I recently had supper with someone semi-famous, who works closely with someone famous. Do I have your attention?
The evening was filled healthy with conversation. Heavy-duty humor that nestled right up against the biting kind without any direct meanness. More observational than prisoner-taking. Amongst the solidarity of friends, helped along by the low level restaurant din, candlelight and alcohol, the conversation took a small right turn towards information sharing. Information that might not normally be shared. No laws were broken, no hard secrets reveled but the teller stood very close to the line separating confidant from cad. This information was delivered in a somewhat classic social code, with every other sentence being deliberately left out. What was told was news to me. It doesn’t need to go any further, not because I’m a good Boy Scout, but because it’s not my story to tell.
At no time did the teller mention that the story was unrepeatable.
Eventually, someone chimed in with a much needed non-sequitur, giving us a perfect out from the conversation. Within the next ten minutes we had paid the check and were out the door hailing cabs, our minds half focused on our pillows, half on organizing thoughts still fresh from dinner.
We over share. It’s the new culture. That line previously referenced has been moved by forces bigger than us. An attitude of de-boning pervades. Discipline in this area has lost its luster, or perhaps its sex appeal. Gone is the sublime rush, or power in the knowledge of a confidence shared, along with the warmth of a trust bestowed and integrity left intact.
Talking much about oneself
can also be a means
to conceal oneself.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
Truman Capote wrote about his friends. In doing so, he stopped being a gentleman and entered the land of the scalawag. Through anger or innocence, he lost his bearings of where the invisible social compass was pointed. By overplaying his hand he overstayed his visit. It is my understanding that there was no screaming or confrontation. The victims, if you will, simply turned away from him. Completely. The punishment, silence, fit the crime, indiscretion.
It’s true that keeping a confidence can burn inside of you. Look what it did to the character of Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. But on the other hand, a well kept secret can propel and maintain a career, as it has, no doubt with countless politicians. Either way, there is great value in knowing a secret kept by a confidant. Like dropping something into a black hole where you never hear anything hit bottom. You know it’s not coming back any time soon.
We all know Mr. or Ms. Yakkity Von Schmackety. Maybe it’s good for us to know them this way. To know they can’t be trusted with secrets. Perhaps, by not sharing, we’re really saving ourselves, knowing you won’t be burdening them with information, thereby keeping themselves out of their own way.
In the age of the Tweet, we’ve become much more vulnerable. Yes, we voluntarily put ourselves out there on Facebook, and the sort, but we’re also more susceptible to the dangers of a miss-shared secret.
Maybe there needs to be a new campaign for secrecy. There uses to be a schoolyard rhyme told to children caught sharing secrets. “Secrets secrets, are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone.” It was always used as a way to keep children from being left out, and having their feelings hurt. But the real harm in a secret comes in that moment when it ceases to be a secret at all.
Listen, we all know there is no such thing as a perfect friend, but the perfect confidant just can’t be beat.