A ques­tion of trust

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING -

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 star2@thes­tar.com.my.

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