Secrecy often breeds more curiosity than it cures.
People love puzzles, and the more evasive you make the answer, the more some people will try to piece it all together.
So what happens when you are a private person by nature but find yourself under scrutiny?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) throwaway4928583 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for being secretive about my life towards my boyfriend’s family?”
OP started with some important, if vague, details.
“This is going to sound like a really strange argument, but the necessary info to start with:”
“1) I can’t talk about my job for legal and security-related reasons and I’ve found it’s just better to avoid the subject entirely.”
“I usually just say I’m an analyst and divert to something else quickly, because ‘I can’t talk about it’ makes people even more curious.”
“2) I’m kind of a private person generally, I don’t do social media except Reddit, I keep my business to a few very close friends, and I’m more of a listener than a talker out of habit.”
“This means there’s just not a lot of info about me out there compared to most people and I don’t share much.”
“Ok, so my (28F) boyfriend (33M) wanted me to come to holidays with his family this year to meet everyone.”
“For the record, he knows I can’t talk about my professional life, it was a Thing at first, but he’s had time to figure out that I’m trustworthy.”
“Thanksgiving went ok, except that his mother tried to give me the third degree about my life and I had to gently deflect some questions.”
“It bothered her a lot more than we thought, because she went on a fact-finding mission and came up with nothing.”
Then she got to the difficulty at hand.
“For Christmas we were going to stay at their place for a few days.”
“On the first day, his mom made a comment about adding me on FB and I told her I’m not on socials, and she remarked on how weird that was for someone my age, and was trying to probe for why.”
“I finally got his dad to talk about something else, but that night I was getting a shower and I noticed when I got out that someone had tried to access my phone and failed the passcode.”
“My phone takes a picture if the passcode is failed too many times, and it was his mom.”
“I showed my b/f and we confronted her and she went on and on about how secretive I am and how she’s just looking out for her son because I could be anyone and I’m probably not even giving him my real name, maybe I’m cheating, etc.”
“I told my b/f that this wasn’t acceptable and I was going to go find a hotel to ensure my privacy.”
“He came with me and given the stream of texts we got after we decided to just go home.”
“He’s still getting texts from family about it and his dad told him that while his mom messed up with the phone, she was right to be worried because I’m clearly hiding important things.”
“I probably could be more forthcoming about some personal things, but the more someone digs and pushes, the less I want to share out of instinct.”
OP was left to wonder,
“It’s not like I’m rudely shutting them down, but at the same time I can see how your kid dating someone with no public information footprint and who doesn’t divulge a lot would be concerning.”
Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.
Redditors weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Redditors decided: NTA
There were personal stories.
“I used to run into similar when I was working for /with one of the ABCs.”
“We were generally directed to tell people that we worked for a different and less “serious” agency. Had whole stories to roll out.”
“Your MIL person is nuts. Trying to go through your phone? That’s ballsy.”
“NTA to want to GTFO of that situation.” ~ UsuallyWrite2
“It’s probably something else -“
“I interviewed for a job once at an academic journal, and I wouldn’t have been able to talk about anything I saw at work because of confidentiality/IP protection.”
“OP didn’t say they can’t tell people what their job is, just that they can’t talk about details, and if you’re not one to talk about yourself by habit you’re not great at deflections.”
‘”What do you do?”‘
‘”Oh I’m a journal editor”‘
‘”What’s that like”‘
‘”(crap) um, interesting…”‘
‘”Can you…. tell me about a thing you’ve edited?”‘
“Sounds like you’re lying or stonewalling or somehow being really shady.” ~ Doctor-Liz
“Knew a guy who worked on missile guidance systems, same idea where he couldn’t talk about his work at all.”
“People would tease but they knew not to ask.”
“I don’t think anyone ever asked twice. It’s not that hard to understand. Unlike missile guidance systems. I wouldn’t know what the hell he was talking about, anyway.”
“NTA, they’re weird af.” ~ Schrodingers_Dude
Some felt that this whole situation was cagey.
“I’m really confused that OP doesn’t have any sort of cover story for what they do. “I can’t tell you about my Top Secret job” is far more suspicious than anything else.” ~ ChiefTuk
“I’m probably in the minority here but damn if someone lied to me about their job I’d be way more sketched out.”
“How long are you going to be ‘a telemarketer’ or work at the post office before someone in a close relationship to your partner thinks something is wrong?”
“It sucks that people can’t just roll with this stuff, I guess.” ~ MonsterSnooze
Commenters were just confused at MIL’s plan.
“I can’t even start thinking what went through her head other than the chowder that seems to between most AH’s ears.”
“On one end, she figures out you’re part of the mob or something and ends up on a milk carton.”
“On the other end, she ends up breaching state security and gets prosecuted or black-bagged (depending on your personal trust of three-letter agencies).”
“And right in the middle… there’s nothing to find and she was a paranoid, privacy-invading creep.” ~SenpaiSamaChan
“How would she even begin to guess a code? Her sons bday?” ~ P0ptart5
And others were confused about why it mattered so much to MIL in the first place.
“NTA even if your job didn’t require you not to talk about your employment you’re under no obligation to share anything you don’t want with anyone you don’t want.” ~ TriSarah8
“I work a job I am allowed to talk about but usually don’t. Most people would find what I do incredibly boring and as far as ‘getting to know you’ I hate that question.”
“My job is what I do, it’s not who I am.”
“When asked I usually just give a one sentence answer and change the subject.”
“Asking about work is not how you get to know me.”
“Questions I prefer to ask/answer are what books do you like, what shows are you watching, what do you do for fun, have you travelled and what place did you like the best etc” ~ meeeee01
“There are two sorts of people; those who judge the worth of others on who they are as a person, and those who judge on what job they do.”
“(A.k.a. how prestigious they are and how much money they earn)”
“People pushing hard to know what job you do says a lot.” ~ tiramichu
Some felt that OP just needed a better backstory.
“NTA – If your bf is ok with your boundaries, then his family needs to be, too.”
“I get his parents would worry for him but he is an adult and has decided to respect your secrecy/privacy.”
“His mom, however, crossed into AH territory when she tried to break into your phone the first time you meet.”
“I would ask bf if mom has had a history of being so invasive. (Nosy is too mild of a word for what she’s doing.)”
“You might also consider fleshing out your analyst back story (with the help of your hr/legal dept) if you realize that your mysteriousness is adversely affecting you socially.”
“Otherwise, you do you.” ~ Oldgamerlady
“Try saying you are in regulatory compliance for banking. I am.”
“People run away from me.”
“I am absolutely horrified that your boyfriend’s mother went sneaking around the room while you were naked in the shower.”
“That woman is a creep.” ~ DuckDuckWaffle99
“I can’t talk about my job for legal and security-related reasons and I’ve found it’s just better to avoid the subject entirely.”
“I usually just say I’m an analyst and divert to something else quickly”
“You are 100% entitled to privacy but surely you have been advised as to how to create a cover story for what you do for a living.”
“Your evasiveness is doing you no favors and isn’t deflecting suspicion.”
“It is creating suspicion.”
“Generally, people that want to be/need to be super private have a cover story like ‘oh I work as a ‘financial’ analyst for <insert name of most boring company on earth>.”
‘”oh, I no longer have living family so I’ve created a family with close friends”‘.
“Whatever works. Then move the conversation on.”
“This in NO WAY excuses your MIL. At all. She is the AH.” ~ facinationstreet
Secrecy just makes some people more eager to find out what all the secrecy is for.
Remember that privacy doesn’t just mean your own privacy, but that other people get to keep their secrets too.