Apparently if you ask young people today what they want to be when they grow up many of them will say ‘a celebrity’ as if being a celebrity was a career in itself. They have programmes such as Celebrity Come Dancing and Celebrity Bake Off and, sad old bag that I am, I have usually never heard of any of them. Sometimes it turns out that they are celebrities because they have slept with another ‘celebrity’ and had their story in the newspapers or more likely in one of the plethora of magazines devoted to what we used to call tittle tattle! – I have to confess I read these avidly when I find them in the dentist’s – even if I don’t have any idea who any of them are!) If I had slept with a celebrity and he had dumped me I think I would have kept quiet about it. It has to be said that the opportunity has never arisen so maybe I would have been delighted to kiss and tell, but I like to think not. And the crying – in public – from men! I’m sure it is a very good thing for men to be in touch with their feminine side but what was wrong with the stiff upper lip? Well, maybe quite a lot but haven’t we have gone too far the other way? As for people’s sexuality – unless you fancy someone does it really matter? Do we have to announce it every time their name is mentioned in the press, if they are gay, bi or trans? No one ever writes an article about ‘Straight writer John Smith’
When did we become such a nation of over-sharers? I had an Italian boyfriend years ago and I had to explain to him that ‘How do you do’ was not an invitation to tell someone about the state of his liver, but merely a statement of greeting. Not any more! At some point it became mandatory to go into intimate details of one’s life with complete strangers. It would be facile to blame social media but the rot set in long before that. When I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth people kept things to themselves. My father used to go to the downstairs loo for half an hour after breakfast every morning with a copy of the Times. It was years later that I realised he hadn’t gone in there just for some peace and quiet to do the crossword. I did finally discover that he firmly believed if he didn’t achieve what he set out to achieve every morning between 8.30 and 9.00 the world would very probably end. At boarding school it was mandatory for small boys to report to matron afternoon breakfast on the state of their bowels. And it the results weren’t satisfactory they were given a ‘dose’. Such habits last a lifetime but my father would never have discussed this – I finally learnt the truth from my husband. I remember visiting an old lady (who I didn’t know very well) and when she started to tell me about problems with her waterworks in my naivety I assumed she was having trouble with the hot water and wasn’t prepared to be given a detailed description of the problems she had been having with her catheter
In my family menstruation would never have been mentioned – my parents called any discussion of such things as ‘ribbon talk’. Any reference to a specifically female medical problem was muttered about darkly as ‘women’s problems’. Now Radio 4 devotes whole programmes to the subject. And on television there are programmes such as Embarrassing Bodies and GPs Behind Closed Doors – I sometimes watch them with a morbid fascination. Why, when you have a nasty looking rash on your breast or an odd shaped lump on your bottom which you say you have never shown anyone (not even your partner) would you suddenly be prepared to bare all in front of the cameras and several million viewers? Of course it is a very good thing that men are aware of their prostates and the need to have them checked by the doctor but it doesn’t have to be done on film – does it? Admittedly the camera is not usually at the business end but focuses on the patient’s face – a picture of stoicism, but think of your grandchildren. And you thought seeing your father dance in public was embarrassing that is but nothing compared to seeing him discuss his piles on national television!