Life in the Pedestrian Lane: Define ‘private’

  • By Virginia Walters
  • Saturday, September 17, 2016 10:20am
  • LifeCommunity

Have you noticed lately how little privacy we really have? Or maybe that is how little privacy seems to matter to society these days.

Social media has changed the concept considerably and the world-wide-web has all but obliterated any semblance of avoiding public exposure, however mundane. Just type your name into the search engine, and besides finding out how many people with your name exist, you’ll find out things about yourself you may not have known or expected were public knowledge anyway. Young people these days feel no qualms about baring it all on Facebook, literally and figuratively. From what they ate for breakfast until they undress for bed, no minute of the day goes unreported for some.

That this so-called “transparency” is making itself felt in politics is very apparent in this year’s presidential race. If you don’t know what Hillary Clinton ate for breakfast the morning Bill was elected governor of Arkansas it’s only because you haven’t been interested. Or who Donald Trump took to the prom his junior year in high school? She’ll come forward with a memoir any day now. It’s no wonder that top notch people shy away from stepping in where they are needed. No one wants the world to know they flunked Freshman P.E.

Local politics are a little different. In a small community like the Kenai Peninsula everybody knows everybody anyway, so not much is secret. If the candidate has been around longer than a couple of years, we all have heard about his/her strange habits and hidden fears and can concentrate on what they can bring to the local situation. But as the range gets larger and the pool deeper, the sharks get hungrier and good people decline the call. Not because they have anything to hide, but because they don’t want their families and friends to have to put up with stupid questions like. “And you got married why?” or “Did she really tell the math teacher to go #%$@ himself?”

It’s no wonder we are down to voting for a woman because she’s a woman or a businessman because he isn’t a politician instead of being encouraged to cast our vote for the candidate we feel is best suited to lead our nation for the next four years. (I get an “A” for restraint)

That’s my rant for the week, brought on by a column I read the other day by a woman who blogs about her everyday life. (Sound familiar?) A “blog” — for those who may have a life that doesn’t center on social media and things digital — is an online journal or diary put out for all to read and comment on. It is similar to a newspaper column, but it has a much wider audience, good and bad.

She apparently had written about her young son’s ascent into puberty and her father e-mailed her that the blog was an invasion of the son’s privacy. She was wondering whether writing about other family members was, in fact, an invasion of their privacy and seriously considering changing her topic of choice. Not having read that blog, I can’t comment on it, but I have to comment on her capitulation to her father’s declaration. Privacy these days is not how we used to think of it.

Unless she wrote about the color of her son’s pubic hair, teenage angst is a time-honored subject of parental conversation. Books have been written about it. (Remember “Catcher in the Rye”?)

We just hosted the preparations for a birthday party thrown by Granddaughter No. 7. She and some of her friends used our kitchen to bake and decorate the cake and make the punch. I had forgotten about the drama associated with more than one teen-aged girl at a time. That a two-hour project took two days could be the subject of several of my future columns (and may be) but I don’t think I’m invading her privacy, or that of her friends to mention it. I’m not going to trash them … they reminded me of me. It gave me an introduction to some of her friends that Grandmas don’t always get.

Besides, they cleaned up the dirty dishes and picked up their mess. I have only good words for that! Of course I haven’t ever asked her if she feels violated by mentions in the column, but she always comments with a smile when I’ve written about one or more of her foibles.

If the aforementioned Mom hadn’t spilled the beans about her son’s pubescent woes, it’s for sure he would have before long … or his sister would, just to get even for something. That is the new normal, as much as we grandparents might cringe at the idea of every family secret no longer being a secret. I hope she keeps blogging about her family.

One of my favorite posters says “If my family didn’t want me to write about them they wouldn’t do such crazy things.”

Virginia Walters lives in Kenai. Email her at

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