As Phase 2 faded into Phase 3, I watched from the corners of different drinking holes and observed the ways in which patrons awkwardly stumbled back into the social scene, like newborn baby giraffes walking knees a-trembling.
At first, folks were timid and kept a safe distance, but as time has gone on and mask mandates were lifted, the shenanigans have resumed and the shield of 6 feet from strangers is all but a distant memory.
Last week, some friends shared a post through Instagram Stories that inspired this month’s column: In the post, bright neon pink letters in all caps read “DON’T TOUCH ME IN A NIGHT CLUB” illuminated by a neon green square.
Immediately, I was pulled in because I knew before even scrolling to the subsequent slides that the topic was related to the culture of unwanted touching in nightlife spaces. Sure enough, it was an announcement post for a podcast called The Shit Show, on which the hosts were going to discuss unsolicited touching in clubbing culture.
I took a deep sigh. I’m still unsure if the sigh was one of frustration or one of relief that other people are acknowledging the things I struggled with even prior to COVID-19, and something that drives me absolutely insane post-pandemic.
It’s so far beyond my comprehension, this idea of touching someone you don’t know without having asked for permission or even talked to them, and yet it has seemingly become normalized.
At first, I thought my deep disdain for the touchy-feely “shit show” I have been regularly witnessing was simply exacerbated by months of not being touched and not having my space encroached upon. The sheer terror of catching and spreading COVID-19 kept us all in check, after all. But then I realized it wasn’t just that. Yes, I was reminded that my space is and always will be my space, but I’m also infuriated that I ever forgot that in the first place.
I was sitting at the bar chatting with my friend about the post and when, in a moment of demonic intervention, it happened. A prime example of the person that has no sense of personal space or boundaries splayed out on the bar next to me. His brow moist with sweat, eyes wild, and a grin hellishly spread across his mug, he got comfy as he leaned his left arm on the bar. I turned to my girlfriend exhausted and said, “Here we go!”
Meanwhile, this person alerted me to his presence the moment he entered the bar, his “superb” personality introducing itself to everyone right out of the gate. I observed from a distance while my heart dropped into that pit in my stomach, knowing my intuition for crazy is rarely off.
Next, he broke a shot glass while “cheersing” his friend. Then I heard the curious, “Who’s that girl?” comment, followed by, “The one with the glasses,” and my heart sank knowing I was the girl. I diverted my gaze, forcing myself to not look back, but as fate would have it, here he was in front of me in all his entitled glory.
Feigning a shy persona, the zombie proceeded to ask if he could buy me and my friend a drink, to which I gently responded, “No thank you.”
He continued, stating he was from Charlotte but didn’t live here … and my patience began to reach its limits. Upon repeating his desire to buy us a drink, I reiterated my initial response and then added something about my boyfriend being outside.
And just like that, the switch flipped. He became agitated and, upon returning to his barstool opposite me, began talking loudly about our interaction for everyone to hear.
Furious was an understatement. If steam coming from someone’s ears was a thing, this would’ve been the time for it to happen. My girlfriend is well-versed in my pet peeves, so she tried her darndest to turn my attention to more lighthearted topics. It wasn’t working, but I played along.
The next thing I know, a disagreement was taking place outside and, of course, said gentleman was at the center of the drama. And yes, I learned later the drama had stemmed from our initial interaction.
Before I knew it, he and his friend were being asked to leave and his friend was using his body weight to guide the drunk sir away, only for the culprit to return and begin threatening us from across the street, stating, “Come on over here, I’ve got something for you.”
Naturally, that was our queue to exit any which way but across the street.
This isn’t a call for sympathy, but let it serve as a public service announcement: Man, woman, drunkard, and everyone in between, respecting people’s space isn’t optional, it’s a requirement. The golden rule is still canon, and no still means no. Before COVID, during COVID, and in perpetuity. Thanks.