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?