There’s no such thing as personal space in this country. It’s a myth like the tooth fairy and the political left. How much do you make? Bruto or neto (after taxes)? How much are you paying for that apartment? How many rooms? Is your car new? Who did you vote for? You got super fat, right? Like twenty kilos. Are you eating too many carbs? You need to start exercising. Quit smoking. Really asshole? Really? But that’s just the Israeli way. Here they call it living in each other’s butt and it’s what makes existence here so memorable. But here are a few occasions in which my butt (and/or someone else’s butt) was penetrated just a wee bit too far:

1. I like to walk around the house naked. I do. It’s not an exhibitionist thing. It’s just a lazy thing. Only problem is that I often forget to shut the blinds and therefore find myself exposing my privates on a daily basis to the timid little red-haired lady one building over, who, as it turns out, has a small child in the same kindergarten as my son. At first I couldn’t understand why she shook her head and averted her eyes every time she saw me. I thought maybe she was a reader of this blog. Or she had heard me screaming some obscenities (in various languages) during one of my hissy fits. No way. She had seen me naked, moobs and all, on more than one occasion. And, I suspect, in several uncompromising situations (I masturbate to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” while chewing on the head of a stuffed animal). God I hope she keeps her mouth shut. It’s bad enough my kid beats up on her daughter and the rest of the kids.

2. The nurse at the local Kupat Holim (health clinic) lives down the block. I see her at the grocery store sometimes. Which is kinda awkward ever since I had that UTI thing and I needed someone to swab the tip of my penis to rule out any strange STDs. I handed her the form with the doctor’s signature and smiled. “Your place or mine?” I made a joke that I’ve been married to a Moroccan (who’ll stab me in the eyeballs if I even look at another woman) and I hadn’t ever been to Thailand so I should be pretty clean. She didn’t laugh. She gave me that long q-tip and the vile and told me to go to the bathroom and swab my own penis, muttering something like: “They don’t pay me enough to swab some asshole’s dick… Needless to say, she too now averts her eyes whenever I see her buying eggs and milk.

3. The religious girl cashier at the superpharm who used to smile at me all the time when I came in wearing my son on my chest in the baby bjorn like Zach Galifinakis in Due Date. “Awwwww, he’s so cute”. And I was cute too. By extension of course. This is a great way to pick up chicks, btw. Rent-a-kid. All this warm and fuzzy ended when I went up to the register carrying some pregnancy tests, a box of condoms (ribbed for her pleasure… I’m not insensitive to M.’s needs) some cherry flavored lube and breath mints. What kind of sick bastard are you anyway? I can see the judgment in her eyes. After that day she refused to look up at me anymore. I could have been wearing D. in the bjorn while carrying twelve Dalmatian puppies and a baby panda and she still wouldn’t have spat in my general direction.

4. My computer’s internal hard drive crashed a while back. It was a DELL. That happens quite a bit. Thankfully it was under warranty. But not the contents of the hard drive. They would just reformat it. And I would lose everything. Because I’m too stupid and too cheap to back stuff up. So my wife’s colleague, the IT guy, offered to help us out for a nominal fee. And he did. But I didn’t take into account all the compromising shit I had stored on that hard drive. You might have guessed by now what kind of sicko is writing this blog. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t prepared for the sheer extent of the depravity. To make matters worse, when I sent him the nominal fee on PayPal, in the subject line I wrote “Payment for blow up sheep sex doll and Hummus flavored lube”. I had no idea it was a joint account for him and his uber-conservative, totally humorless fiancé. We definitely had some explaining to do. There’s no need to mention that he avoids me and M. like the plague at any work event.

5. A few years ago when I used to work out regularly at the gym there was this one beefy dude, a surgeon, judging by his scrubs, who would ritualistically rub himself down in moisturizing cream post workout. I’m talking his whole body, with special emphasis and care on the scrotum and genitalia. It was like being at a gay peep show. My neck hurt from trying so hard to avoid looking at his dangling (and extremely moisturized) man junk. But this wasn’t the only violation of personal space. Far from it. The real violation took place several years later when I was admitted to the ER at Ichilov hospital after suffering through two long nights of extreme abdominal pain and fever. Was I dying? Did I have cancer? Ebola? Help me doctor. But wait, who is the ER doctor that sees me and proceeds to grope my abdomen, fondle my love handles and measure my forehead temperature with the back of his ever so soft hand? You guessed it. Mr. ball sack moisturizer. There was no amount of purel, anti-bacterial liquid or gloves thick enough to get the taint stains off those deceptively strong and masculine hands. I felt sick to my stomach which was perfect since I was in the gastrointestinal ward of Israel’s best hospital anyway.

In the States everyone has their own inviolable personal space. They do and it’s glaringly obvious when coming from a place like Israel. At first it was delightful. No one was getting up in my business. No one asked me how much I earned. Nobody cared if I was a friar for paying too much for my car. Nobody asked me who I voted for in the last elections. Nobody came over unannounced. Nobody told me I had gained weight, unless I specifically asked them, and even then they would squirm and wriggle their way out of a definite answer. After a decade this force field of personal space that enveloped me got wider and wider. So wide in fact that no one could get in. Or out. I recoiled if someone put their arm around me. Or touched my stuff at the office. Or didn’t RSVP to my Superbowl party and showed up anyway. I had plenty of friends but none would help me move. Or drive me to the airport at midnight. Or watch my cat. They were friends in theory. I was an island and in large urban cities in the States, and around the world, you can be an island your whole life and nobody will be the wiser. Until you die one weekend working late in the office and they find you face down in paperwork on Monday morning.

That would never happen here. There’s always some obnoxious asshole asking you to drive him to the airport, co-sign his lease or help him move.