Peep Show vs. Privacy
I'm going through my closet, hanger by hanger. The goal is simple: find the sexiest dress to wear tonight--the one that'll make him stutter.
It's Saturday at 9:00 p.m. We've started the date with drinks and dinner at a dimly-lit hideaway perched up high overlooking the city. A place where the walls are adorned in rich, dark mahogany wood, barely illuminated by flickering candlelights. The cushy chairs are covered in soft, luxurious velvet. Every now and then, a faint smell of whiskey and cologne floats through the air. And then he touches me.
It's after dinner, close to midnight, and we're headed to the notoriously private lounge with the modest blue door. The door that goes unnoticed by unassuming passerbys who don't know the hedonistic pleasures colored by a hard glow of red lights happening behind lock and key.
I suppose I could've had this same experience with any of the men I'm currently dating, but I picked this man because I know that he, unlike the others, doesn't mind being blindfolded.
This is what friends and even strangers think my single life is like. If they didn't, they probably wouldn't clamor for so much detail about it. About who I'm dating and what we do. They wouldn't, with eager eyes and devilish grins, sit deadly quiet after asking in a sing-sing voice, "Sooo, any new guys you've been out with?!"
They seem disappointed, in the way you're disappointed when your favorite show doesn't come on at its scheduled time, when I offer no juicy information about my love life.
They seem let down, in the way that you're let down when you find out your favorite 3-year old is terrible at sharing, when I try deflecting their curiosity with humor. I tell them I'm in my pj's by 9:45 p.m., my eyelids are drooping at 10:00 p.m. and I'm sleep by 11. They don't laugh.
Whether or not my life lives up their perceptions (it doesn't) of what single life is like is a private matter, even if it's commonly handled as the community's right to know.
For the record, it's not.
It's human nature to be curious and to sometimes be curious in ways that cross personal boundaries like strangers touching a woman's pregnant belly, asking a couple why they don't have children, asking someone how much money they make, and asking a single person about the details of their romances. It's harmless, but it's personal.
Some people feel entitled to the details of your personal life--even your sex life. And when you encourage this breach of etiquette by engaging in these conversations, people feel emboldened to give you their unsolicited advice--most of which is silly and uninformed in my experience. People begin to condescend and disguise it as concern or love or wisdom.
Generally, our friends and family, and sometimes strangers have a difficult time with boundaries as it is, so once you allow lines to be crossed, it's hard resetting behaviors.
There's always going to be one person who'll aggressively pursue the details of your life. Some people are much better at letting other people direct their own lives. Then their are those who are wonderful at directing the lives of others, nevermind the state their own affairs. But you must remain consistent. Kind, but consistent when you're enforcing boundaries.
This is not about making judgments against those people, but this is very much about you and how you handle your intimate relationships (sexual or non-sexual).
If you're a single person who's comfortable sharing your private affairs, then this message will fall flat for you.
However, if you're like me, sensitive to meddling, then the sooner you teach people how to respect your privacy the better. The respect that you receive is the respect that you model.
And you model it by treating your relationships--at whatever stage (from non-existent to committed)--with reverence. Hold it in high esteem and protect it.
Then you treat your private life with the dignity it deserves and not as a steamy peep show. Your private, romantic moments are not for anyone's entertainment. It's not an episode of Sex and the City. Well, I mean, it may be, but not for public consumption. People do not get to pick apart your life and analyze you and your circumstances as if considering a character on a sitcom. This is your life.
My take on privacy for dating singles doesn't mean that I take myself so seriously or that I never, ever share anything with anyone. Neither of these are true. Sharing little pieces of my romantic life here and there is ok, but oversharing is not the rule for me. This is something I learned the hard way.
When you begin to place a shield of privacy between the world and your romance, those around you will most likely begin to treat your privacy with the same reverence.
Maybe I'm extreme. I normally don't introduce anyone I'm dating to my family or friends unless it's serious. I rarely answer questions about who I'm dating and if I do, I'm answering to someone who's close to me. I've become skilled at utilizing polite diversions to head off personal questions--pretending to hear someone call me from the other room, then leaving. It usually gets a laugh, but it also sends a message: I am over 35. My romantic life is not up for discussion. It's none of your business. It's private. I am not here to entertain you with a peep show.
Photo credit: James Callan via CC Flickr