Serious Question: Do You Tell Your Friends All Your Business?

October 4, 2017  |  

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The word secrecy has a negative connotation because it implies a dishonest withholding of information, and when it comes to friendships, the line between keeping some things private and keeping “secrets” often gets muddled.

I thought about the difficulty of establishing this delineation while catching up on this season of Shahs of Sunset. One of the things I love most about this show, other than its exposure of Persian culture, is the fact that everyone on the show is genuinely friends, i.e. there are no miscellaneous newbie cast members thrown into the mix for the sake of drama. As such, everyone in the group expects to know everything about the other. And when one person knows something about another that the rest of the crew doesn’t, people begin to question one another’s honesty and the validity of their friendship.

This issue recently came to a head when Asa became pregnant “naturally” at 40. MJ, another woman in the group, took the news noticeable hard because she, too, is 40 and has been seeing a fertility specialist to have a child. (She also feels a particular pressure to get pregnant immediately because her father is sick.) After giving Asa the third degree about the status of her relationship with Jermaine Jackson, Jr. — whether they’re going to get married, move in together, etc. — the group then began to scrutinize Asa’s “natural” pregnancy claim. Reza, a mutual friend, eventually lets it slip that Asa had been seeing the same fertility doctor as MJ, which sent her through the roof, remembering Asa had asked her about egg freezing as if she had never seen a specialist.

Though Asa later claimed she’d frozen embryos — not eggs — four years ago and never used them, MJ still deemed her a fraud. “I have never met a pregnant woman who is so secretive, where every single natural question is an attack,” MJ said after confronting Asa about keeping this detail from her. But even when another mutual friend, GG, weighed in on the situation, saying , “I want more Asa in my life.” Asa simply replied, ‘There’s certain things I won’t give you.”

And I’m completely with Asa. On one hand, I understand MJ feeling like Asa was a bit dishonest to ask about a process she was at least somewhat aware of without disclosing that information, I far more identify with Asa’s stance. It’s not that she didn’t tell MJ what she’d done in an attempt to mislead her, it’s that, as she said on the show, she didn’t trust her with that information.

Fertility issues are a very personal thing, and while some women may take comfort in sharing their struggles with others, there are some women who aren’t willing to open up in that way, especially when they don’t know what the reaction will be. From the moment the group found out Asa was pregnant, they began focusing on everything that is so-called wrong about her situation — she’s not married, she doesn’t live with her longtime partner — rather than focusing on the beauty of the upcoming birth. MJ even allegedly called her unborn baby a “bastard child.” Is that the kind of person anyone would confide in about something as sensitive as fertility struggles?

It’s not just babies that get MJ riled up, it’s also infidelity. When a distant friend of the group, Shervin, was said to be cheating on his girlfriend with a married friend of GG’s, MJ confronted him at lunch. He denied the claim 10 more times — even in the face of the woman with whom he was alleged to have an affair — and MJ and the entire crew jumped down his throat, urging him to “just tell the truth,” and for the life of me I couldn’t understand why. Sure, if I heard a rumor my friend was cheating on his girlfriend, I’d ask him about it too. But if he lied through his teeth and told me he wasn’t — which is what Shervin did — I wouldn’t press him about it. He owes his girlfriend honesty more than me and it’s not as though the crew wanted Shervin to confess so they weren’t put in a compromising position with his girlfriend or even so he could stop cheating. They felt like, we’re friends; therefore we have a right to know all of your dirty laundry, and that’s just simply not true.

Friends have accused me of keeping so-called secrets from them in the past, but I differ from them in my view of a secret. A secret to me is information I keep from someone else that is pertinent to their lives or our relationship. Anything I’ve kept from any friends I’ve done so as a matter of discernment (you can’t tell everybody everything). I’ve never been an open book with just anyone or even everyone in my circle and I don’t think being so is a condition of friendship.

Everyone has a right to keep some aspects of their lives to themselves, even when it comes to friends. Rather than taking personal offense to friends’ right to privacy, it would serve most people better to examine why their friends aren’t comfortable telling them certain information. Sometimes the issue doesn’t lie with the friend but with the person who can’t be trusted with said secrets.

Do you tell your friends all your business?

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