The American Dilemma and How We Can Fix It


I realize that for someone who is writing a blog, a claim to maintain a need for privacy seems inherently contradictory.   But it is true – I am a very private person.

I have no problem standing in front of an audience of four hundred strangers and delivering a presentation.  I have far more difficulty at a social gathering where I know few of the invited guests and must interact with them.   I think the reason is really quite simple – I’m pretty awful at “small talk” – since I don’t really recognize the reason for its existence.

The few number of people whom I would categorize as “friends” don’t communicate with me on Facebook or the other social networks.  We talk on the phone, in person and write (even if that has now degraded to the level of email).  We don’t text – we talk – we communicate in real words that we have to spell out.

I am not ashamed to have only a handful of people whom I call friends.  I consider even that small number to be an achievement.  These are people on whom I could truly count in an emergency – and who know they could count on me.  It’s not a matter of quantity but a matter of quality.  Thank you to those few out there – I love you.

My friends truly know everything about me that is important – and I about them.  They are people with whom I have shared my greatest defeats and who have observed my highest successes.  I feel free to tell them anything, to ask them for their advice on anything and to offer mine whenever they request it.  We have built a high level of trust – and that comes from the people involved and with time.

My view of the world is that there are three kinds of people:  The first are those few who are friends; the second is that there are many who are acquaintances; the last group are people who are passers-by.  I try to treat each person I meet in the same way in terms of courtesy and compassion.  That is the only way that a person may potentially move from the second or third group to the first.  I am certainly not averse to adding to my small list of friends.

Recently at the dog park, I met a group who were well established before Gracie and I appeared on the scene.  They are very nice people and I enjoy their dogs – if not more than I enjoy them – but that’s a personal prejudice to which I admit.  I’m always more likely to adore a dog than its companion-person.

One of the people in that group found me interesting enough (or perhaps there was nothing else to discuss) to start asking me questions that I thought were a bit too personal.   I have enough experience to deflect these sorts of questions in such a way that they invite yet more questions which can be evasively deflected as well.

My theory is that eventually the inquirer will get tired of asking probing questions to which they get no answers.  It seems to me a more polite way of turning off this line of conversation than saying, “You know, that really is none of your business.”

What bothers me about this is that on the basis of a mere month’s acquaintanceship, the particular individual who was doing the Torquemada impersonation started asking me about someone whom we knew (at least peripherally) in common.  To me that is gossip – and while I might be willing to reveal (or not) certain things about myself – I refuse to discuss someone else’s life with a third party.  Gossip is probably the one thing I abjure most in the whole world.  (See the post – The Three Murders).

I was asked the question about the owner of my three Golden Retriever houseguests – “Is he gay?”  I don’t know where this question came from or why she would have asked it but it took me back a step – and I was glad that I had the presence of mind to answer it as I did.

I said, “I don’t know about the owner but, Bubba who is the Golden Retriever sire, has reportedly been seen hanging out in Caibars and reportedly did it in the alley with a German shepherd a few weeks ago since neither of them had a credit card to get a motel room.   Please don’t tell his spouse or daughter as I’m sure that would be devastating to them.”

Torquemada laughed at my response – which was what I hoped for in offering it.  And then we turned the subject to something equally as trivial.

Why do so many of us turn our attention to focusing on the business that is rightly the property of other people?  Are our own lives so un-interesting that it is only through a prurient interest in the lives of others that we find satisfaction?   And why do we choose to entrap other people into this lowest form of conversation which is gossip?

I don’t know the answer but I hope my astute readers will be able to offer some suggestions.

Until then, I am comfortable with my policy of keeping my life private – and will certainly respect your doing the same with yours.

Comments on: "ON PRIVACY" (14)

  1. The second paragraph describes me very accurately too. Looks like we have many things in common.

  2. Based on your previous comments, Ian I have no doubt of that.

  3. I am with Ian on the second paragraph.

    Gossip, man how I abhor that…destroyed many a marriage and life…

    • As a non-violent person I view attacking another whether physically or through character assasination (which is the impetus behind gossiping about them) to be equally repugnant.

  4. I think curiosity is human nature. Why else would those silly magazines about the stars’ life exist? (I mean who cares, seriously?) Apparently, millions of readers…..our minds run all the time. And when they run out of things, they make things up = gossip. 😦
    Well, did you hear…. 😀

    • I consider myself a very inquisitive person – perhaps too much so for my own good. But hearing or talking about all “the dirt” regarding another person just doesn’t fit into my view of life and the universe. At the least, it’s boring – at the worst it’s demeaning and cruel.

      • That’s because you’re educated, were brought up well and have a good heart. In this world, it’s not so easy to find the three together. People tend to want to down one another when they’re insecure or not happy in their own life. (Which seems to be the majority a lot of the time, doesn’t it?) Just makes me sad for them.

      • I guess it all boils down to self-respect. If you are unwilling or feel incapable of doing things to improve your own life and situation it’s easiest to downgrade others – thinking that in the process you are really adding to your own self-importance. Tragically, the truth is that you really are achieving just the opposite of what you intend.

  5. At once a brilliant observation and treatise on human nature, Juwanna.
    No suggestions for curing our inability to mind our own business, but certainly a shared curisoty of this strangely human quirk.

  6. When I was little my father brought home a statue of “The Three Monkeys” and explained what they represented. Apparently, it rubbed off on me.

    Perhaps newborns should be sent home from the hospital not only with a Certificate of Birth but with a copy of the statue – to get them started on the right path.

  7. This is a great post. I feel the same way you do about privacy. I won’t post photos of myself or my family members or friends online because I’ve seen what that can do when re-posted out of context. And beyond that, I just don’t want everyone on the planet having access to my or my loved ones images. And in personal stories on my blog, I never use real names or home locations – as a matter of both privacy and safety.

    You’ve also touched on the thing that I absolutely abhor – gossip. It makes my skin crawl. I can barely stand going thru the checkout line at the market or drugstores, where those ridiculous tabloids scream out our sick obsession with minding other people’s business. I feel vomity right now just talking about it!

    I don’t know when this began, or why. But there really is something deranged about it. I mean, how can it possibly make one feel good to disparage others? What is that? I know wonderful, caring, moralistic people who’s only vice is gossip. And I try to understand this, but I just don’t. They call it “harmless chatter” but, really, it isn’t. It is harming someone’s reputation, even if only a tiny bit. But that fact doesn’t seem to be taken seriously. For example, I had a friend (we fell out big time over her gossiping about other friends, and now we don’t speak) who loved “hashing” about other people – anybody…celebs, friends, boyfriends, her own family members, etc. She’s not a bad person, and she never really said anything so horrible that it would destroy someone’s reputation, but the little tid-bits she’d “hash” about made me feel icky. Like, I don’t want to know this stuff, you know? But she honestly feels that gossiping is “harmless fun.” But I don’t see the fun in it!

    • I don’t get it either – and I hope I never will. Personally, I think that people who engage most in this are simply unaware of the possibilities of their own lives – and feel that they must live vicariously through others. What a waste – and what an unfairness to the person who is not there to dispel the allegations that are bandied about. Even alleged criminals have a right to self-defense.

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