Junk Science: YOUR HOSTILE PROJECTILES ARE NO MATCH FOR MY INVISIBLE FORCE FIELD, or, Surviving Thanksgiving “Back Up Off Me”-Style

junksciencecartooncarrot.jpgELIZABETH FIEND REPORTS: This is my Thanksgiving column. As a vegetarian, you probably expect me to write an article on the horrors of eating turkey — antibiotics, hormones, inhumane factory farming. As an anarchist you may think I’m going to rail against the hypocrisy behind the meaning of the day — the slaughter of Native Americans by the white man, the taking over of someone else’s land. Or perhaps you’re hoping for some vegetarian recipes. In that case, you shoulda tuned into my NPR Vegetarian Thanksgiving interview last year. Instead, I’m going to talk about how to use the science of proxemicsto get you through the massacre at your own family’s dinner table.

Face it, most of us don’t have a picture-perfect, greeting card kind of family. Chances are, this Thanksgiving weekend someone’s going to irritate you. In my opinion, a lot of fighting, arguing, grumpiness around the holidays originates from the fact that we wonder how we could possibly be related to these people. Er, I mean we’re all too close.

Close in propinquity and proximity — we don’t have our normal personal space. This is made even worse because it’s always freaking raining on Thanksgiving and you can’t escape outside for that much-needed break.

Proxemics is the study of personal space and people’s perception of it. The term proxemics was first used by Edward T. Hall in 1963 in his book “The Hidden Dimension.” He stated that we all have an invisible force field around our bodies and it’s important for our mental health to preserve our own comfort zone. Proxemics involves all our senses. It’s not just someone standing too close to you, it could also be Aunt Rhubarb’s obtrusive perfume or Uncle Pill’s loud cell phone talking.

As humans, we’ve developed ways to overcome the intimacy of proximity. Whether it’s what you stare at in a crowded elevator, or which seat you take at the coffee shop, we’re hard-wired and culturally trained to choose. But we’re also extremely adept at adapting.thanksgiving.jpg

Here’s an example. I used to be a judge at The Super Mecca Karaoke Gong Show. One time, among the other judges, were two lovelies from Delilah’s, the gentlemen’s club. As we were interacting, I noticed my hand and forearm kept brushing against their ample, plastic bosoms. Wow, I thought, this is really strange. It’s not my usual MO to be rubbing against other ladies’ breasts. But it kept happening and I seemed to be unable to stop it.

Then they changed into bikinis.

Oh sh*t.

I figured I’d better try to stop touching their tits. They came to the event with bodyguards. I, of course, did not. I analyzed the situation and realized all I had to do was apply the science of proxemics. Their gigantor bazoombas protruded so unusually far from their petite, perfectly tanned bodies that their knockers were literally knocking on the front door of my personal space. Solution: as magnetic as those twins were, I merely had to back up a little bit more than if I had been interacting with normal, naturally-shaped women.

So my advice, to get you through the holidays, is that you should think of giant breasts. Not really. (Although that’s not bad and could work for some.)

Instead, imagine your invisible, personal force field as a white light — a shield, if you will — through which no negative energy or non-benevolent relative can penetrate. Ha, ha. I’m only kidding. I don’t do New Age.

Instead I’ll suggest proxemics. Proxemics are internalized at an unconscious level. Discover your own comfort zone, and the comfort zones of your kin. Work to achieve this needed space rather than slinging a few nasty verbal barbs.

Make sure you have your space. And then, act like the mature adult you’ve become. Don’t regress to silly childhood resentments. To prevent indigestion, don’t just think about yourself. Make sure you’re giving everyone else their space, too. Breaking an individual’s boundaries can lead to serious failures of communication. Like fighting around the dinner table.

Now for some practical suggestions. How long can you leave the room before anyone notices? (It’s actually much longer than you’d think.) There are two bathrooms after all, so you could certainly hide in one for at least 20 minutes (remember to bring reading material).

And, maybe it’s not really raining much. You could try my personal favorite, “Oh, I forgot something in the car, I need to go out to get it” (remember to bring a CD).

Coping strategies like this will surely help to reduce stress.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Fiend is Philadelphia’s Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart. Most people don’t know it yet, but that will change. Miss Fiend is host of the Big Tea Party. But enough of my yackin’, heres Elizabeth with the 411 on her column: “Most people don’t think about the fact that science doesn’t determine our government’s regulations and recommendations for health and the environment, it’s sleazy politicking and backroom lobbying that makes the rules and I would like to bring this fact more to the forefront,” she says. “My philosophy is decidedly anti-big business/governmental lobbying but in line with the science of (my idol, ok crush) Dr. Walter Willett, Harvard University School of Public Health. There’s an edge to it, but it’s not goofy new age-y stuff with no basis in fact. And besides all that, I am the most fun of all the health advocates. I’m the only one who consistently wears pink and is brewing absinthe in her kitchen (excuse me, that’s illegal, infusing absinthe).” Word.

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