Thursday, September 22, 2011

Shhh! Can you keep a secret?

This was published in Boomer Women Speak a couple years ago.


Secrets, naughty or nice, have their own kinetic energy. Much like a bad case of vocal Tourettes, and despite attempts at ardent restraint, the words vigorously burst forth. Like a virus, once a secret is blurted or even whispered, it makes its rounds. Even the Center for Disease Control couldn't track the virulent strain of a secret.

For the past thirty years, I have been privy to more family secrets than the CIA. One of my preschool students drew a family portrait and dictated a story. By the end of her narrative, I knew which bar her daddy snuck her into, where her mama hid the money so her daddy wouldn't find it, who her teenaged sister sneaked out to see after dark, and what her brother did with the mail that came through the slot in the door.

Another child shared a significant secret. Her mommy had way too much wine in her belly to ever have enough room to grow a baby brother or sister. Secrets grow in proportion to perception. When I taught a unit on Native Americans, a child couldn't wait to whisper his secret in my ear: "My daddy is a ‘naked American' too."

Teenagers spread secrets like the common cold. One secret begets another. Teens burn up the phone lines with the precursor to every broken confidence, "Promise you won't tell another soul?"

Adulthood leads to maturity, but even the most well-intentioned adult can harbor secrets for only a limited amount of time. Like a pair of too tight jeans, they have to let it all hang out sooner or later. How many mothers have said, "Now don't tell your brother or sister..." How many siblings have continued the rivalry and squabbling because of one little secret released in a whispered hush?

The positive thing about secrets is that one only has to be concerned with keeping or spreading them for about six decades of their lives. After that no amount of coaxing can pry a secret from a senior citizen like myself. It's not so much my moral or ethical compass that guides me. It's simply that once a secret is revealed, the buck stops with me, because I can't remember what the secret was, or even who told me.


Susan said...

ha ha ha ha ha That's funny, Linda. That was a good post.

I know EXACTLY who I never, ever tell secrets to. ha haha

Take care. Susan

Pat Wahler said...

Don't worry Linda. I won't tell anyone!


Kim Lehnhoff said...

I was told a secret yesterday that I wish I didn't remember...what can I do to hasten my ability to forget?

None are so fond of secrets as those who do not mean to keep them.
Charles Caleb Colton

Lynn said...

Great post!

Debora said...

I would rather not hear most secrets, it's too much of a burden. Sometimes I'd like to hang up on certain people because I know they're going to saddle me with information that I just don't want to pack around in my head! Wish I could schussh them like I do my doggie!

Kathleen said...

I enjoyed reading this. You could probably write a book on the secrets your students have told you - if only they weren't secrets!

Janet, said...

Ha ha - that's great, and so true.

Linda O'Connell said...

I am the keeper of so many secrets. People trust me with everything. I can't tell you how many times I have been at the movies and someone has said, "Will you watch my purse while I go to the concession stand?"
I would NEVER do that.

jabblog said...

You have an honest face, Linda. I'm burdened with secrets, too, and sometimes the urge to pass them on becomes really strong - so far, not strong enough;-)

Donna Volkenannt said...

Hi Linda,

After I read the title of your post I flipped right over to your blog. It's human nature to be curious.

Secrets can be a burden.

When someone tells me something personal about themselves or another person then adds, "don't tell anyone," my thoughts are a) they've told me something they shouldn't have, b) they don't trust me enough to know I'm not going to tell anyone else, and c) I'll be careful in the future what I tell them.

Side Note: Last night after the grandkiddos were in bed I caught the tail end of the movie "Easy A." It's about how easily gossip spreads and how it can hurt when people don't keep secrets. It's a modern-day twist on "The Scarlet Letter" and how painful it is to be shunned by your peers.


Elizabeth said...

A bad memory is so often a blessing in this life! x

Beth M. Wood said...

There is a kindness in you Linda that comes across in your open eyes and honest smile. You disarm people. It's a great quality...I'd let you watch my purse while I run to the bathroom, too...just promise not to tell anyone what you find inside - ha!

Tammy said...

Lots of wisdom in these laughs!

Mary Horner said...

I've heard secrets from students, and feel honored that they chose to share with me.