Ever since Sex and The City's vulnerable and delightful character Carrie confided that she would secretly eat a stack of crackers at night while home alone reading her fashion magazines, I have been fascinated by the secret habits of women. For you Millennials, today's equivalent would be Younger's Liza literally pretending to be a Millennial, living a double life: twenty-something Midtown publishing protege by day, 40-something mom from NJ by night.
The intrigue is not reserved strictly for the small screen. Oh, no. The secrets that we keep are oh-so-real.
Perhaps women get more pleasure feeling that they are doing something sneaky; maybe they need alone time to savor their guilty pleasures. On the other hand, they may not want to be reprimanded and given negative feedback about their habits. One important caveat: I am referring to fun habits, not to self-destructive ones. (Destructive habits will be for another time)
I have taken some informal polls and have listened to hundreds of women in and out of therapy spill their secrets; they tend to fall into categories:
The Treats Truth
It's no surprise that women indulge their sweet tooth (teeth) when no one is watching. Look, it can get really tedious steadfastly following a diet that excludes really tasty items. Women put tremendous pressure on themselves to engage in dietary restrictions and often spend way too much time critiquing their bodies.
It's no surprise that women from all backgrounds 'confess' to hiding their sweets in the freezer, hidden in bags that formerly housed vegetables or behind medicine bottles where few are likely to look. (You Millennials probably hadn't thought of that one, had you?!)
The night stand is a good 'ol standby, too. Of course, chocolate is still the fave, by far... but we women ration our stash, so it will last. We're smart like that. Just don't tell anyone.
Chillin'? I'm Not Chillin'...
Typically, women feel that they should always be doing something productive or that improves the life of someone else. I am delighted when I see my clients and friends take so-called "sanctuary days" or "pajama days." They might call into work sick or even engage in a 'down day' on the weekend when they take everything off the calendar.
They create their own schedule during which they sleep more than usual, watch (or binge-watch) their favorite TV series, or read books and magazines they have been setting aside for far too long. These days sound so refreshing, don't they? They don't require lots of money and a trip to an expensive spa, either. How perfect!
Purchase... What Purchase?
I'll start with my private behavior that falls into this category (and I have since learned that I am not alone here). On Friday nights, I engage in what I refer to as my stealth operation. I go to the local pharmacy and purchase a stack of gossip magazines. This takes me out of my own head and is very relaxing. It's not something that I'm proud of, but I'm not about to give this activity up unless something else replaces it. I, too, need a moment or two of private time.
Many women purchase the latest fashion find on impulse -- not exactly a need, but definitely something that makes them feel happy at the time. They keep these purchases secret from their significant others for a variety of reasons. The main one, in my professional opinion, is that they don't want to be accused of wasting money. Again, my professional opinion: that pair of spring slings may be anything but a waste. Hey, a girl's gotta have shoes. Am I right?!
In the end, I'm fine with women keeping a little bit of themselves, well, to themselves. We give enough of ourselves away. So, as long as you aren't hurting anyone -- have at it. Just remember, everything in moderation, my friends...
Have I missed any? What is your little secret? Please let me know.
Need a Little More GalTime?
Barbara R. Greenberg, Ph.D. is currently a professional consultant on teen issues at Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan, CT. She also maintains a private practice in Fairfield County, CT. She served as a clinical administrator on an adolescent inpatient unit at a private psychiatric hospital for 21 years before dedicating herself to private outpatient practice and consultation work.