“Think twice before burdening a friend with a secret.” Marlene Dietrich
A secret by its very definition is that thing you do not wish to share with others so in its very telling you have opened a pandora’s box, and unleashed or released a whole new set of problems. Then the fun and games really begin. Most of us, if we are bring honest, will admit that being invited to hear a secret is a validating experience. You must have done something to demonstrate your trustworthiness, your integrity, your reliability if this person feels safe sharing their secret with you. This is hotly followed by the less noble, less admirable, response as you gleefully rub your hands together in anticipation of the juicy bit of news (gossip) that you are about to hear. Okay so you can’t pass it on but you know it, and that makes a world of difference, especially when you believe yourself to be the only person to have this knowledge.
And again if we are being truly honest we all like to hear something about another person that makes us go, phew thank god that’s not happening to me. Sometimes such a thought can go a lot further and get a considerably meaner, but for now we’ll go with the’ well at least I’m not the only one whose life is a little more complicated than it appears on the surface’. But once the initial elation wears off, and you have stopped patting yourself on the back for your high moral principles, the sad truth dawns. And I think Dietrich is thinking of this when she said the above; you now have a piece of knowledge that can do nothing with and whether it is about betrayal, or it is a confession, you now have to help carry the load without any help. The heavy weight has been passed to you and it is your shoulders that will now ache, but you are powerless to do anything since it is not your secret, your problem or dilemma. To pass it on destroys your reputation so now you lose sleep, you gain a few extra grey hairs, another wrinkle or two,yet there is nothing you can do. You are completely powerless.
Dietrich I imagine would have had many secrets. In fact I think I would happily bulk up just so I could carry some of her secrets, I mean here is a woman who dazzled, beguiled and hypnotized just about everyone she ever encountered. Her lovers range from Cooper to Wayne and everything in between, including but not limited to Mercedes de Acosta and, supposedly, Dolores Del Rio. She said, “My habit was to make love to whoever I found attractive – their gender is immaterial.” And as she proved many times over, she was a woman of her word. And not just about sex. She was an outspoken opponent of Nazism, was one of the first celebrities to sell war bonds and spent much of WW2 touring and entertaining the troops where she frequently put herself in dangerous situations. She sang a few songs for the Germans,but only as part of a project aimed at demoralizing enemy soldiers. For this and all her other war time efforts she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the US and the Legion d’Honneur by France, But back to secrets and again Dietrich had plenty, not least of which being the real story about herself and Garbo. What happened in Berlin? Why the lifelong feud? Why the cruel barbs? Why all the shared lovers? I mean for two people who on the surface hated one another they bounced lovers back and forth like a tennis ball at Wimbledon.
However had she disclosed the full story what could I have done with it? It would kill me not to be able to tell everyone, or someone and yet the cost of such betrayal would be high Dietrich was many things but forgiving was not one of them. And she did have a pretty sharp tongue. Would she ridicule me, poison my reputation with her scathing denouncements? Could I feign ignorance when others in my company were discussing the topic, would my face forsake me and let others know I knew more than I was telling? Now once again the spotlight is on me and either way, if I reveal or don’t, I will lose. Or what happens if I have one glass of wine too many and suddenly the alcohol makes me throw caution to the wind and I singing like the sweetest canary ever. Now I have to deal not only with a hangover, but also with the fallout from my outpourings. Loose lips sink ships and now I’m the Titanic.
All of which leads me to conclude that the next time someone asks “Can you keep a secret?”, I shall have to ever so politely and nicely say, thanks to the advice of my angel, my Blue Angel, , “No.”