Hi. I’m Jules. I have a twin, and her name is Schwes. (Actually it isn’t, that’s just what I call her. Schwes is a shortened version of the German word for sister; it’s like saying ‘Sis.’ Schwes lives in Switzerland, and she speaks German. Aren’t we clever?) But having a twin means, in short, I was born with my privacy invaded. Constantly and irreconcilably.
Schwes and I shared a room until Bros #1 and #2 grew up and went to college, then came back, then grew up some more and went away again. We got our own rooms at 15, and I can’t even tell you the celebrations that went on when that happened. Private celebrations, of course, that was the whole point. We grew and flourished in our own ways, Schwes in her clean, beautiful, neatly-painted, hardwood-floored room, and me in my perpetually messy half-not-quite-well-painted room with 10-year-old carpet. I must be sure to point out that there was no favoritism going on here — we were tasked with redoing our rooms on our own. But Schwes likes beauty and order, and I like watching movies. Plus, since her room was the nicest she often got kicked out in favor of guests and had to slum in mine anyway. I got the bed, mostly.
That was a digression. I fear there may be many of those tonight, as my twin is one of my favoritest subjects in the world. Some day, I’ll tell you how we became friends. Oooo or the Great Identity Crisis of Junior High. Or Twindnesday!
Shwes and I grew up sharing space. Sharing clothes, sharing food, sharing books and sharing experiences. At our youngest we shared showers and baths and potty breaks — yes, I remember potty training. We had a training toilet and a big-person toilet in the same bathroom, and being twins and expected to do Absolutely Everything Together, of course potty training got lumped in the mix. We shared friends — which was hard — we shared humor, we shared likes and dislikes and we shared hugs and kisses and being called “The Girls.”
For a long while I resented all the sharing. I wanted to be unique and my own person, not an exact copy of my sister (yeah… I’m 10 whole minutes younger). I felt there was no way to be myself, not even in my own head, and that I never had privacy.
Then I lived in a dorm room with 3 other girls and got my heart right real quick.
By the time we’d reached college, Schwes and I had become friends, and I looked back on our sharing times less as violations of privacy and more as the privileges of companionship. It’s the cliche response when people find I have a twin: “oh! I wish I’d had a twin! I’d always have a friend to play with!” but it’s true nonetheless. I did always *potentially* have someone to play with (she liked to read more than play, though). But we could also share the difficult things like chores and conversation and studying. I was truly blessed to have such a companion as Schwes.
College was difficult because you really could never be alone, unless you were in the bathroom or shower. That’s just the way my university was set up. Phone conversations were the worst to orchestrate. Uninterrupted study was possible, but you usually had to put up with other silent people surrounding you in the designated study areas.
Still, I was again blessed with great experiences — I never felt my privacy violated by roommates or classmates. In fact, I invited people to snoop through my closet and borrow things, or to notice certain books on my shelf and ask to read them. I have found that being required to live an open life at a young age made living with roommates far easier. It’s not that I was less concerned about my privacy, but rather that I considered less of my life private.
It wasn’t until recently that I began to understand this whole violation of privacy conundrum. One of these uninvited hindrances took place in April. I’ve mentioned it here before, but one morning I walked out of my apartment — running a little behind — and couldn’t find my car. Although I was fairly certain I’d parked it where I always park it (mistake #1), I checked all the parking lots, just to make sure. No car. I texted my boss who lives in my building asking if he’d seen it. This was also to make sure he hadn’t moved it as a joke; he totally would, considering I’d left it unlocked (mistake #2) with a spare key inside (drastic mistake #3). But he hadn’t seen it. Sure enough, my car was stolen. I called the police, made the report, began thinking about how to replace it, and tried to get over my shock of why in the world someone would want to steal my $700 car with the torn headliner and a broken motor mount. I had barely finished alerting the appropriate people of its theft when the police contacted me that my car had been found! And it was “drivable!”
My Spaniard (Bro #2’s wife) and I made a trip to Hicktown, Nowheresville to pick it up. We were shocked to find piles of clothes, tools, knives, sunglasses, and various electronic paraphernalia scattered amidst trash and a spilled pack of gum. A large pink stain on the floor by the driver’s seat smelled of Red Bull or Powerade. A fishing pole still sits in my storage room because I can’t figure out what to do with it. Oh, and “drivable” was a bit of an exaggeration. After paying for towing then breaking down and paying for towing again within the same hour, I was starting to understand that this issue was not merely a material issue. After all, I couldn’t care less about the car. It’s just a thing. I didn’t even really care about the towing and mechanic bills — it’s just money.
But every time I get in my car, I see that pink stain.
Every time I make a joke about my ghetto car and say, “who would ever want to steal this?” I have to retract my words, because someone has.
Every time I park my car, I remind myself to park in a different place and to please oh please remember to lock your doors and remember where you parked so you can find it again in the morning.
Because every time I get in my car, I think about a man I have never met who has not yet been held accountable for his crimes. And that, my friends, is an invasion of privacy. What happens on the outside is free game. Technically you don’t need an invitation to know the outside me. But to worm your way uninvited and unwanted into my mind and habits is the very essence of privacy violation.
This post is already too long, but there has been another similar instance of privacy violation recently, to which I feel most of you can relate. That being a case of an unwanted internet stalker. All right, I’m using the word stalker very loosely and slightly blasphemously. I know true internet stalkers exist and they are far more fearsome and detrimental than my experience has proved, but the intensity of the crime does not lessen the fact of the crime.
Basically, a man I met at church and have talked to a few times over the past 3-4 years has sent me a few very suggestive messages on Facebook. After the first, I was grossed out, and just deleted it (“archived” it — I am a careful, calculating woman after all) and went on with my life. The next week there was another message, so I blocked him. No harm done to me. But then I thought about the possibility that he could show up at church and approach me there and should that happen, I wanted Bro #2 aware of the situation. So I told my brother. We got some advice and decided the best course of action was to each send him a definite message letting him know his comments were inappropriate and unappreciated, and that I did not want to hear from him again.
And that’s the end of it. There were no prolonged conversations, no hours of self-doubt, no fear for my safety or virtue. There was some disgust, but primarily it was an open-and-shut “this could become a problem so let’s fix it before it gets there” case. And I’m glad. Because that, my friends, was also an invasion of privacy.
When someone commands your attention inappropriately, even if over such a medium that does not require response, it is harassment.
Harassment: “aggressive pressure or intimidation.”
I would say asking a woman — that you do not know — overt questions about sex is aggressive. The problem with harassment is not just the immediate emotional trauma. Like I said, in this case I was mostly just slightly disgusted and blocked the guy after a firm refusal. But you can be sure that I’m more careful about who I talk to now. You can be sure that I have fewer qualms about blocking people that might invade my privacy. If it had gone on longer, you can be sure I would have retreated into myself and avoided smiling at strangers for fear of attracting unwanted attention. I know this, because that’s how I began to think. I forced myself to remain normal on the outside because how dare a man I do not know determine how I love the world around me! But it was hard. Because I didn’t want to share my thoughts with this man, same as I didn’t want to share my thoughts with the man who stole my car.
In contradiction to all expected scenarios, I did not learn about invasion of privacy through living with a twin for 15 years, or with 3 other girls in extremely close quarters for 4 years. No, I learned it in the year that I lived by myself. I have learned that invasion of privacy is not really about my things or my money or even about my time: it is about my thoughts. It is about my reactions. And it is how my view of the world has changed because of these violations. I do not aspire to skepticism, but now I have that much harder to work at my positive outlook.