Don’t get me wrong. Sharing is good. Generally. If you open a tin of mints next to me, I want one. If you crack open a bottle of bubbly, top off my glass. If you find a way to turn on your television without using two remotes, seven button-pushing steps, reading glasses, and profanity, I want you to share that miracle with me like it’s the next coming of the Lord. Most of all, if you figure out how I can eat anything I want without gaining weight, I want you to share that like breaking news on CNN. Although there are innumerable examples of sharing that I approve of whole-heartedly, the list is equally long for things I wish you’d keep to yourself. For example:
- Unless you are movie star beautiful, I don’t want to hear the nitty-gritty about your sex life. I don’t care if you’re straight, gay, or something in between. Unless this is a story I can enjoy vicariously, I do not want the intimate details describing your fun. There’s nothing in that for me. Make expressive faces to get your point across. Use euphemisms like Yowza! Boy, howdy! or Yummy! Trust me. I can keep up. I have a stellar imagination. You don’t have to spell it out. I prefer romance to straight-up porn, which is just icky.
- The same goes for your labor and delivery stories. Been there. Done that. Three times. I know how the plumbing works. Luckily, those memories fade over time, which explains how some of us got suckered into doing that more than once. It’s not a walk in the park, for sure. It’s true that some experiences are worse than others, but, generally speaking, it’s doable. Otherwise, we’d all quit doing it. (Pun intended.)
- Please, please, quit sharing horror stories about your ex. He or she may actually be The Spawn of Satan, but surely there was a time when you felt differently, right? For the sake of those perfect 45 minutes or 25 years, give it a rest. Share his or her fatal flaws on a need-to-know basis after the first anniversary of your divorce. A year is enough time to vent; isn’t it? Three years? Five? Pick a number, whine at will for that period of time, and then move the heck on. Don’t let your ex ruin another minute of your post-ex life!
- Limit the photo sharing extravaganzas starring your children, grandchildren, and pets. This is such a common problem it is a cultural cliché. I think the advent of smart phones has tripled the temptation. There is nothing worse than been trapped next to someone who is determined to share—not one or two—but NUMEROUS iPhone albums.
- Be stingy with details about your recent surgery or medical ailment unless it’s something truly horrific or unusual—like you were struck by lightning or bitten by a shark. Those stories I’d pay to hear. I don’t need a blow-by-blow account of your gall bladder surgery. I just want to know how you’re doing right now, and if I can help you in any way. I don’t enjoy fighting off waves of nausea as we discuss your bodily functions.
- Please don’t share your little children with me when I’ve paid to participate in an adult activity—like eating in a nice restaurant, taking an exercise class, or getting a haircut that’s going to cost me an arm and a leg. I’ve lived through my baby years, and I made my children behave in public. You should, too. (If you don’t know how to go about this, ask me or another bossy mother. We are here to help.) If you can’t or aren’t willing to reign in your little terrors, please stay home with them or get a sitter. However, if you have a really cute lap baby with you, please let me hold him or her for a few minutes before you leave because that would be fun for me.
- Please don’t share your germs with me. Duh. It seems like a common-sense call. If you are sick, stay away from the rest of us! You may think you are indispensable, but I assure you that you are not. Take a break and be sick. I’m constantly amazed that we don’t allow anyone to be sick anymore in this country—either because of finances, convenience, ego, or the fear of losing a job. That’s just wrong.
- Please don’t share your political views, religious views, or other strongly held opinions unless you are really interested in an open-minded exchange. If you genuinely seek that, I’m open to a lively debate upon occasion, but if that’s not you, I will undoubtedly find you tiresome and exhausting and make up an excuse to move my fat fanny elsewhere.
- Even if I genuinely adore you and am proud of every accomplishment your brilliant, gifted, exceptionally talented children have chalked up this week, please bear in mind that my own may be serving up just the opposite sort of week, so keep the bragging to a minimum. I want to be happy for you all the time. I really do. Alas, I am only human. I have lovely manners, but sometimes I slip up. Don’t tempt me.
Finally, and this one is unique to writers like me, I think: Please don’t share your book proposals with me. I’m begging you. I’m a writer, not a publisher, and there isn’t one thing I can do for you. When you ask, I feel compelled to read and encourage you, and I will either love your book, so someone will undoubtedly publish it, so you don’t need my input, or I’ll realize it’s a terrible book, and I have to find a way to tell you that without hurting your feelings. I don’t want to do either of these things!