September 27, 2013

FREY: Please keep it to yourself


---- — Back in the day, my father taught me that there were two topics off limits while conversing with people.

The first one was politics.

The second one was religion.

My father always said that people (all people, not just some people) have deep, personal, and private feelings about both topics. Therefore, it was in my best interest to never bring either topic up at any time whatsoever (that would be during my entire life).

Listen without judgment, if I had to and there was no escape route, but do not comment. Take it all in and sift through it all, if I had to and there was no escape route, but do not comment. End of conversation.

It was one of my father’s many guidelines for living a peaceful life, a life devoid of drama and consternation. Eventually, many years down the road, and right before taking my last breath, the choice to avoid such conversations would have provided a life well-lived and well-spent.

My father added that if I chose to bring those topics up in conversation, the possibility existed that I could lose friends and alienate family members. Perhaps both.

He was serious.

I do not remember a time when my father ever discussed politics or religion with mixed company in a restaurant, at the grocery, on the street, on the sidewalk, in the car, in our home, in the workplace, during vacation, or while picnicking in the back yard.

My mother and I, it seems, were the only people on the face of the earth who were trustworthy enough to discuss such topics with him.

My father may have had a few choice words for President Jimmy Carter and his peculiar ascent to the White House. And he was not pleased in any way, shape or form when President Nixon sent those poor burglars into the Watergate Hotel in 1972 to spy on and steal important papers from the Democrats. But they were passing comments, asides really, mentioned calmly, but sternly, during dinner or while sitting on the front porch.

These days, everyone shares and discusses everything. Nothing is off limits. Nothing is sacred. Inquiring minds want to know everything, and people do not mind sharing.

I know all sorts of things I should not know about all sorts of people I do not know. It is all too much, I tell you.

Information about sexual preference, who is in surgery, who is in rehab, who is getting divorced, who is cheating on their spouse, who has the most money, who is in bankruptcy, who has an illegitimate child, who purchased the biggest house, quite frankly, is none of my business.

I prefer and choose to live in my father’s world, the world he created for himself and introduced to me so long ago.

His is the world I have embraced.

It is world where private things are not on display for all to see and read about on the nightly news or Facebook or Twitter or in a text.

It is a world where personal things are personal, where good judgment is foremost, where diplomacy and discernment rule the day, and where many things can be shared and discussed, but not all things.

American actress and silent film star Gloria Swanson had it right when she said: “When I die, my epitaph should read: She paid the bills. That’s the story of my private life.”

The end.

Alvia Lewis Frey is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at