A question of trust
I HAVE a thing about privacy that dates back to the time my mother found my diary, which was stashed below my mattress, read an unflattering entry about herself and confronted me with it when I came home from school.
My mother was livid. But I suspect I was more livid than she was.
“How could you write such things about your own mother?” she had said at the time.
“How could you violate my privacy?” I asked.
“It’s my duty as a parent to make sure you’re safe,” she said. “Most responsible parents would read their children’s diaries, if they were given access to them.”
“Then most parents deserve to read bad things about themselves.”
“Do you know how terrible it feels to discover that your daughter doesn’t like you.”
“But Mum, diaries are often about venting. If I’m frustrated with someone or something, writing about it helps. It doesn’t mean that’s how I feel all the time. If I don’t like someone today, it doesn’t mean that I don’t like them all the time.”
“And who is this James boy you like?” I was furious. You see, I’d also written in my diary about a boy in my class that I liked a lot. When I wrote that entry, it didn’t occur to me that anyone else would read it, least of all my mother.
And it wasn’t just the diary that was an issue. I alone was responsible for keeping my room tidy and changing the bedlinen, so my mother must have gone into my room with the sole purpose of snooping. Did it mean that she didn’t trust me?
I mean to say, what was she expecting to find in a 15-year-old’s room? A stash of crack cocaine? A packet of condoms? A step-by-step guide to making a bomb?
I did love my mother, and I do know now that she was only concerned about my well-being, but I still disagree with the tactics.
I never snooped on my teenagers. It just didn’t occur to me. I trusted them to follow the guidelines that I’d set down for them. Besides, as a hands-on parent, I could usually tell when something was amiss with them.
It’s the same thing with my partner. I would never dream of opening a letter addressed to him, or scan his telephone bill to see who he’s been calling, or check his credit receipts, or access his e-mail account.
I know all his passwords to just about everything. If I wanted to, I could go online and put together a reasonable picture of what he’s doing and with whom, when he’s not with me. But I don’t. I trust him.
And I know he trusts me, too. He knows all of my passwords but he won’t access any of my accounts, unless he has a good reason for doing so.
Like, if I were to suddenly start locking myself in the bathroom to send text messages to someone in the middle of the night, or if I were to keep switching browser windows on my notebook every time he comes within a few feet of me.
I thought that’s how most couples operated, so you can imagine my surprise when I read a report about actress Cate Blanchett and her husband sharing the same email account.
I’m not sure if I could cope with such complete transparency all the time. For example, if I were to buy my partner a birthday present online, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of him seeing the confirmation e-mail as it comes into the Inbox. Or what about the surprise birthday party for him that’s best organised via e-mail?
Also, if I were to buy yet another pair of shoes online, bringing my collection to exactly one hundred, I’d prefer that he didn’t find out about it. I’m a big girl and I like to think that I can buy shoes whenever I want to, without someone making a smart little comment like, “You now officially have more shoes than a Salvatore Ferragamo warehouse.”
Besides, those little undisclosed purchases can always be explained away by saying, “You mean, these old things? I’ve had them for ages. Can’t you see they’re last season’s design?”
If my partner were to suggest a joint e-mail account, I might be forced to open a secret second account, and if he were to find out about it, how would I explain it to him?
More importantly, he would have to have been snooping to find out about the account in the first place. And where’s the trust in that?
Check out Mary on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mary.schnei der.writer. Reader response can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.