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(Questions, oh the questions that are really nobody's business)  

In life and in remarriage (which strongly implies that there was a previous divorce for most), as women we are often asked personal questions that many of us seem compelled to answer.

Because of the complexities of remarriage, the questions can be especially invasive.  People want to know about the divorce, the new marriage, the ex’s, the kids, the step-kids, on and on.

All the questions that are really nobody’s business.

I don't know why it's taken me years to realize this.  I am by nature a very open person.   I put myself out there.  I'm vulnerable, I'm honest about my shortcomings.  I'm sure I have blind spots, but I am willing to take a look at whatever patterns I have that may be hurting others or myself.

I also don't think I'm unique.  I don't think that I am all that or anything special.  I believe that at the core of it, we are more interconnected to one another as human beings than not.  We all want to be loved.  We all want to be seen.  We all pretty much struggle with some kind of neurosis, some kind of anxiety, some kind of deep fear.  This seems to be universal.

Because of this belief, there have been many times I have not been as protective as I could be of my privacy.  I have given personal information to people who hadn't earned the right to hear it.   People who weren't safe.  I was and still can be an "over-sharer".  Let me give you an example.

Years ago, I was nine months pregnant with my second child.  My first child was only 14 months old when my second was born.  I lived in Laguna Beach at the time, and sometime around my due date I was at the grocery store with my baby/toddler.  There was a long line at the checkout stand.  I started putting my groceries on the conveyer belt and the cashier looked at me, looked at my huge bulging stomach, looked at my son and said loudly, "Whoa!  How did you let that happen???  Don't you know how it all works?”

Now, I can't tell you how many times I had heard that same obnoxious IT'S NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS question before.  And I can't tell you how many times I answered it.  I could just kick myself for how many times I answered it.

This time was going to be different.  My face turned red and I tried to create a boundary of privacy and said, "Well, I'm sure your mother explained to you how these things work."

I was so proud of myself.  It had no effect.

"No, really, I mean it.  HOW DID YOU LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU?"

I was a 28-year-old woman with a college degree.  I had left the Catholic Church years before.   However, I went into "obedience" mode and answered the woman's intrusive question.

"Well, you see, I was nursing full time, still got my period when my child was 7 weeks old and was using a diaphragm.  I must just really be fertile."  

She was shaking her head with disgust as if she didn't believe me.

I turned around and saw the long line of people leaning towards me uniformly as if choreographed, raptly caught up in the details of my fertilization and poor timing.

They were looking at me with huge grins on their faces, making no attempt to hide their unexplainable glee at my story.

I grabbed my groceries and my baby and walked out furious with myself.  Why did I feel the need to explain my personal life to complete and total strangers?  What the hell was wrong with me?

This pattern continued every time I got pregnant (which was 2 more times).  "Oh, don't you know how babies are made?  What were you thinking?  Aren't you aware of over-population?"

Always the questions, the questions that implied accusation and judgment.... always me, trying to explain, justify, rationalize something that was nobody's business but mine (and maybe my husband's).

Years later during my divorce, the rude questions began again.  I was the other half of the quintessential American dream couple.  The couple Barbie and Ken would have been jealous of.  The couple no one ever thought would get divorced.  The questions were often and relentless.

People I hadn't heard from in years were suddenly totally interested in me.  Phone calls came in like telemarketers on steroids.  "Mary, I heard you're getting a divorce.  I'm so sorry.  WHAT HAPPENED?"

Again, the unnecessary need to try to explain "my side of the story".  Again, the horrible feeling when I got off the phone after exposing myself, getting naked with those who didn't deserve to know, hadn't earned the right to know, having the sinking feeling that I had just been used.  99% of those people, once they got the "dirt" never contacted me again.

I started getting smart.  And I started coming up with the perfect comeback line:

Obnoxious nosey person:  "Mary, how did you allow yourself to have four children in under six years?"

Me:  "WHY DO YOU ASK?"

Obnoxious inquisitive person:  "Mary, why are you getting divorced?"

Me:  "WHY DO YOU ASK?"

Obnoxious nosey person:  "Mary, are they real?”

Me:  "WHY DO YOU ASK?"

Ah ha!  This began to work.  People would stammer and stutter and change the subject.  Some were like bulldozers and refused to be stop.  For people like this I would usually relapse into my codependent need to be "honest".  Again, I would chide myself and tell myself, "Okay, no need to beat yourself up, just keep working on it.  It's a long-standing habit.  Stay with it.  Learn to say nothing.  Learn to keep saying, "Why do you ask?"

I've spent a fair amount of time working on this.  Deciding when I want to share, expose, be vulnerable.  I continue to naturally be a person who is willing to share my humanness, but I’ve slowly learned to do it on my own terms.

I'm learning that every relationship, even the close ones, even the most intimate ones, need privacy...a place that is just between them and them.  A place for me where it is just between "me and me".

My newest revelation has been on how this applies to my husband.  My husband is a quiet man.  I am a person who loves to connect with others.  I love to connect with him.  Sometimes when he's quiet, I pry.  I probe.  I get in his face.

"What's wrong?  What's going on?”  

“Nothing Mary“.

"No, really what is it?"  

"Really, nothing."

"No, no, it seems there is something.  Talk to me."

Inevitably, this leads to some kind of dance.  One step in his face, one step he backs away, another step in his face, another step back.  The dance that can commonly lead to a fight.

Perhaps this should have been obvious to me, but growing up in a large family with 4 sisters and 2 brothers, the boundaries weren't so clear.  I've realized lately that even with my husband, the person I am the closest to, what's going on for him is really none of my business.  He's aware that he can share it with me.  I don't need to become an interrogator to know what is going on for him.

I'm discovering the power that space has.  When I create that space for my husband, when I back off, leave him alone with his thoughts, it gives him the room to come to me...or not.

And I'm also realizing the value and worth of my own privacy, my own private world, my own inner sanctuary...that sacred place of relationship with only myself.

And perhaps the next time someone asks me a question that crosses that privacy line, instead of saying, "Why do you ask?" I will say with calmness and grace, "It's none of your business."

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