The Delany Sisters and “Graveyard Talk”

The Delany Sisters, my old friends, had a delightful expression when referring to an important secret. They called it “graveyard talk,” or something you might say to a gravestone when no one else is around.

I think the world we live in needs more “graveyard talk,” especially since the advent of social media. I love social media – don’t get me wrong – but there are times when I am taken aback by the subject matter some people post for the whole world to see.

I realize this makes me sound like a total prude, and I’m not. At least, I don’t think I am. But I do think some topics should be kept private between a husband and wife, a parent and child, or a person and her God.

Privacy is and was important in the home in which I was raised. My parents didn’t open our mail or listen in on our phone calls. I thought of this recently when my mother was briefly hospitalized (which, by the way, she is okay with me writing about). In the chaos of being taken to the emergency room by ambulance, her pocketbook was left at home. Later that afternoon, my mom’s condition stabilized and the first thing she asked me to do (after reminding me to make sure Dad took his meds) was to retrieve several items from her purse and bring them to her in the hospital. Nothing terribly personal – eye drops, a favorite lip moisturizer, her Medicare card – but still, I hesitated. I felt as if I were breaking into a safe. I realized that I had never, in my entire life, looked inside my mother’s purse.

When you grow up with that level of concern for the privacy of others, it’s a little jarring to see what others find acceptable to post on Facebook. The minute and icky details of a health condition? Yuck. Intimate details from the bedroom? No thanks!

I’m a little uneasy, also, about the stories some people post about their children. Should the world know about your child’s personal issues, setbacks, failures, and illnesses? I suppose some would say yes, if it helps reduce a negative stigma or if it eases someone else’s worry about their own child. On the other hand, a public declaration on the Internet is forever, and maybe your children will resent you someday for making that decision for them.

It may not be popular to say so, but some things are simply no one else’s business. Just because we now have the technology to share everything doesn’t mean we should.

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