In a world of over-sharing, it’s hard to discern what should be private and what’s up for the masses to consume (then judge, of course.) Some argue that if they’re privy to a situation, then they “own” part of that story, and therefore it is theirs for the sharing. As Anne Lamott said, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.
When the oh-so controversial Hugo Schwyzer wrote about the time he had to dig a tampon out of his ex-wife’s vagina, he was highly criticized for it. Who was he to write such a story of awkward intimacy? Although he had changed his ex’s name, anyone who knows him could probably do the math and figure out exactly which ex about whom he was talking. He may have slightly disguised her identity, but the truth is that anyone, in the world of Google, could have discovered who she is; and honestly, who wants such a moment in their history as part of public knowledge?
In a similar, but yet different vein, we have tennis pro Jimmy Connors revealing in his biography, The Outsider, that his ex-fiancé, fellow tennis pro (actually, she’s more of a tennis great – they both are), Chris Evert had an abortion when the two were together 35 years ago. Or rather, for the sake of argument, he “strongly hints” at this possibility; but then adds that Evert took matters into her own hands and didn’t allow him to have a say, although he was willing to “accept responsibility for what was to come.” What follows, as the Atlantic points out, he “bitterly” writes to Evert in his biography, “Well, thanks for letting me know. Since I don’t have a say in the matter, I guess I am just here to help.” Oh, cry me a river, you backstabbing prick. Yes, this was my initial thought, and continues to be so.
Evert released the following statement in response to Connors obvious betrayal:
In his book, Jimmy Connors has written about a time in our relationship that was very personal and emotionally painful. I am extremely disappointed that he used the book to misrepresent a private matter that took place 40 years ago and made it public, without my knowledge. I hope everyone can understand that I have no further comment.
And because Connors is obviously Mr. Sensitive, he’s still making the rounds, promoting his book and basking in the glory that this particular confession has sparked. As my mom literally just snapped, “He’s just hoping for another 15 minutes before everyone officially forgets who he is.” Mamma Chatel is a wise woman, and it appears to be the truth.
As someone who has written about her relationships online for all to see, and also covered my own abortion, I can tell you that when it comes to the personal lives of those I’ve known, there is a line that must never be crossed. While Lamott does make a valid point with her quote, there’s still a level of respect that must be upheld. Yes, there is something quite satisfying in perhaps dragging someones name through the mud, especially if they broke your heart, but then what? Satisfaction only lasts so long, and then you’re known as the douchebag who told the whole Internet your ex had a small dick and was the worst lay of your life. Who wants that on their permanent record?
However, in this case, we’re not looking at revenge. Instead, we’re looking at a man who was once in love with a woman, she had an abortion, and he decided that he had the right to divulge this information in his biography. He may have “bitterly,” written about the topic, and maybe even, at the time, was devastated by Evert’s choice, but what’s very clear is that it was her choice, and he is absolutely wrong to share this information for the sake of book sales or any reason at all. It doesn’t matter how long ago it happened. There’s a huge difference between someone writing about how some guy they dated was a huge jerk, and Connors telling the world about Evert’s abortion.
We may live in a world where abortion is becoming a less taboo subject, but the fact remains that, for some women, it’s still a source of shame and regret. I may not regret my abortion, and I may not feel an ounce of shame in it, nor do I think any woman should, but that doesn’t change the reality of how some women struggle with the choice they made every day of their lives.
We don’t know how deeply Evert may or may not be affected by her abortion, nor is it our business to know. Just like it wasn’t Connors’ business to tell anyone, especially in a biography that thousands are likely to read, the private decision of a woman he once loved.