The key word here is "stranger." I would never set these limits with friends. I have shared some of the scariest and saddest things in my life with my friends, and vice versa. I realize there are some people who bond quickly. I think those people are mentally unstable. Real friendships take time, and you can't create them through the emotional equivalent of projectile vomiting.
It's not OK to tell someone you've met twice (briefly) that your husband is a secret cross-dresser. It's not OK to tell someone you're speaking to for the first time over the phone that you can't have children because your lady parts are upside-down. It's not OK to drop the "I was molested" bombshell at a cocktail party. And it's definitely not OK to describe any sexual act not allowed on late-night cable, even if it's between two people who aren't you, even if it happened in prison.
People get pissed off when you tell them the truth. Saying things like "I'm really not comfortable hearing this" and "I don't think that's appropriate" make me sound like an uptight bitch. I'm really an open-minded bitch. I try to be more subtle, and cut it with humor, like, "that's a little much for me to think about before noon" or "I have a rule: No Vagina Talk. Do you mind?" If they still don't get it, I'll go with the more serious, "I'm not comfortable talking about private things" or "this might be appropriate if I was your shrink...but I'm not."
Regardless, I don't want to hear about it. It doesn't mean I don't care. I care very much that bad things happen to people. I just don't want them thrown at me like poison darts. I write, yes, but when I can barely summon up the courage to tell my story, why would you think I'd want to tell yours?
In person, I can read people better. They get hacked off because I don't want to hear about their most recent herpes outbreak, I walk away. On the phone, I say what I have to say, then sit back and wait for the response.
Here's the one I dream about: "Thank you for your honesty. I appreciate you taking the time to establish personal boundaries. I am not very smart and therefore cannot recognize when I am being inappropriate."
Here's what I get: [Silence...silence...silence...] "Why do you have to be so mean? Mean people suck [sob]. I was just trying to tell you about my [insert unfortunate incident here] because I thought you'd care [sniff]."
Here's what I'll take instead of never being able to get the last 15 minutes of my life back: "Bitch." [click..dial tone].
Right on, sister.