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Tuesday, May 03, 2005
Too Much Information
Yes, it's a bit cliche. But it's also eminently true as concerns the subject of this Peggy Noonan column in OpinionJournal.com.
" I was at a wedding, standing just off the dance floor, when a pleasant young man in his 20s approached, introduced himself and asked where I'd had my hair done. I shook his offered hand and began to answer, but before I could he said, 'I'm gay, by the way.' I nodded as if this were my business, but thought: I wonder why a total stranger thinks I want to know what he wishes to do with his genitals? What an odd way to say hello.
We live in a time in which people routinely violate their own privacy.
I don't think the young man lacked a sense of privacy. I suspect if I'd said,'Tell me your annual salary,' he would have bridled. That's personal.
Maybe he wanted me to approve ('That's wonderful!') or disapprove ('Unclean!'). Maybe he felt compelled to announce his orientation because homosexuals are so often told that not to declare is to be closeted, and to be closeted is shameful. Maybe he was doing what he thinks he must to do to show integrity.
Whatever his thinking, it has occurred to me that in the old, clucking, busybody America it was not unusual to meet people who needed to be told, 'That's none of your business.'
But in the new and infinitely stranger America there are a lot of people who need to be told, 'Buddy, that's none of my business.'
Or, as people began saying about five years ago, 'Too much information!'"
The column is about the recent phenomenon of people sharing the excruciating details of their illnesses with the general public. Ironically, Noonan concludes that this sort of thing is positive with respect to illnesses like cancer.
Maybe so. But Noonan's column got me to thinking again about the national scourge of the Twelve Step People.
Surely you know one. Maybe you ARE one. You know, the ones who are compelled to let you know within 30 seconds of making your acquaintance that they're alcoholics/drug addicts/hooked on phonics? I never know quite what to say to them, other than "Hey, I just LOVED the Days of Wine and Roses!"
They've got to be among the most annoying people in America. And the fascination of our national media with the "recovery" of celebrities and athletes from their addictions has only made it worse. I've never quite understood the ideology that celebrates the "recovery" of addicts more than it does the strength of those who never succumbed to addiction.
As for me, I think there's a lot of truth in the old joke:
"What's the difference between drunks and alcoholics?"
Answer: Drunks don't have meetings.