This I Believe

Marianna - chicago, Illinois
Entered on February 16, 2009

I believe in privacy.

I‘ve always been a privacy monger. I started keeping a diary at age 10. Fearful that my mom or sister would read it, I always kept my bedroom door shut. I would grill them at the dinner table – “Have you read my diary? Did you go into my room while I was at Heather’s house?” They usually laughed and rolled their eyes at me.

Even non-secret matters, like reading a book, required privacy. I’d hole up in my room, wanting to be left alone. If someone would knock, I was perturbed they were disturbing my solitude. My mom would lovingly tease me: “’Leave me alone! I’m reading!’” I loved having something that was all my own, and no one else’s: my quiet time, my private thoughts.

These days, though, no one seems to have –or wants you to have– a private thought—and I find that appalling.

The cashier who asks you for you zip code and phone number. The guy who calls for his prostate results while eating at the deli counter. The person who appears half-nude on YouTube. The fact that everyone seems so willing to fork over personal details – it just rubs me the wrong way.

On a recent flight, a twenty-ish boy wedged himself into the seat next to me, arguing loudly arguing on his phone. “Baby, baby – listen, I do want to see you, that’s not it. If I miss tomorrow’s midterm I’ll fail. Listen – “ and it went on like this, way past the “cell phones off” announcement. I was exhausted, and didn’t have the patience in me to listen to this. Once he hung up, the gentleman in the window seat turned to him and said, “I overheard. Good luck.” This seemed intrusive to me – but then again, the boy was the one who put his dating problems out there for row 6 to hear.

It’s nice to keep some things to yourself. In this age of information overload – do we really need to share with people we don’t know?

A little quiet is nice. A little solitude can be refreshing, even grounding. When you share every detail of your life via facebook, twitter, or phone, what do you have to talk about when you see the other person in real life?

I love the quiet that comes with keeping things to myself; I love seeing people in person and sharing by actually talking with one another. I think that’s why I like privacy and quiet time so much – it’s a little something of my own, that, even though I can’t touch it or see it, it’s mine, and no one can take it from me.

I especially love coming home from a business trip, seeing my husband for the first time in three days, hugging him, and whispering, “I missed you so much.” And he’s the only person who can hear it.