Heed that old say­ing: ‘A pri­vate life is a happy life’

Yorkshire Post - - OPINION -

A GLANCE at the mag­a­zine rack in any newsagents or su­per­mar­ket is enough to prove that the con­cept of a pri­vate life is a thing of the past.

There are no short­ages of so-called celebri­ties will­ing to spout forth about ev­ery­thing and any­thing from bingo wings to bank­ruptcy.

Back in the 1970s of my child­hood it was con­sid­ered in­cred­i­bly rude to ask a per­sonal ques­tion.

Nowa­days it’s not un­com­mon to bump into a mere ac­quain­tance in the doc­tor’s surgery and rather than a po­lite nod be faced with a full med­i­cal his­tory in­ter­ro­ga­tion.

Last year’s Brexit vote and sub­se­quent Gen­eral Elec­tion are a case in point. Peo­ple asked straight out “How are you vot­ing?” when surely the pri­vacy of the bal­lot box is some­thing at the very heart of our so­ci­ety.

Ex­press­ing an opin­ion is part of this cor­re­spon­dent’s day job. Who wants to read the mus­ings of a colum­nist who doesn’t share their own pri­vate thoughts and feel­ings?

Thank­fully, flit­ting from a mar­ried moniker to a maiden name re­tained for work has helped keep the two per­sonas pretty sep­a­rate – the red-headed writer who will stick her oar in and the wife and mother who will (most of the time) play her cards close to her chest.

Even so, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to keep things un­der one’s hat.

Ba­sic com­mon cour­tesy, such as never ques­tion­ing the value of a per­son’s home or the amount of money they earn, is in­creas­ingly a thing of the past. What­ever hap­pened to the old-fash­ioned no­tion of mind­ing your own busi­ness?

Yes, the lines sur­round­ing pri­vacy seem to be blur­ring and, no doubt, it’s a lot to do with the blessed in­ter­net and so­cial me­dia sites such as Face­book and Twit­ter.

When our daugh­ter got her GCSE re­sults this sum­mer, she came un­der tremen­dous pres­sure from her for­mer class­mates to post them on Snapchat (don’t ask, it might as well be a for­eign lan­guage).

She was re­ally pleased with her re­sults. Most im­por­tantly, the much-dreaded maths was passed. But that was all that was needed to be said re­ally.

She didn’t even read out the whole list of grades to her grand­par­ents. They were pri­vate. Bor­ingly so.

She also ex­pe­ri­enced the in­creas­ingly rare (th­ese days) emo­tion of re­serve. She’d done pretty well and wouldn’t like peo­ple to think she was show­ing off.

Yet the other chil­dren kept pho­tograph­ing their re­sults sheets and post­ing them for all and sundry to read.

How lovely for the egos of those with the top re­sults, but what about those who hadn’t passed and were lay­ing them­selves open for ev­ery­body to give their two penn’orth worth and laugh be­hind their backs?

There, down in black and white and ready to come back and haunt them in the fu­ture. On­line for eter­nity.

Sev­eral friends and fam­ily asked straight out how our exam stu­dent had done and weren’t dis­suaded with the re­ply of “very well thank you”.

They were af­ter the whole list; each and ev­ery grade for all the sub­jects.

It has to be said, we were the odd ones out. Th­ese thoughts on pri­vacy – or the lack of it – seem very out of kil­ter with mod­ern so­ci­ety.

Not one of the re­cent tele­vi­sion pro­grammes to mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales were watched in this house­hold.

They seemed an in­va­sion of pri­vacy and just didn’t sit easy.

Princes Wil­liam and Harry set the ball rolling. They are no doubt smash­ing chaps and, of course, it was their right to talk about the mother they re­mem­ber so fondly. But, as for ev­ery Tom, Dick and other Harry hav­ing their say?

Per­son af­ter per­son seemed to come for­ward to spill their guts about her and each rev­e­la­tion blew away a piece of the fairy dust that sur­rounded the late princess. The old-fash­ioned no­tion of so­cial eti­quette sug­gests that there are still some sa­cred ques­tions that, for pri­vacy’s sake, should never be asked.

We’ve cov­ered salaries and the amount paid for a house, but the oth­ers in­clude mar­i­tal sta­tus or – more to the point – why some­body isn’t mar­ried.

Arm-in-arm with this are any in­quiries about why a per­son doesn’t have any chil­dren or whether they plan to start a fam­ily.

The next one fills me with shame. It’s about pre­sum­ing a lady is preg­nant. There was a lovely girl worked in the Post Of­fice and hav­ing not seen her up from be­hind the counter for a long time she was (in­cor­rectly) con­grat­u­lated on her happy news. What goes around comes around though and, not long af­ter, a den­tal nurse made the same mis­take with this in­dig­nant pa­tient.

Re­li­gion and num­bers of sex­ual part­ners are an­other two sub­jects that should al­ways re­main pri­vate.

In a world where, in­creas­ingly, what some­body had for break­fast is pub­lic knowl­edge, how re­fresh­ing to learn that there are still some taboos. Af­ter all, as the old say­ing goes, a pri­vate life is a happy life.

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