Too much information. The phrase has become a talisman to ward off those unwanted bits of information — like the bathroom habits of a good friend, or the sex life of an unattractive coworker. I am still reeling from that horrible day two years ago when a colleague told me about a one-night stand with his friend’s sister. I regret not whipping out the TMI shield sooner that day.
Since then, I’ve been quite reserved with the information that I share, mainly out of the fear that something I say will encourage others to tell me things that I don’t want to hear. I try to stick to the basics. Yard work, restaurants, current events. Since Elyse was born, I’ve found myself talking about her a lot, and occasionally, childbirth and motherhood have tipped into the TMI category. But I’ve been trying to catch myself.
I was able to relax those restraints with one coworker a few months ago. Kevin joined the department while I was on maternity leave last year, and for the first time in who knows when, I was not the only African-American in my department. We developed an instant kinship.
Our first lunch was a discussion on corporate culture laced with humorous dish on our coworkers. Later talks on workplace challenges led to conversations on past jobs. Then past lives. His college days. My Delta days. His military family. My jovial one. His penchant for fitness. My madness for shoes. His goddaughter. My first daughter. Our shared love of Kenneth Cole.
Five months after that first lunch, Kevin left the company in search of greener pastures. His departure propelled me back into exchanges on lawn care and home improvement.
I saw Kevin a couple of weeks ago at an awards banquet. He greeted me with a warm hug. “Where’s Mike?” he asked. “He had to work,” I said. Kevin turned to the woman at his side. “This is my wife, Sharon.”
Wife? Not once in five months had I heard Kevin mention her name. I don’t even remember seeing her picture on his desk. I’m surprised that she couldn’t tell that I was caught off guard. I smiled at Sharon and said, “Nice to meet you.” She returned the smile and nodded with recognition when he told her that we used to work together.
One hundred and one scenarios went through my head as to why I’ve never heard of Mrs. Kevin. But instead of dwelling on those, I decided to just ask. “I’m a private person,” was his reply.
Private person? Bull. As much as we talked, her name should have come up once or twice. Or should it have? Was it that Kevin had been too closed, or had I been too open? Does the existence of a wife fall into the category of too much information?
As soon as Mike got home from work, I told him about seeing Kevin and Sharon at the dinner.
“You never mentioned that he was married,” Mike said. “That’s because he never said anything,” I told him.
Mike was stunned “What?” he said. “How can you not talk about your wife? I talk about you and Elyse all the time. I even show pictures.”
“I guess everyone is not as open about their personal lives as you are,” I said.
“Whatever,” Mike said. “I just don’t see how it didn’t come up.”
I couldn’t help but agree. Mike and Elyse are a big part of who I am, it’s difficult separate my family self from my work self. Although, I can see the appeal. After having one of those days when you want to cuss out everyone in the building, I would like to be able to leave my issues at the office. And I know for sure that Mike could use a little practice with that skill.
So perhaps the TMI force field extends a bit farther than I thought. I could benefit from a little separation where work/life balance is concerned. So I’ll stick to my landscaping and home improvement dialogues for a while to see how it goes. But I’m going to keep Elyse’s pictures on my desk. She’s just too cute to not show off.