Some years ago, I had a boyfriend who left himself logged into his Facebook account on my computer. When I sat down at my desk after he had gone to work I was confronted with the screen he had left behind which contained a long list of messages. ‘Oo, goody,’ I thought, ‘suddenly I seem to have acquired lots of friends who have sent me lots of messages.’ Facebook was still in its infancy, you see, and I had never had a message on my account before. I was really excited.
It wasn’t until I started clicking on the messages that I realised they were all from blonde women I didn’t know. The top one was from a particularly fruity young lady chiding me for ripping all the buttons off her dress the night before. ‘How rude,’ I thought. ‘I most certainly did not pull her clothes off in one go and give her a good…Oh!’I was reading his Facebook messages, not mine.
Quite in spite of myself — for I could not have executed a deliberate Facebook hacking in a million years if I tried — I had managed to discover that, while I had been sitting waiting for two hours in a restaurant the night before with an expensive birthday present for my boyfriend, he had been delayed, not by a business meeting, but by a lady with a set of remarkably transient buttons.
Here’s the thing, though. I logged off straight away, without reading anything else, and rang him to tell him the relationship was over. I don’t believe one should read other people’s private messages, even if one can and even if one needs to because one’s boyfriend is a bodice-ripper.
So I am in a bit of a quandary, because I’ve just had a row with the builder boyfriend during which he has thrown back in my face something which he read in my emails. I now realise he has had lots of opportunity to read my emails because every time he asks if he can use my laptop or iPad when he is at my house I always say yes. And I never close down my email if it is open on the screen because I’m a trusting soul.
Also, as you may have noticed, I am an open book. I write about everything that happens to me, to the extent that my poor mother reads my column instead of ringing me nowadays because she says she finds out more that way.
‘Oh, dear,’ Mum said, when she finished reading my recently published book. ‘I do hope my friends don’t buy it.’
But her friends did, and they sent me nice text messages saying they had been up all night laughing. One friend said she had read it in the bath and nearly drowned. This was scant consolation to my poor Mum, who is a saint, and deserves a dignified silence from me after all the years she has put up with my public calamities, but dignified silence comes there none.
The point I’m making is that there is precious little that has ever happened to me that is not in the general ether. So when the builder said he had been through my emails and knew about ‘everything’, I said, ‘Fine, but you really didn’t need to play detective. You could just read Real Life, available in all good book stores and on Amazon, price £7.99. Hurry while stocks last!’
Actually, I’m a bit miffed that he hasn’t read it already, seeing as how he’s the happy ending. But he reckons it’s not his cup of tea. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to see your bit?’ I said to him after the book came out. ‘It’s only one page, right at the end. It’s really nice.’
‘No way,’ he said, ‘I don’t want to know about any of that.’ But it now transpires that secretly he very much does want to know about all of that, and has had a good nosey through my Gmail to find out.
Still, I cannot imagine what he’s getting so hot under the collar about. My inbox is mainly just press releases from the Stop HS2 campaign. It really isn’t as exciting as the book (also available in a Kindle edition — perfect for those long plane journeys!).
When I asked him why he had been reading my private messages, he said it was my fault for leaving them out. This is a disappointing moral argument, all the more depressing for being identical to the one used by photographers who snapped the future Queen of England with her top off. I’m not really sure where we go from here. But I suspect I may have got a bit ahead of myself when I made him my happy ending.