I grew up talking first and thinking later, so it took me a long time to discover that although I often regretted saying things, I never regretted keeping my mouth shut.
I am not talking about theological and political beliefs here. One of my few treasured memories of my PhD years is my mad rant about sin. It was awesome. Someone in a seminar class--we were all seated around a table--asserted that Catholicism was too obsessed with sin. There must have been some right-on murmurs of assent because I totally lost it and said the problem was not an obsession with real sin but an obsession with demonizing things that weren't really sins, like eating meat, smoking and voting for the Republican Party.
Was there a shudder of horror before my hearers realized I could not, as a Canadian, myself vote for the Republican Party? I cannot tell you, peeps, as I was a theology student on the edge of a nervous breakdown. But I can tell you that today--writing from my bed under the eaves of a Georgian mansion in Scotland--I cherish every moment I was a total pain in the posterior of the powers and potentialities that control American academic theology. Heretics. Where was I?
Oh, yes, keeping my mouth shut.
Right. The stuff I do my best to keep my mouth shut about, since I realized I never regret keeping my mouth shut*, is super-personal stuff.
I am reminded of the poor Duchess of Cambridge, so much in the news this week for having taken off her bikini top when she thought she was completely alone with her husband on the balcony of a French chateau owned by her husband's cousin. She thought she was completely out of view of any other person but her husband, and indeed she would have been, had not a third person been looking through a telephoto lens from a kilometre away.
What happened to the Duchess of Cambridge was a complete violation of privacy, and I am horrified not just as a woman but as a married woman because what happened to the Duchess of Cambridge was also a violation of a private moment with her husband. Indeed, the French magazine responsible for publishing the photos emphasized the marriage aspect in its drooling caption. There she was, feeling safe and happy, all alone with her husband, enjoying the sun, her proximity to him and an aspect of married sexuality. And some time later, while visiting a Muslim-majority country, BAM! The revelation that someone had been watching them, and now the whole world could see that too.
The photographer is disgusting. The editors of the French, IRISH (!!!) and Italian magazines running the photos are disgusting. Whoever ogled those photos is disgusting. The photographer should go to jail, the editors fired and the oglers screamed at by their mothers. But the damage to the Duchess of Cambridge's dignity has been done all the same, and if I were her, I would be wailing, "Oh, if only I hadn't taken my top off!"
(I realize, while I write this, that you people write me personal stuff. If it is super-personal, I wipe it from my email, and no matter what I always do my best to forget who told me what, which is not difficult, given the number of emails I've had.)
As I have said many times before, there is no law that you have to tell people your business, either to "keep it real" or to prove that you are a friendly person. You might chose to reveal something private to a suffering person, if you can rely on their discretion and you are sure it would help--and not oppress--them.
But if its a situation of desperately needing to share, do consider if this is because you are having cocktails with the girls or because you feel like you are going crazy. If it is the first situation, suppress the urge with the same discipline you employ to suppress the urge to eat another doughnut. If it is the second, pick your confidante wisely.
*I did regret keeping my mouth shut when I sat through three writers' club meetings without saying something about the nasty anti-Catholic stuff. But I don't regret it now because A) I discussed the problem with the organizer and B) I only yesterday hit on the exact wording for what should have been said.
It wasn't that I was offended--because as a freedom of speech advocate I shouldn't be using "I'm offended" as an argument--it was that anyone who wants to talk or write about Catholic should actually know something real about Catholics, otherwise they aren't being the thinkers and writers they could be. It took me two weeks to figure out the most charitable response, and so now I don't regret keeping my mouth shut.
Update: I would like to stress that this is advice for women. I have been reading up on suicide (Lithuania is number one) and it would appear that one reason why so many men (compared to women) commit suicide is that they have trouble confiding their emotions in anybody. Hmm.