The telephone occupied the most central location in the house. The image of a teenage girl hurtling down the stairs, grabbing the receiver and turning her shoulder to the rest of the family was a staple of 1950's television. By the 1960's there were extensions in the bedrooms, but they were each accessible from the other. A crafty brother with a gentle touch could lift the receiver in another room and listen in on your personal, private conversations.
Such behavior was frowned upon in polite society.
Our phone was in the kitchen; I'd sit at the top of the basement steps, the door closed securely behind me, when I needed privacy. If anyone lurked and listened, I never found out. My hunch is that it never happened, because I never did it to anyone else. Of course, they were younger and, therefore, boring, but still......
I don't know if G'ma listened in to my conversations once I had my own extension in my own room, but I doubt that she did. Ours was a family that didn't open mail that was not our own; even when I was very little, my birthday cards were opened by me, and me alone. Communications between individuals was sacrosanct; it was shared at the discretion of those involved.
It's not The Snowden Affair which has me focused on this topic. It's more personal and closer to home. Sparing the details, texts were read by someone she trusted, who betrayed her by sharing them with the grown-up-in-charge-at-the-moment... who happened to be the topic of the invaded conversation.
The feces hit the fan.
The relief she felt when she figured out why that grown-up has been acting weird to me all day was mitigated by the betrayal she had to face. She never suspected that he would breach her trust. She thought that he was her friend, that he cared about her, and that they shared the same opinion of the grown-up at the center of the drama. She was heartbroken to know that he was none of those things..
And, she was far from home. That distance is the reason she was texting and not talking to the grown-up-for-real in her life. The Faux Adult had placed the teenager in the middle of a self-created drama and, like a terrier, she would not let go. Though it centered on our beleaguered heroine, the issues of power, control, and the flow of information revolved around the Faux Adult.... which is just where she wanted things to be. She is limited. She has no depth of character. She has shown herself to be unreliable and hurtful over and over again. Her behavior was surprising only to the teen at the heart of it all.
And that's where it lives - in the heart. A young girl saw a chance to resurrect a broken relationship and, against her better instincts, the grown-up-in-real-life said Yes. Once again, my cardinal rule of parenting proved itself to be the guidepost for all decisions - trust your gut. She didn't, and the kid paid the price.
Live and learn, on all fronts, it seems.
Does reading purloined text messages not carry a social stigma? Do the conversations that we have, thumbs flying over teeny keyboards, living on forever in the ether, have less importance than the spoken word for this technologically savvy generation? Was the instigator of this event just looking to make a scene, not caring about society's strictures? Should we worry about committing our inner-most thoughts to pixels? Or is this all about a grown-up who wasn't at the center of attention for a moment, who fought to retain the spotlight, and who didn't consider the consequences.
After all, those consequences sat on someone else's shoulders. As long as people were looking at her, were involved with her, were talking about her, life was good.
Someday we ought to have the conversation about licensing parents.