Ages ago while sitting in the break room a co worker plunked down across from me and told me her life story in grossly personal detail. I didn’t respond, but sat there, shocked and feeling put out as this woman emotionally vomited on me. I literally couldn't get a word in edgewise. She simply wouldn't stop talking.
And when she did, she wanted to know about my life. Not the common garden variety things you ask someone when you’ve just met them, like what does your husband do for a living or what’s your favorite meal. No, she wanted intimate, deeply personal details about my life. Things I hadn't told my closest confidante or my own step mother.
When I told this rude woman quite frankly that the questions she asked were none of her business , she insisted. Ignoring her, I pulled a book out of my purse, opened it and began reading. I think this confused her, because it took some time for her to get the hint. When she finally realized she wasn’t going to get a response, she got up in a huff and stomped off, to let everyone within earshot know that I thought my shit didn’t stink.
After taking the dog for a walk this morning I came to think that people who mistake my desire for personal privacy with rudeness is a recurring theme in my life. But how can you not be rude to someone when they demand to know intimate details of your boudoir habits? You can't. It's simply none of any one's concern. And it was profoundly rude of them to ask.
I have my Aunt Marilla to thank for that, and I do with a whole and grateful heart. Shortly after my mother died, my aunt came to stay with us. When I went out to play I would go into the lot behind our house where all the women in the neighborhood kept their clothes lines. While they put up their laundry they gossiped, and I absorbed it like the 9 year old sponge I was. When I came inside to regale my aunt with some sordid information Mrs. X had told Mrs. Y, my Aunt Marilla, the brilliant woman that she was, handed me a mop and a bucket and told me that if I had time to gossip, I had time to clean.
Hence the first lesson in feminine mystique came from my wonderful Kiowa/French aunt!
There is this impulse—almost an obsession—with giving out too much personal information, and worse, demanding it from others. And if you don't give out your private information, people think there's something wrong with you. Somehow, American culture seems to think this kind of behavior is nomal. I disagree. In fact I disagree so strongly that I flatly refuse to not only hop from one house to the next collecting and spreading gossip, but I also won't be assimilated into the collective of cell phones and I phones. I don't own a cell phone, a blackberry or an I phone, nor do I want one.
Yesterday, when my husband and I went to the grocery store, I saw no less than a twenty people wandering around, no more mindful of their surroundings than a turnip, dumping useless speech into mobile devices, and making sure that everyone in the surrounding area heard what they were saying. No one saw the beautiful flower displays, the produce aisle filled to capacity with the first fresh fruits of Autumn. They were all too busy gossiping. It was tragic. Our precious human lives is much too short to be wasted on nonsense such as this.
I prefer to stay as unplugged as possible, which is difficult when my job is online, but I do take breaks. I relax, I rest, I enjoy my life, and nobody needs to know the intimate parts of it with the exception of my husband, and occasionally, my Lama who told me a few days ago that it was okay to relate some things about your past, but unless it relates to Dharma, what good is it?
So I relate this to you, dear reader, not to regale you about my past exploits, but to invite you gently to unplug, de-gossip, relax and enjoy what life has to offer. You really really dont need to know you're neighbor's business, just as I don't need to know yours. I'm certain you'd be far happier if you did not.
om mani padme hum