The Art Of Keeping Secrets


Having a secret feels best when it’s shared with a worthy audience. Select a person you know very well or someone you don’t know at all. Consider the following candidates:

-Your bartender’s girlfriend, who finds herself perpetually desperate for distractions as she routinely sips vodka sodas and waits for her boyfriend’s shift to end at which point they leave the bar together and she, casually, mentions that she doesn’t quite understand why preparing a drink for a customer requires flirtatious eye contact and a playful touch; so quietly frustrated and dissatisfied with the confines of the relationship that your secret — which you revealed to her as she simultaneously feigned interest and eyed her boyfriend from the space just above your right shoulder — has long been forgotten, if it were ever heard at all;

-A focus group, wherein the ultimate goal is to elicit transparency and honesty from each participant and you know, maybe the focus group is not concerned with how two years ago, you abruptly became aware that your husband depleted your entire savings — retirement and all — leaving you penniless and broken and in search of a modest home where you began a new, lonely life as a 46-year-old woman, maybe the focus group is actually concerned with which cell phone packaging you prefer or which pay-as-you-go option seems the most appealing, but you’re still too ashamed to tell your family what’s happened and your friends don’t understand why you never do lunch anymore and you’ll never see these people again and besides, you were provided an appropriate segue when the focus group moderator asked who makes the financial decisions in your home so now more than ever, indulging in the mess you’ve come to know as your life is wholly warranted;

-A friend, though maybe not your ‘best friend,’ possibly your friend who has, for the duration of your relationship, disclosed to you grave and troubling accounts of their unorthodox upbringing, of their recent sexual misdeeds, of the thing they did four weeks ago for which they feel incredibly guilty and almost immobilized by the idea that their indiscretion could be found out by the wrong person, their only sense of relief derived from confiding in you, a person whose trustworthiness is now so imperative that they have to believe in it and in you in order to maintain their sanity, the prospect of your betrayal so crippling that they become paralyzed even considering it; this person is a reasonable vessel for whatever secret you might like to tell.


Bed. Prison. Cocktail parties wherein an intoxicated and otherwise loyal friend struggles to stay afloat in a circle of confident and attractive people to whom conversation is fluid, to whom communication is not a necessary evil or an opportunity to force a favorable impression upon an audience but instead a means to connect with other people; your friend grasping at straws to match the ease and intrigue of his company and coming up short until that one thing floats to the surface, that one deeply private detail you revealed to them hesitantly over coffee or drinks or Gchat, that thing you bookended with can I tell you something? and this stays between me and you; that thing is the ticket, your friend decides, you and your secret reduced to a faceless nameless anecdote animatedly relayed between sips of room-temperature wine in exchange for polite smiles and the perception of acceptance.


It is possible to keep secrets from yourself. If you suspect you’ve been suffering from delusions, purchase one (1) 750 mL bottle of wine or six (6) 5 mg Valium and ingest gradually until the suspicion that you are maneuvering your way through the hours blind to your own shortcomings, desires, and defects has been numbed into submission, a jarring thought now smoothed round the edges by the miracle of sedatives. Repeat as necessary.


A simple precaution one should take is disqualifying, from the pool of qualified secret-keeping candidates, a person who has been in a romantic relationship for over two years; this method becomes increasingly effective when applied to couples of which both members have a vested interest in delicate information pertaining to the secret-haver — you — either because they are of equal relation to you and are genuinely interested in your most private of moments or because they have, as a couple, fallen into a pattern where they entertain themselves by trading with one another the misfortunes and follies of their mutual friends, all the while quietly wondering where meaningful conversation has slipped away to and if it is ever coming back.


If an unattractive party confronts you about your secret, perform the following evaluation before responding:

  1. Does this person have a stake in your secret?
  2. Was the secret revealed by an ostensibly reliable source?
  3. Do you have anything to gain by confirming the secret is true?

If the answer to each of these questions is ‘no,’ simply deny your aggressor the right to the sensitive information; deny that such sensitive information exists; deny it in a tactful yet committed fashion until even you are indelibly convinced. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Shutterstock

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