You see, the more I moved through my life in the PNW, the more I realized that these people were huggers. Not only that, but I came to the understanding that I was not. So, in order to protect myself from the random hugs people thought they were entitled to, I made a rule. I needed two feet.
I called my two feet my personal space bubble, and though certain people made fun of me for it, it was my easy go-to every time I thought someone was getting too close. This kept co-workers, fellow students, friends, and all other forms of people from getting close enough to hug me.
Of course, I experienced push back. My wasband's father, who thought it was perfectly fine to pick me up off the ground when he hugged me, or kiss me full on the lips while greeting me, made fun of me. He told my wasband that I was the problem. And while my wasband pleaded with me to let his father manhandle me, I didn't care. I had a personal space bubble, and, as I told him, and everyone else, it wasn't personal, it was just me, and that was what I was comfortable with.
I use this rule to this day to keep myself safe and comfortable in social and professional situations, and when this fails, I have a number of other ways to handle people who get too close or too familiar without my permission. They are nowhere near as kind as my two foot space bubble.
It is great because it is easy to let people know in a very friendly way without offending, and easy to laugh off when people don't like it. Because, really, I don't give a shit. At a certain point, you have to make sure that no one is going to touch you in the wrong way, and the best way to do that is to keep them away from you.
The alternative, I have found, is to have to deal with it after someone has touched/hugged/licked me inappropriately, and then have them give me all the bullshit reasons that I misunderstood, they didn't mean it the way I took it, I'm too sensitive, or too uptight, blah, blah, blah.
It is very easy for me to have this rule because that alternative, the one where I am the crazy person and the offending party is the normal one, is something that I absolutely cannot handle emotionally. I know myself well enough to know that I will never, ever be taken care of by anyone else as well as I take care of myself, and, that waiting for some form of justice to arrive so that I can feel safe from someone who believes it is their right to get way too close to me will take much too long for me to feel sane.
When I meet other people who also have this type of attitude, I am quite gratified. For instance, there are people I have known for years. I love them, they love me, but we do not need to get so close that we must hug each other. We can love each other from a distance and that is just fine. There are plenty of people I hug, kiss, perhaps even wrestle with on occasion, but, that is, of course, with my consent, and theirs, and a mutual understanding that boundaries will be respected.
I do hope that some day, the world we live in will be full of people who love and respect themselves enough to not force themselves on others in any physical or emotional way, and I am working hard to create that type of world with every effort I have in my small body, but until that time, I will always have my two feet, and that, I have found, will work just fine until that time.