I was recently exploring Facebook with a guy I’ve been dating, also known as Secret Agent Man. He just joined and I wanted to see his profile picture. Then I got to thinking it might be a good idea to look at my Facebook page from his BlackBerry. Since we hadn’t friended each other, I would be able to make sure my privacy settings were secure (they were).
As I handed him back his phone, he asked if he should friend me. I told him that was his decision. What I really meant was: I have no idea if that’s a good idea or not so I’m not saying anything.
Part of me wanted us to be friends, because somehow in my mind that meant we were solidifying something. I’m not sure if that’s true or I was merely hoping it was.
But another part of me was wondering if I (or my friends) had made references to him on my wall that might be embarrassing in an I don’t want him to know how much I like him kind of way, so maybe it would be better if we were online strangers.
I spent a good part of the drive home wondering what to do about his (surely) pending friend request, and what I would say if I decided it wasn’t a good idea. I certainly couldn’t tell him the truth without sounding pathetic.
But when I got home and checked my email, I didn’t have a friend request from him. Huh?
Don’t ask me why, but a part of me felt slighted. He didn’t want to be friends with me? Didn’t he want all of his friends to see his fabulous new girlfriend? What was he hiding? What was he trying to tell me?
The more I think about it, though, the more I think it’s a bad idea to mix your friends with your significant other. I know there are couples who are happy to share everything, even to be one identity. I don’t mean that in a critical way. Some people are just wired to need that.
There’s a part of me, a rather large part of me to be honest, that prefers We over I. But I’ve travelled that highway and We always dumps I at the side of a rest stop in New Jersey, leaving her with nothing but a diminished sense of self, a smaller social circle, and a lousy Cinnabon.
I’ve learned that I need my own zone of privacy. It’s not necessarily what I want, but it’s what I need. And I need him to have his. For each of us to have our own connections with others, whether friends or family, to keep us grounded in our own space. To keep us authentic.
Besides, I don’t want to censor my Facebook-self because I’m afraid of what he might think about my stupid comment about lip gloss.
I imagine there are women who might say, “Well, if he was the right guy for you, then you wouldn’t feel compelled to censor yourself.” I think this is another one of the lies women tell themselves (and one another). That you can say, do, and look like whatever you want and he won’t care. Yes he will. Or at least almost all of the he’s will.
Plan accordingly or figure it out when he leaves your hairy, unkempt, loud-mouthed (big) butt.
I was talking to a male friend about the need for a zone of privacy over lunch the other day. He readily agreed, saying that he believes we all have public, private, and secret lives. I never really thought about it like that but I think he’s right.
Our public lives are obvious. It’s who we present to the world. At work, in the park, at bars. It’s who you see in a Google search or a profile picture. It’s the clothes you wear, the car you drive, what your front yard looks like.
Our private selves are the ones only close friends, family, and our significant other see. It’s the underwear drawer, the hairy leg, that certain smirk.
But our secret selves we show and tell no one. They are the parts of our personalities and past history that we don’t talk about, don’t admit, don’t acknowledge. The depressed parts that lie in bed Saturday until 2:00 p.m., pretending to be cleaning the house if anyone calls. The parts that we would like to keep under wraps even from ourselves. The parts that speak to us in hushed tones.
I wonder how you find the right balance among these lives. How do you decide how much of yourself to reveal? To whom? When? Are there doors between these lives or only walls? And how much control do you really have over what is public, private, and secret anyway?
I wondered if there was a part of my public, private, or secret self revealed on Facebook that Secret Agent Man didn’t know about. Would it matter to our relationship if he ever found out? Would it matter to me?
One thing’s for sure: I’m not ready to find out, so our Facebook friendship’s going to have to wait.