Apparently there was a bit of a buzz this past week because legendary comedian Jerry Seinfeld refused to hug pop singer Kesha.
She interrupted his interview with (I have no idea), introduced herself, and asked three times for a hug. He refused, hand in the air, each time, and even backed up after the third attempt.
She got all sulky and walked away.
He said to the reporter, "I have no idea who that was."
Here's my take on that encounter.
1) She presumed that he had a clue who she was, and would be thrilled to meet her.
2) She presumed that he would willingly stop an interview already in progress.
Ahh, no again. Very unprofessional.
3) She presumed that a man she'd never met would hug her. Umm, ew.
4) He stood his ground, and refused to let her get close enough to touch him. Well done.
So, what is my point? Well, first, swap the Hug-er for the Hug-ee. Now, the tables are turned and a man, unknown to the woman in question, asks and attempts 3 times to get close enough to embrace her?
We'd call that harassment. We'd call him a creep. He'd be shredded in the media for not letting the first "no" be enough. Let alone three of them?
Asked afterward why he didn't hug her, Seinfeld said, "I don’t hug a total stranger."
He said a few other things, which were interesting, but what struck me the most is, "I have to meet someone, say hello. I got to start somewhere."
Seinfeld, who is 63 and married, proved that he is a gentleman, and he has limits.
Rules of engagement.
Whether or not Kesha wanted a hug and felt it was owed to her by virtue of who she was, he was not about to give one. He has a personal border, set by himself, and that's that. Kesha was not required to like it. But she was required to accept it. Sadly for her, it was shown on national TV, and then all over the internet. Word is that they chatted and the situation is resolved. Word also is that he still hasn't hugged her.
I read one article in which the writer was aghast that Seinfeld didn't hug Kesha and was just so rude. It was along the lines of "doesn't he know who she is?"
No, and that was his whole point!
When I'm introduced to someone new, I shake their hand. I would not, could not, just toss it all and hug them.
I assume that everyone I meet has boundaries, thus I respect what is unspoken and carry on at a distance that feels safe for me.
Do I mean just a polite physical distance, or is there more to it?
There is more, most definitely.
It starts with accepting that each person has the right of refusal, and should never hear "But if you'd just..." when he or she chooses to stand their ground.
I have boundaries in my writing, as well. There are lines I will not cross, words I will not use, and ideas I will not spread.
In the vast sea of history, there are battles I refuse to fight. Some, because I simply don't have an unquenchable thirst to tell that particular story, and some because others who are better equipped have already been called.
But no matter what, I will not go against my faith and my personal principles.
That is a road I will not go down.
No matter what.