08/13/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

True Confessions: What to Do When No One Has a Clue

No, you're not imagining it. People really are sharing the most intimate aspects of their lives with anyone who will listen. (And even to people who aren't listening.)

Trying to come up with an original birthday gift for your husband? Charla Muller of Charlotte, North Carolina dreamed up a year of sex and then chronicled it with her husband, Brad, in 365 Nights: A Memoir of Intimacy. (Note to Charla: next year, give him golf clubs and spare us.) And who hasn't seen Paris Hilton having sex with an ex? Yawn.

A New York Times wedding announcement makes clear that the bride and groom had never been attracted to each other "in that way." Then they traveled to Spain as friends... shared a room because there was only one left at the Parador... and by the next morning, they were a couple -- attributing it at least in part to "that bottle of Rioja." Is it necessary to share with the entire world (are you reading this, Grandma?) when the two of you first slept together?

What is it about wine, anyway? Another couple in the New York Times dated, then stopped dating, then as luck would have it, ran into each other when he saw her having a drink with a mutual friend. "He joined them, and surprisingly, she said, she felt comfortable with him. 'The wine was helping,' she added."

Why do we need to know every single thing that has ever happened to Augusten Burroughs who has written not one but five autobiographical tell-alls and contradicted some "facts" along the way?

What's "private" at a time that every 12-year-old now knows exactly where former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer conducted his high-priced extra-marital affairs, and that his successor cheated on his wife, who then cheated on him? What's TMI now that "we're trying to have a baby" is cocktail party conversation, and teenagers wear T-shirts that say, "You're worth waiting for. So am I." (You can't recall asking if they've taken a virginity pledge.)


Just because total strangers (or worse yet, friends) want you to be party to their most private thoughts and deeds, does that mean you have to go along?

If something is true, must you therefore announce it to your family, your co-workers, CNN? (A 25-year-old job seeker raised eyebrows at a major financial house when she admitted that she didn't have a Facebook page. "What is she hiding?" was the implication.)

If you're asked a personal question, can you say "no comment" or "that's none of your business" without sounding guilty as charged? And more important, what can you say that's smart, appropriate -- and legal -- now that the old constraints have lost their grip?

SITUATION #1: Do you tell the man you just started dating that you previously dated women?

Only if there's a good reason. "This is one of those 'need to know basis' situations," says New York psychotherapist Phyllis Cohen. "Unless there's a good reason, most men -- while initially turned on -- will be threatened. You don't do yourself any favors sharing this. Also, don't do it unless you are prepared to hear that he's dated other men."

Only if it's a long-term relationship. "If the relationship is something that you would like to become meaningful and lasting, then why wouldn't you share who you are with this person? There is no way to determine how he'd react, but his feelings are really not the issue; the issue is how you feel about. Do you want to keep it hidden? What if an ex-girlfriend shows up on your doorstep?" asks tinyfaery on

Avoid details, cautions Marina at even if he asks. She suggests a few possible scripts once you know this is an important relationship: "I went through a phase in which I tried dating girls, but found that it wasn't right for me, because I am mostly attracted to guys." (In case one, you may not ever need to tell him anything unless you think you might run into an ex.) Or, "I am bisexual and have at time been attracted to both sexes, but I know you are the right person for me." (In this case, you just tell him that.) Or, "I have only had lesbian relationships before you." (In this case, you had better be very sure inside yourself that you really care for him and are not just repudiating your own sexuality.)

SITUATION #2: You donated your eggs to an infertile couple for $10,000 during college. Should you tell your parents, or the person you may ultimately marry?

Say it loud and be proud! "Donating eggs is a very brave and humanitarian thing to do. I know one probably does it for the money but it is a great service to your fellow woman," says monsoon on

The whole truth isn't always best. I generally think some secrets should come out and others should be kept, says charybdys on "If it bothers you to keep a secret, then definitely consider telling. But don't lie. Also, realize that some otherwise great people could be weirded out."

Prevent a bombshell later. "If there's a possibility that the child could some day try and find you and successfully do so, it'd probably be best for that future husband to know so he's not completely shocked," says autumnofage on