Bubble Popper

Some people got this bubble
That they don't want me to burst.
If I cross the magic bubble line,
Their grumping is the worst.
I've never seen that bubble,
I've never heard it pop,
But somehow I'm supposed to know
Just where it starts and stops.
Those bubbles seem to grow and shrink
With people's sleep or mood.
Don't stand too close or breathe on them,
They get a little rude.
The bubble somehow disappears
When boys and girls are dancing,
Or sharing food,
Or smooching face,
Or silly teen romancing.
I'm boggled by these bubble rules,
They're changing all the time.
Is reaching out to boop a nose
Really such a crime?

I guess my bubble's just too small,
'Cause I don't ever mind
If you stand too near or muss my hair
Or tap me from behind.
A little price I'm fine to pay
For being close and snug,
And for always being ready
For a high five or a hug.

Bet astronauts don't fuss
About these quirky bubble quips.
They're used to being crammed with folks
On tiny little ships.
They travel endless darkness
Just to learn what space is worth,
To be glad we're stuck together
On this bubble we call Earth.

-B.C. Byron
“Stay out of my bubble!”
Is booping a stranger’s nose really such a crime?

My littlest daughter inspired this poem when her older sister said, “You’re in my bubble!” Her response was “My bubble is really small for people I love like you and Mommy and Daddy.” She explained how sad she would be if her bubble got too big and she couldn’t snuggle. It made me think about the times when I let my bubble get too big. I may not actually say, “You’re in my bubble!” but sometimes my facial expression, the way I walk, or the way I talk in a grumbly voice keeps other people out. It’s a good idea to stop and think about how we look and sound to other people and whether we could make them feel more welcome to be around us. The bubble really should shrink around people we love, regardless of our mood.

Work, school, elevators, and the grocery store are another matter entirely. The personal bubble rules are impossible to understand. Everyone’s bubble is a different size, or changes sizes from day-to-day, or hour-to-hour. How am I supposed to know who’s going to get upset when I try to pop a pimple on their cheek? Why do people get so weird when I try to braid their hair during a meeting at work? Why doesn’t anyone ever want a lick of my icecream cone in the elevator? Okay. I don’t do those things. But sometimes I do get in trouble for not knocking on an office door or cubicle wall before asking a question. Sometimes it can be awkward when I sit in the middle seat in a crowded car and have to reach for the seat belt connector that’s under the person next to me. We should respect other people’s space and not touch a bald person’s head or another kid’s fuzzy hairdo. But at the same time, I think we could all sit a little closer at even though there are extra seats in the back of the classroom. Personal space has a cost, and too much of it makes us all feel lonely. We’re all on this tiny, rocky spaceship hurtling through the galaxy around the same sun. We’re all basically living in the same interstellar house. Let’s at least be good roommates.