The Postscript Expectation of Privacy is merely an illusion

Published 11:58 am Friday, April 5, 2019

By Carrie Classon


My friend, Andrew, will not use a credit card when paying for his groceries. Andrew is a curmudgeon and has been one for years. He lives alone and has been a dear friend for almost all my life.

“It’s none of their darned business how much broccoli I’m buying!” he tells me, as his reason for making these purchases in cash.

My husband, Peter, and I pay for all our groceries with a credit card in order to get points. One year’s worth of groceries (and other things) just about adds up to two airplane tickets to go on vacation, so we are fastidious about it. I have no concerns about the grocery store knowing how much broccoli I buy. (A lot, for those who are interested.)

Of course, a person like me who talks about my business every week in the newspaper is not likely to be someone overly concerned about privacy.

But I think the whole idea of privacy might be a bit overblown. When my mother was growing up, they had a party line in the farmhouse and she says you could actually hear noises from the other listeners on the line. Any notion that your conversation was private was obviously an illusion. Information that wasn’t transmitted by telephone would quickly spread in church, a practice that continues to this day. When my mother’s brother started dating (in his sixties—for the first time!) a woman he met in California, all he had to do was to bring her to church and the information was instantly broadcast throughout the county.

My friend, Andrew, also doesn’t participate in Facebook because he says it invades his privacy. As a result, he gets a lot more reading done and misses out on all the latest cat videos. I cannot figure out what he has to be so private about—except maybe that he reads a lot and doesn’t care for cat videos.  

In a marriage, I’m not sure what a person’s expectation of privacy should be. My husband, Peter, is a fairly private person, but we live in a small house and are together nearly all the time, so there’s not a lot of room for privacy. We have a sort of unofficial rule about not sharing bathroom-related events. But when we were recently ill, even that fell by the wayside.

I lay in bed, listening to Peter’s stomach growl, then heard mine answer.

“Stop it!” I told my stomach. It called again. Peter’s stomach answered.

Our stomachs continued to perform this call and response duet that sounded very much like the recordings of whale songs I have heard—just a lot less romantic.

I have a memoir coming out in a couple of weeks and so I suppose my life is about to become less private yet. I really haven’t spent much time worrying about it. In the occasional moment when I think, “Oh my gosh! Everyone is going to know about… everything!” I usually calm down by realizing that my “everything” is not so very different from anyone else’s “everything.” And, in reality, this is a big part of why I write.

I find a lot of strength and encouragement hearing from people who say they have the same worries and the same concerns. They have experienced similar embarrassments and similar heartaches. Sharing our stories is how we bond over our common experience of life. We realize that, even in our most private moments, we are not alone in the world.

Except for Andrew—he’s pretty much alone. And he likes it that way.

Till next time,


Carrie Classon’s memoir, “Blue Yarn,” will be released this month. Learn more at