I realized something about myself today: I’m a lot more private than I used to be. That may sound strange coming from someone who writes about her life on a public forum. But on here I control what gets out, and my words are carefully chosen. I try to make the stories have meaning, not be just a random spewing of facts and thoughts.
But the truth I realized today is that I just don’t like to divulge things about myself to strangers without good reason. If you want to know something about me, tell me why you need to know. “Just curious” isn’t enough for me anymore. You have every right to ask me a question, but conversely I have every right to deny you an answer. Your desire to know does not constitute a demand on my part. Staring me down doesn’t help your cause, either. I don’t know if people have gotten nosier or just worse at reading nonverbal cues. I hadn’t realized until today just how strong my desire for privacy is, how prickly and uncomfortable I feel when pressed for intimate details about myself, like a cat backed into a corner.
A perfect example—though not the impetus for this post—is the ever-looming “so why haven’t you had a baby?” inquisition. The most likely answer I give is, “because I haven’t.” I can’t think of a more personal question, or one that has so many possibilities of having a tragic or painful reason behind the answer. It amazes me how many people fail to consider this before speaking.
Also, I don’t give my phone number to retail stores. Take my money for my purchase and let me leave. I don’t care why or how you track customers, you’re not getting my number. I don’t care that the cash register “won’t let you” continue the transaction without a phone number; I’m sure you can make one up and override it, it’s not a nuclear detonator. Nor is it my problem. I will gladly buy my jeans elsewhere; you’re not getting my number.
I have to take a deep breath when someone asks me what bands I like, because this is typically asked by someone who is passionate about the bands THEY like, and they want me to like their favorites. If I don’t, I’m usually then told why my taste is juvenile/commercial/uninspired, and that the music I like has no soul. No, I just don’t have YOUR soul. MY soul is happy with my music. Music is like politics in terms of loyalty. A single conversation isn’t going to change anybody’s opinion, and trying to do so only pisses somebody off.
“What is your dream ________?” also makes me very uneasy. Dreams by their very nature are extremely personal and often shrouded in impossibility. I’m fully aware that many of my dreams have aspects that render them invalid by pesky realities like gravity and my lack of a functional time-travel machine. But they are my dreams and I enjoy them, knowing full well that they may sound crazy to an outsider. So I choose to keep them to myself. I don’t want to be marked off the short list for a new job because the interviewer doesn’t understand my dreams, which most likely are irrelevant to the matter at hand anyway. You won’t “get a feel” for the person I am in 20 minutes by asking what my dreams are, nor will they indicate my likelihood of success in said job. Doing so only works to add an uncomfortable heaviness to the room.
Declining to answer personal questions often leads to the misperception that there is something sinister to hide, or of paranoia. Neither is true with me.
Former US Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, “Privacy is the right to be alone—the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized man.”