Today my congregation had a Mexican themed potluck in honor of our brethren south of the Border and a games night that was full of interest and intrigue, and full of various items being used to mark the theme. For whatever reason, it was the sort of day where my attempts to spread out and enjoy my space led to all kinds of interesting situations, and where matters of space were of a great deal of importance as a whole. As the matter was rather forcefully brought to my own attention several times, I think it would be worthwhile to discuss manspreading and other spatial issues as they came up today, as it is an unusual area to discuss and has a surprising degree of importance in our lives, especially given the fact that people have taken to videotaping others, including celebrities, engaging in manspreading and have publicized such matters in an attempt to shame those who take up more space than they are supposed to have.
First, though, it would be worthwhile to explain what manspreading is. In its prototypical form, manspreading is what happens when someone, usually a guy, spreads out in public space to take up more than one seat so as to avoid having anyone sit too close to them. If one is a passenger in an airplane and one takes up both headrests, or fills up the area under a seat in front of someone else so as to get more space than is one’s due, that is manspreading. When I went on one of the cheap buses between Chaing Rai and the border at Mae Sai when I lived in Thailand, it was impossible for me not to engage in manspreading because I was simply too large for the space that was allotted to me. This is also frequently the case in planes, because my legs are long and airplanes are not constructed, at least in their economy seating, with sufficient legroom for someone like myself, especially when that person has large backpacks with laptops and books as is often the case with me. I am so used to filling up space with books that I don’t always leave enough space for myself to spread out, which is a fairly common problem in my life, actually.
So, how was manspreading a hazard for me today? Let me count the ways. While standing on the riser for special music today, I was nearly surrounded by ladies, and behind me I had two ladies using my back to help as a music stand for their folder, to my left I had a lady who is fairly new in choir who I was trying to give space to, and several ladies beyond that who needed space as well, and in front of me I sought room for my own folder between two other young ladies who also sang alto. During my normal weekly music duties, my attempt to find enough room for my stand, my viola case, and my instrument made it hard for the flautist next to me to step over my instrument safely, so I had to help her avoid dealing with problems from my manspreading. On the other side of me I tried to spread my elbows out a little bit and managed to accidentally poke the local elder giving the closing prayer, who had a joking comment with me about the hazardous obstacle course he had to make to get to the lectern to give the prayer. (I don’t know why no one thought to walk up the other side where there were no chairs or instruments or manspreading violists, though.) Even after church I accidentally managed to elbow someone while I was spreading my elbows and someone walked behind me. As a general note, I tend not to enjoy people coming up behind me, as it serves as one of my most frequent PTSD triggers , and I suppose that as I automatically spread out to make up more space when I sense people in my personal bubble, I suppose I am prone to this sort of hazard. A word to the wise, coming up from behind me may be hazardous even if you’re just trying to walk beside me.
Nor was that the only matter where space was important in the course of today. I had to rearrange some of the people during the time while we were waiting during announcements to go on stage, because people were all kinds of in the wrong place, and if one knows where people should be, and other people don’t, one sort of takes over. Nature abhors a vacuum, and where there is chaos and disorder and people are orderly, well, the rest tends to follow along naturally. Our world is full of disorder, and those who are orderly and organized tend to find a great deal of tasks to do because their love of ease and comfort is not as a great as their distress at disorder and anarchy. This is responsible for a great deal of what happens in our world, that people who hate disorder and mistakes step in where the careless and heedless have made a mess of things. There is much to think about here, perhaps for future reference.
 See, for example: