"I'm sorry, that's personal and I don't discuss that." Remember when a lot of things were considered "personal" and were off limits in day-to-day conversation?
Certainly you would never ask someone how much money they made or what they paid for their home or car, would you? That used to be considered poor manners to ask such intrusive information. Even questioning what faith you practiced or how much you put in the offering plate in church were not things you would ask someone.
As kids, we often screamed "mind your own beeswax," to nosy neighbor kids or even siblings as a way of telling them to butt out of a conversation. There were parts of one's life that were private, sacred to you and your family.
I don't mean family secrets, but private stuff about how you made ends meet working two jobs or whether you were wearing new clothes or hand-me-downs.
It's just no one's business but your own. At least that's how it used to be.
Now it appears the notion of privacy is gone. I'm not talking just about the latest news that our government has become the biggest, baddest Peeping Tom in town by looking into our phone records and spying on us via high-tech drones. That's repulsive enough to a country full of citizens whose ancestors founded this land on the notion that freedom meant a respite from the prying eyes of kings and queens.
I'm talking about the everyday intrusions into our lives at home, at work and play. How can we maintain a private life when everywhere we turn someone is hoisting a camera phone to record or photograph our every move? You can't walk down a street without being seen on a business or police camera mounted on buildings and stop lights.
Sure there are times such devices come in handy in solving crime but I hate the thought of always having to be on my "best behavior." If I want to be silly or wear my sloppy old sweatshirt to ride through the ATM lane, I should be able to do so without fear of being judged by those watching.
It's gotten so you can't even adjust your slip in an elevator anymore for fear someone is watching you on a camera in the lobby.
And I've often feared that a dressing room encounter with a bathing suit may wind up on YouTube for the entertainment of millions of laughing viewers.
We are at fault, however, for much of our lost privacy. Many of us feel the need to post our every thought and move on Facebook or Twitter. I don't share that particular need although I have been known to offer a glimpse into my personal life from time to time in this very column. After all, we're friends aren't we?
If the government can know so much about our private lives, why can't it help me find my car keys? Just asking.
Heather Ziegler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.