Keep Your Fragile Bits to Yourself

I have a hard time with oversharing.

Not my own. Oh god, of course not. You have to share in order to overshare. Let’s talk about Lord of the Rings instead, shall we?

No? Fine, let me tell you about oversharers instead. It doesn’t happen often – I don’t get out much – but every once in a while, I’ll meet someone who volunteers a tidbit about themselves a tad too soon. Like the lovely stranger who told me she has dogs because she isn’t able to have children. Or the gent who talked about his six-figure salary (among just so many other things) during our 20-minute business meeting.  

In the wake of these awkward conversations, I told my husband that their oversharing had made me uncomfortable. “Why?” he asked.

I couldn’t say.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it since. Why does it make me uncomfortable when people share a private piece of themselves with me? Do I feel obligated to overshare in return? Do I hate the false sense of intimacy that comes with a too-soon piece of TMI? Am I freaking broken?

Yeah, I’m probably broken, and I blame my first boyfriend and a little bit my mom. (Pro tip: you can’t be a writer if you don’t blame all your idiosyncrasies on your mom. True fact.) I was in love – the kind only a seventh-grade girl can feel – and then he dumped me. Back then, I still cried over boys, and my mom still went into full-on fix-it mode.

This is what my mother said to me: ‘Don’t let anyone see you’re suffering. I always had too much pride to let people see they got to me.’

This is what I heard: ‘There is a fragile piece inside you that you must protect, because if you don’t, someone will use it to hurt you.’

I don’t know if I was deeply private before that, but I know I have been since. I see such little value in sharing my problems, showing my pain, being vulnerable. I don’t believe the weight of one’s feelings is a burden that others should carry. Maybe this has made me a bit hard on the outside, and maybe this has made it difficult for me to connect with people. But I know the people I do connect with can’t hurt me. They never would.

I suppose the conclusion I’ve come to is this:

Oversharers bother me because of their indifference toward their fragile bits.

People, there is a fragile piece inside you that you must protect. Honest. Don’t let just anyone see it, not right away. Save it for the special ones – the people who will handle your fragile bits gently, who will treat that singular part of you as if it were their own. Let those people in – all the way in – and never doubt them.

But it takes time to know whether someone will take their shoes off before they explore that secret space inside you. And you alone can give it to them.

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