I think we’d all love to believe we’re the same person in private as we are in public. We’re just as nice and civil and neat and hygienic. When we sneeze, we turn our head into the crook of our arm. When we burp it’s just a puff of the chest and a loud exhale from the nose. When we eat there’s always a napkin in our lap and we don’t eat rice that fell off our fork and onto our pants. Let’s face it, that ain’t true.
All of us are probably pretty gross in private and that’s fine. Really. Totally fine. Being alone means no judgment, no chastising, no rules. Do what you want to do. Who’s going to choose to stay in societal confines of etiquette when there are no repercussions for breaking them? Sneeze into the open air to let a cloud of spit and snot spray 10 feet in front of you in public and you could end up with a black eye, so we abide. But alone, who freakin’ cares? Don’t worry, this doesn’t make us monsters. Most of us, after spreading sickness in our own bubbles of filth probably think “Damn, I should’ve covered my mouth.” That was nasty. So, there’s at least some semblance of demeanor even in private.
But what about the real monsters. The sickos and psychopaths that mingle amongst us. What about the people that sparkle and charm in public only to go home to be a scourge of terror to their family? We all wear masks in public to conform, but that stuff about sneezing and burping is within reason. I’m fascinated by those people that truly morph into something else entirely. The Dexters and Patrick Batemans of the world. They exist. Ted Bundy is a prime example. Charismatic as hell, but it was all a show. He was a sociopath. Bundy wasn’t the first and he certainly wasn’t the last, but how do you identify one as they walk down the sidewalk or make a great PowerPoint presentation? They have the upper hand. They know what “normal” is (even if they don’t understand it or want to abide by it) and they’re very good at replicating it.
And then you have the abusers and narcissists (narcs) of the world – the ones who almost always confine their horrific behavior to the perimeters of their own home, forcing their spouses or families to suffer in silence. One of the oddest things is how much effort they put into keeping their secret. So much work to create a likeable public persona because they’re deathly afraid of what would happen if the true “them” came out and was known to those outside their household. And if they get a whiff that someone is a little too close to the truth or is about to spill the beans, they often start a slander campaign to get the jump on the person who might expose them. Abusers and narcissists tend to use this strategy quite a bit. Why? Because at least for a little while, it works. Victims tend to be (unjustly) afraid and ashamed so they keep mum.
On the other hand, what about the people who are keeping (or worse yet, enduring) such a secret inside until it just boils over and they can’t keep quiet any longer, so they air the so called dirty laundry? Is that such a terrible thing? Privacy should be respected, sure, but it’s a fine line between being a loudmouth and standing up to say, “Enough is enough, here’s the truth. Hope you can take it, cause you’ve all been hoodwinked by so and so.”
Although really, how much do people even care if they’ve been “hoodwinked?” I guess it depends on the secret (“Hey, she’s 38 not 35” is a lot different than “Hey, she’s a serial killer”) but by and large if there’s no harm (to them) then there’s no foul. Maybe that’s why they call it airing dirty laundry, because it’s all about someone else’s suffering and not their own. And really, who wants to see that!? I mean if it were their own, then it would be different…it would be important and not trivialized by calling it something like “dirty laundry.” They would simply call it sharing the “truth.”
I wish we had a way to check a person’s actual history the same way we can look at someone’s Internet history. Imagine the weird stuff we’d find (and potential crimes we could prevent) if the private wasn’t so private. Just imagine if what some people did privately were on the front page of the news the next day. The masks would be gone. How comfortable would you be with that idea?
Each of us has a public persona and a private persona. In some cases, they’re not that different. In other cases, they are night and day, Jekyll and Hyde. There are probably a lot of us who are less charming in private than we may be in public, but I hope there’s only a small number of people whose private (true) persona is truly evil.
Thank you for reading! You’re right of course…most of the time the personas aren’t that different. It’s the Jekyll & Hydes that bother me.
How true it is. People like Jekyll and Hyde tend to be sociopaths who are not quite normal in a sense. However I prize my privacy and someone having a power to see my past is so frightening that I hope it doesn’t happen. It reminds me of a big brother of 1984 by George Orwell… but then with mobile phones tracking your location and cameras watching you from everywhere, it is getting close to that anyway. When we think about checking someone’s history, we don’t expect it happen to us. We call it violation of privacy… I guess it all coming down to the fact that if we are willing to sacrifice our own privacy and freedom to allow an institution that much of power in the name of keeping predators out. A thought provoking post! Thanks !
Thank you so much for reading and commenting! I guess what I wonder is, would some people (speaking of Jekyll and Hyde here) adjust their behavior in private if they thought it would be made public the next day? There would be no way for them to “fake it” or have their “mask” cover their true identity, no way to hide behind their charisma or fake persona. I’m a very private person (which I know is a hoot considering I write a blog! ha ha!) so I believe privacy is extremely important. It’s just sometimes I feel like people are shamed into keeping quiet about someone or something because of the whole “dirty laundry” angle and when that happens, it benefits no one except the “Hyde” personality (the abuser). And yet abuse victims are shamed every day into NOT speaking out. That’s just one example. So it’s the extremes I was really considering when I wrote this…not so much regular people or privacy in general.
If we all were to tell the truth about ourselves instead of talking about others either behind their backs or putting them down in front of everyone else the world would be a much better place. For some reason society thinks it’s okay to make others unhappy if it makes you happy for a little while. The thoughts that you provoked in my head were very invigorating! Thank you for this well written post.
You make an excellent point — People in general should try to build each other up more instead of putting each other down. I’m glad you liked the post. I appreciate your comment!
I understand that ‘shame’ is a big factor of prohibiting us from doing lots of things even though it isn’t exactly positive trigger. Those ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ types are sociopath who are very skilled at manipulating and controlling people and I would not think many things would stop them from being sociopath… very disturbing… Also the fact is lots of us would prefer to stay blinds pretending nothing happened.
I know someone close who has been abused when she was a child and it was shame that kept her quiet about her abuse. When she became the adult, she said she realised that it wasn’t her who did wrong and it freed her from guilt and shame.
No one can makes us what we are not. It is difficult to admit to ourselves but we have a choice to hand the power to an abuser of making us feeling shame. Once we realised that our minds are our own, than we are powerful enough to stop perpetrators manipulating us.