A friend I'll call "Rick" came to dinner the other night, bringing macarons stuffed not with ganache but with creme glacée, like a secret nestled in a sweet envelope of meringue.
He also brought another secret, sharing great good fortune that will be announced within a month. "You can't tell anyone", he said, after breaking the news.
"You've told the right family", I said, because Le Duc is terrific at keeping confidences, and I'm no slouch myself, if uneasy.
Lifelong secret-keeping, as in "The real father of my daughter is Boris, but you can never tell anyone, especially her", weighs heavily on a friendship. I'm still bearing a several secrets of this class (and yes, I have changed details), but will be grateful for the day when the teller decides to lift the cloak.
Because I don't bear secrets lightly, I hesitate before asking someone to keep mine. The urge to enlist another in confidences seems irresistible among women, and once uttered, the closed door of discretion locks with a thud. (The propensity to divulge secrets seems more characteristic of women than men, once I disallow business-related examples.)
"Ellen" confided in Le Duc about her marriage; she asked him to tell no one, "not even (me)". He felt queasy when I blithely assumed things about the couple that were far from accurate. Later, Ellen apologized to him for decreeing that he had to keep the truth from me. But I asked myself, Can she not ask him to keep a confidence? He could say yes or no.
Sometimes, though, the person inserts the cross-your-heart clause after she has laid the secret on you. This is sub-par secreting and all bets ought to be off, but who would say, "Nah, you told me and now I'm telling, get over yourself?" Co-opted into discretion, the confidante steps up to the trust.
And sometimes I've discovered that a secret granted as an exclusive ("I'd never tell anyone else...")
was common knowledge, with the teller waiting to see who cracked first.
Secrets as drama, tests, friendship bracelets.
And even secrets as art: the site PostSecret
allows the teller to anonymously post his or her secret, creating virtual confidantes.
In Rick's case, the secret isn't larded with scandal or regret. It's bursting-with-happiness news that demands neither the diplomatic white lie nor devious distraction, just several day's silence.
Still, it's almost harder not to blab about his good fortune; joy multiplies when divulged.
Can you keep a secret? Do you ask it of others?