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Provo, Utah is a weird place. The social scene is geared towards college kids, and with an LDS (Mormon) university smack in the center of the city, most of the activities are family friendly. Provo is full to the brim with Mormons and hipsters, and Center Street changes its stores and restaurants at least every other year if not more often. Dating in Provo is especially strange though.

There are lots of weird things about dating in Provo: time, pressure, expectations, boundaries, etc.

I recently noticed that privacy in Provo is a completely foreign notion. Provo culture expects that any boy and girl who spend any alone time together are going to end up having sex before marriage, she’ll get pregnant, and they’ll both keep spiraling downward to their eventual doom. Add that cultural feeling to the amount of people packed into the apartment complexes packed into this city, and it’s not only not OK to have private alone time with your boy/girlfriend, but it’s near impossible.

I firmly believe that private time is essential in a relationship, especially if a couple is engaged and/or planning to be married. Whether to just enjoy one another’s company without interruption or to have important pre-marriage talks about things like birth control and contraceptives, finances, and other private matters or concerns that you don’t want broadcast, it’s important to at least have access to privacy.

The living room doesn’t work, because most apartments in Provo house 3-6 people. Even if nobody’s home, someone could come in at any time. Imagine trying to have that conversation about birth control when suddenly your roommate walks in. It wouldn’t be very comfortable for anyone involved! It might be funny though. Same goes for the kitchen.

Bedrooms are shared with a roommate, and off-limits to the opposite sex anyways.

Other off-limits areas include the bathroom, back hallway, and inside apartments after curfew (that’s midnight except for the 1:30am Friday night).

My fiancée and I tried public parks, but those are full of the other couples who are trying to have their private conversations. Also, thinking about parks, the apartment complexes usually don’t have a front or back yard, so if you want to talk about contraceptives outside, it will be in the middle of a public courtyard. Good luck.

Some may say that you can have alone time in the car, but if you live in Provo, you have about a 50/50 shot at actually having a car. So does the person you’re dating, so there’s a 25% chance of having that private space. Unless you want to borrow your roommate’s car. There’s no personal experience involved, but I would not recommend having a conversation about contraceptives in your roommate’s car. I’m sure your roommates would agree. Rachel (my fiancée) and I do have a car, but that still won’t get you the privacy you may want or need. Apartment parking lots are public, and people will walk up and knock on the window, trust me. We tried the parking lot up by the temple, but we decided to leave when Provo police tactfully shined their brights in the windows for about 60 seconds before pulling up close enough for us to roll down the windows and tell them that we assuredly had our clothes on and were just having an important and confidential conversation about taking care of our friends. If we didn’t end up in the Police Beat, I’ll be disappointed. Knowing that our attempt at a private conversation could end up in the news is the point I’m trying to make here.

It seems that everyone in Provo is aware of the complete absence of privacy. We recognize our own lack of privacy as well as that of others. Thus, a product of Provo culture, we have the “invisible privacy screen”. If Rachel and I notice that you and your significant other are having a conversation or kissing goodnight on the other side of the complex, we turn away and ignore you. There’s a subconscious thought process that says, “That’s the best place they can find, and who am I to invade the privacy they’re trying to have”.

You can put up your own screen by speaking in code. If you’re having a conversation about contraceptives and you have three roommates come and go during the conversation, it will be obviously interrupted, but saying something like “Remember what we were talking about earlier? Did you make a decision on that?” should be enough. Secret languages are ineffective though, unless you invent your own. Too many people know Pig Latin and Ubbi Dubbi.

Rachel and I want to get a real privacy screen, write “DTR SCREEN” on the outside, and then go set it up in front of other people and walk away.

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