The Telegraph assures us breathlessly that we humans have an insatiable curiosity over other people’s intimate affairs.
I overhear snippets of conversation from the open kitchen window that always make me wonder why two people who clearly dislike one another intensely stay together.
“Don’t you dare use that against me!” was one blast of unhappiness that drifted out into the crisp morning air last weekend. Back in July, the exchange was still more venomous. “Why don’t you just tell me what you want me to do, and I’ll do it,” snapped a man’s voice. “It would make things a hell of a lot easier if you did,” the woman sniped back with a mirthless laugh.
From the heavy build-up of resentment in their voices – and the name beside their doorbell – I know that they’re married.
The Telegraph’s Celia Warden leaps from this to explanations of why she finds herself fascinated by what is objectively none of her business:
Modern life has made things still more titillating. With gender roles having changed so dramatically over the past few decades, there’s no longer a single set of rules for husbands and wives to abide by – whatever the guy in the dog-collar gets you to repeat after him on your wedding day.
I know couples who get off on arguments (of the non-physical variety, I should add); men who relish being handbagged to within an inch of their pathetic little lives; and women I had pitied for marrying serial adulterers who turned out to have known all along and were simply relieved that their husbands had a distraction.
We’re a complicated bunch. We buy into the whimsical, Hollywoodian portrayal of romance while remaining chillingly pragmatic about its interpretation. In fact, today’s marriages (and relationships) are more like company mergers than Richard Curtis movies. When they do dissolve, it’s more likely to be because of a dire performance report produced on Excel PowerPoint by both or either party than any abstract, emotional reason.
Having grown up in a village and read Shakespeare, I’d like to inform the over-thinking Ms. Warden that all this is “same as it ever was,” both the infinite variety of human relationships and the intense curiosity of their neighbors. It is my experience this type of article is usually an attempt to cover up behavior everyone knows is wrong by saying “things are so complicated now.” And on the heels of it comes the desire to look into other people’s lives for their own good.
I’d like everyone to take a deep breath. Humans have been forming relationships and families for a long time. Every form of happiness is well known, and every form of unhappiness too. And no mater how curious you are about other people’s private lives, they remain none of your business. Doing so will be best for everyone’s relationships, including yours with your neighbors.
Image courtesy shutterstock.com ©conrado