As a child I once tugged on the coat of a woman who was minding her own business at the bus stop. “Lady, why are you so fat?” I asked, and the ground opened up and swallowed my mother. Or she wished it would.
|Image, Vogue Taiwan|
My mother flapped about apologising to the poor woman, who blushed an alarming shade of puce. I was tempted to add, “And why are you so red?” before my mother hissed in aside to me: “How many times have we told you it’s rude to ask personal questions?” When we got home, she burst into tears.
I never asked a stranger a personal question again. Not, “How much do you earn?” or, “How much do you weigh?” or, "How often do you have sex?” Not even “How old are you?” Not because it really is none of my business (although that’s true) but because I remember my mother crying. It’s a pretty safe bet that if you ask a woman why she is fat she will get upset, but all personal questions are potential emotional minefields. So please don’t ask, but also don’t tell.
Our confession culture is out of control. You don’t even need to ask a personal question anymore – thousands of people will tell you the answers anyway on Facebook and Twitter. I did it myself, just yesterday, Tweeting: "Mmm dry bread roll with smear of egg salad on it and one forlorn piece soggy lettuce I had to scrape off, only $5.90. ANGRY" Are you glad I told you that? Seriously?
I actually don’t want to hear about your lunch or cold or your work worries or your baby’s vomit. I don’t want to turn on the radio and hear total strangers discussing their impotency issues on talk back. If I don’t want to hear that David Arquette had sex with a cocktail waitress because it made him feel “pretty manly”. I presume his ex-wife liked it even less.
I am thinking we ought to pull back. Resist Tweeting to the world that we are tired/bored/happy/sad and detailing what we had for breakfast. Let’s especially resist posting pictures of it. Instead, let’s set ourselves a challenge and try to post only funny/fascinating/newsworthy/entertaining things are worth saying. I know I will find it hard. I know I will fall off the wagon. DON'T YOU KNOW, I FORGOT TO HAVE LUNCH TODAY. Sorry. Did warn you. Anyway, I know I will slip up. A lot. But I'm still going to try it. Are you?