I am walking through the shop floor of a Global 100 manufacturing firm. The firm employs over eight hundred associates and has a well-defined and strong Human Resources office. They are involved in the work-place life of each associate and know many of them on a first name basis. I have been working for this firm for over six years and have made many good friends with both hourly and management employees. So it came as know surprise when I heard my name being called out by one of the female sub-assembly line workers. I looked up to see her smiling and waving me over as she reached for another plastic dashboard to which she would connect, depending on her worksheet, a variety of lights and sensors.
This associate had been working for the plant for over fifteen years and was considered a good and reliable worker. Although she had never worked in any of the departments I was responsible for, I had talked with her several times about various job related issues. I had a reputation as someone who might be able to better your work environment, and I was always willing to help if I could. Other than those isolated conversations our contact was nil. I didn’t know anything else about her nor did I care to. It was a relationship based only on the workplace and nothing else.
Although the company had made great strides to reduce the noise on the assembly floor and safety ear plugs where no longer required in this area, it was still loud. Consequently it was necessary to speak considerably louder than you normally would to hold a conversation. As I neared she looked up and yelled out, “Hey Steve, I’m going to get my boobs reduced!”
Over the years I have had many conversations with women. Many times the relationships were of an intimate nature and therefore the subject of discussions had, on occasion, taken on a personal tone. However, since meeting my wife over twenty years ago, those types of conversation have been restricted to her only. So my reflexes for responding to a sudden burst of what I consider very personal information were dulled, to say the least. I believe I was able to stammer out something like, “Uh gee..uhh…I…uh…wish you…uh…the best.” Then I headed back (quickly) to my office.
Several years ago during a business flight, the gentleman next to me launched into a detailed pornographic description of why he sexually enjoyed obese women. When I tried to stop him with a firm, “I’m sorry sir, this is not the kind of discussion I wish to engage in.” He became upset and asked why I was so uptight.
A couple of days ago I was reading a blog written by young lady and she revealed her bra size.
And it is not just sexuality either. The same can apply to those who provide cut-by-stitch descriptions of their surgeries or every nuance of their latest colonoscopy. I have heard descriptions of bowel movements, vomiting, in-grown toe nails, and, far too much, of almost every other body malfunction.
There are the neighbors who involve you in a blow-by-blow narration of every family squabble they have ever had. Men who detail every aspect of their spousal disputes and acquaintances who reveal personal information about their psychological hang-ups.
So what happen to personal boundaries? Are we all so Oprah/Dr. Phil/Jerry Springer de-sensitized that every subject is open game? Can we discuss any and everything and it is okay?
Call me old fashion, but I’m thinking some boundaries are a good thing.
Why someone I barely know would inform me they are getting a breast reduction is beyond my comprehension. Nor do I understand the gentleman who thought it was perfectly okay to begin to detail his sexual peccadilloes. Why a young lady would reveal her bra size on a post that could be read by anyone in the world with an internet hookup is puzzling…and dangerous.
I will never understand those that want us know all the details of their infirmities. It is enough to know they are infirm and to have a general idea what the issue is, but that is enough. I don’t require all the gory nasty details. Same goes for family and mental issues. I don’t my being made aware there are problems, but let’s hold back on doing the CSI report.
I’m not wanting a return to the dark ages. I don’t want us to go back to the point where everyone is hemmed in and we hold everything inside. But I believe there is balance. Balance is a beautiful thing. Difficult to strike, but wonderful to keep.