Boundaries

It was earlier this week, or maybe last week. I was in conversation with a person whom I have known for a few years in a professional context only. This person is always attentive to keeping a professional appearance, even on a day when our up-and-down weather is languid and summerish, but as we chatted something caught my eye: a faded blue-black outline on the skin, curve and corner just barely visible along the edge of a perfectly respectable neckline.

I didn’t mention it. And in telling this I’ve removed as many of the particulars as I can, because I respect this person and the care they put into their public appearance. But I have been quietly delighted all day, every time I remember that this professional is also, in private life, a human being who decided at some point to get a tattoo.

I don’t know what the tattoo is. I actually have no desire to see it or know anything more about it. The relationship I have with this person has limits that don’t extend into the territory of their body art or my absence thereof. This is their personal ink, and whatever story it illustrates is part of their private life, the part that does not intersect with mine. This is fitting and proper and as it should be. Roles have boundaries.

But when just a little bit of the personal and private peeks out into the public and professional, that’s… another way the light gets in.

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