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People really have greatly differing levels of privacy needs. And conversely widely divergent respect for the privacy needs of others. There are definitely regional differences.

Two situations come to mind. A friend of mind came to school one day on crutches. When we all got together at recess, he didn't volunteer any information about what had happened--and we didn't ask. New England reticence, I guess, that dictates that a person will talk about something if they want to disclose their business, but that it is prying to inquire.

When I moved to California to attend college, it was a transition to a separate reality. Here it seemed, everyone asked about everything and expected to hear all the details. If, like me, you were reserved, you were considered cold or snobbish. I quickly learned to ask about other people's and share my own, though I've never been comfortable with what I might have once called nosiness.

My roommate, on the other hand, grew up here in southern California, the quintessential Valley Girl. Nothing is too private, nothing reserved from inquiry. If I say I don't want to talk about it, or that it is my business, she feels I'm being rude or standoffish. I've learned to express my privacy boundaries in humorous ways, such as, "If I tell you that, I'd have to kill you."

In my bedroom I have a couple of Christmas boxes on a shelf, a gift from my daughter. They are shiny, gilt-painted and adorned with plastic "gems". After being invited in to visit, my roommate walked over to the shelf, exclaimed, "Oh, how pretty!" and opened one.

Would you go into someone's house and open a decorative box in their bedroom? For me, the answer is to admire it yes, open it, no. What's inside is private and you ask permission before opening.

I always knock and wait for the invitation before entering.

I still don't know if I'm having issues with privacy that are unnecessary and old-fashioned, or if she--and other people--are overly intrusive.

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