So here is another situation we might encounter on a daily basis. You sit on a train and the seat next to you is empty. The first thought that might come across your mind is the silent shout of hooray! Because this means that you can put your forearm on the armrest, and that there will be none of that awkwardness you encounter when two individuals silently manoeuvre their forearms so that they occupy a narrow strip of plastic of no mans land. So you rejoice inwardly, but this temporary moment of celebratory elation is soon suitably shattered at the next stop when a man walks through those two parting doors and lays his eyes at the empty seat.
Within moments of plonking himself into the gap, unceremoniously bouncing you an inch of your seat, you find not just your arm shoved off the shared armrest, but there is a sense of your own personal space being minimised by the expansion of the man. Your legs, which your mother had always taught you to keep within your own space, are now contorted sideways, as the man expands from his seat, like a toy sponge frog that has taken on water. If he is traveling on the train and continues with the same rate of expansion, he might swell to twice his size.
This sort of anti-social behaviour is more commonly perpetuated by men and it is so prevalent that it even has a term for it. Social commentators refer to the term as manspreading, simply because a man (used in its generic sense, actually) merely sites himself or herself in a particular spot and expands outwards, spreading the legs wide open and elbows out. It is a particularly unsightly social act, like a frog on its bottom.
What can you do if someone acts like that? Well, realise that some people deliberately go out of their way to be rude and difficulty. (Johannes Brahms, the classical music composer, would deliberately apologise for not having insulted people. And if you are ever a victim, don’t stay silent and endure the lack of consideration. Speak out. “Excuse me, can you keep your self out of my space please?” Or if you are simply too afraid to, then as you depart, casually knock an arm or bag into the offending body part. Look at the person. Glare. And then simply refuse to apologise as you walk off. That may be the return treatment most of us are comfortable with! It may not be good, but it is better for your well-being than holding on to that anger!