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.