition, showcases, and lessons throughout the weekend. Which might also be why everyone was so tolerant of John's ideosyncracies, because dancers often have no concept of personal space after getting super close to each other all the time when dancing? (Even in ballet, I've had teachers get up close and personal when making corrections.)
While I firmly believe that people who have disabilities should be educated to the extent their disability allows, and that they should be helped to have as normal a life as possible, if you are the guardian of a person with a disability, you either teach them basic manners, or you don't let them out alone.
I totally agree with this, but unfortunately, not everyone does which is how we run into situations such as the one with John in the first place.
What surprises me most about the OPs encounter is that the friend didnt intervene when she realized her friend was being made uncomfortable by someone she is sort of acquainted with. If the friend, I would have intervened with a "Hi John, remember me? I'm Jen. Are you having fun tonight? Good. Well, we will see you later."
To be fair to Jen, I think that she was just as uncomfortable as I was -- both in that particular instance and with John's forwardness throughout the convention. She had no more idea of how to deal with it politely and effectively than I did. I've also been reading e-hell and developing my shine spine a lot longer than she has.
Anyway, thanks again! I feel much more confident about handling this kind of awkwardness in the future. (Of course, next I'll run into something totally different and freeze...