Thursday, April 25, 2019

Notes on Secrets

            I get daily emails advertising books for me to download onto my Kindle. Many of the blurbs use the word “secret.” Someone finds a diary that reveals grandma’s secret. A husband dies, and his wife learns about his secret life. A detective learns the secrets in a small town. Or the way to get wealthy or healthy is (or was) a secret, now revealed. I guess the word “secret” sells books.

            This makes me wonder about secrets. What is the big appeal? It may be that knowing a secret makes you part of “The In Crowd,” a status you never attained in high school. The word “secret,” as most of you know, comes from a Latin word meaning to separate or distinguish, derived from words meaning “sift apart.” Does that help? Secrets are not part of general knowledge, and secrets separate us, sifting out the ignorant. Revealing secrets, making them no longer secret, brings us together – unless the secrets are repulsive enough to further separate us. The widow who learns her dead husband was having an affair does not feel much closer to him – or does she?


            When Kim was working at the high school where I taught (and where we met – another story), she set up a get-acquainted game to help our large staff know one another. Each week a staff member would list five statements about himself or herself, one of which was false. The trick was to guess the false one, but the fun was in getting to know a “secret side” of a person, though the person was probably not keeping it secret on purpose. So, for example, I might say:

1.    I tried out for Survivorand almost made it on the show.
2.    I have hammer toes.
3.    I once owned a seahorse named Byron.
4.    My brother doesn’t read my blog.
5.    I once earned professorial praise on a paper in my English 1,2 class in college.

Which statement is false? (My classmates will know the answer.)

            See how it works? Give it a try. If you’d like to share your statements, email them to me.


            Kim sometimes asks me to tell her about my secret life – something I find very difficult. Why so difficult? I’m not telling . . .. Besides, Kim usually knows what I’m thinking before I do. 
            Every New Year I have the same resolution: Be more open. Express my feelings spontaneously – not just in writing. But if I did that, I might accidentally reveal a secret. No – my lid is screwed on pretty tight. This may simply be that I was raised in the buttoned-down ‘50s with a somewhat distant Canadian father as a role model. Excuses, excuses . . .. My secrets run so deep that I don’t even know them. I don’t have any secrets.

            OK, but if I did have secrets, what would they be? No, I don’t watch porn. Don’t cheat on our taxes. I’m not working on a secret novel. Never had an affair. I’ve already confessed that I watch The Bachelor, so that’s not a secret.


            To tell the truth, I do have three secrets.