I recently had to hide a ring from my fiancé (a tale I will tell in more detail to come). Out of necessity, I hid it in my mandolin case, thinking she’d never look there. While it proved a perfect hiding spot, I found myself reenacting Poe’s “A Tell Tale Heart” on a daily basis; the sheer weight of the secret (despite its positive nature) left me fixated on my pulsating instrument case. Every day it hid in the little fur-lined compartment just underneath the neck of my axe, the more the strength of the ring’s energy would cry out to me, whispering for me to give up its secret at any cost.
I discovered that years of being pretty honest has left me unable to be secretive. I still favor hyperbole and embellishment, but have to accept that I suck at straight-up lying.
It’s OK though; one of the things that gives me emotional dexterity, stoicism, and social leverage is my transparency. If someone wants to know something about me, I tell them. I don’t hesitate, lie, or play shy; I simply tell them what they want to know. I find it so much easier to just be honest about my intentions, behavior, interests, state-of-mind, activities, beliefs, or anything else. I am not so callous as to rant inconsequently to whoever is near me, but I am not shy about sharing an adventure in the right context. I rarely censor myself despite particular company; if my comment is relevant or even insightful, no matter how self-deprecating or condemning, I say it.
I’ve told stories of debauchery during my college years and of my involvement in fringe activities that some might equate with social suicide. Yet, here I stand, perfectly functional, well liked by my friends and coworkers (from what I can gather). My stories and information, no matter how crazy or seemingly embarrassing, never seem to get me into trouble.
I don’t have some kind of power that makes me immune to ridicule. I don’t secretly pay people to treat me differently. I don’t even have a mental disorder that prevents me from feeling embarrassed! I just have nothing to hide.
When you have no secrets, you have no stress from having to keep secrets. When everyone thinks they know exactly who you are, you have no need to act a certain way. People give you the benefit of the doubt; your otherwise odd behavior just becomes “you”, because people come to expect anything. You develop a personal freedom that is hard to describe; you never have to fit a mold, as you have no defined shape. You are fluid, ready and able to be whatever you want to be, whenever you want to be.
Politicians are often scandalized after a nice piece of dirt gets drudged up from the depths of the internet; the little factoid hell-bent on destroying their image. But the only reason it has any power is because they tried to hide it. If they had never covered it up or lied about it in the first place, they would have nothing to be ashamed of. We, as a public mob, love to hear dirt about powerful people; it reminds us that they are just as viscerally human, and just as stupid, as we are.
People always think that their juvenile/perverted/illegal behavior is the worst thing anyone has ever done in the history of walking upright. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Every person that lives and breathes has done things they aren’t proud of, either in the impetuousness of their youth, or in a lamentable, long passed drunken frenzy. Some things are obviously “worse” than others, but ultimately, it is how we react to, and grow with, this experience that is important.
So you slept with a stripper at a bachelor party. Big deal. So have millions of other people, including some former Popes, Presidents, and Philanthropists. So there are some pictures of you floating around naked, post-drug binge, next to an animal. No worries. Welcome to the club. Nothing you have ever done, in malice or stupidity, that didn’t land you in jail, is anywhere near as bad as you think it is. The mind that will be the most offended by whatever it is, lives in your skull.
People assume that the default reaction to an embarrassing story is disgust, repulsion, and abhorrence. But I’ve never experienced these responses. I am almost always greeted with humor, subtle reverence, and sometimes envy. People admire that I have the courage or confidence to say such wild things with no visible fear of repercussion. Most people wish they could live a life free of secrets, fear of judgment, and visions of loneliness they assume will arise if their truth is ever discovered.
I find that most people will never ask you something that will lead to an answer that will offend them. They know what makes them uncomfortable, and usually know enough about me to not ask or pry into something that is not in line with their baser sensibilities. Accommodatingly, I don’t offer this information either; it’s there if they ever want it, but we usually (silently) mutually agree that neither party would benefit from my sharing it.
Herein lies the tact of being transparent. There are many people out there who may not greet my openness with frivolity or friendliness. There are those who might see me arrested, or cry outrage at my cavorting with Goody Proctor (or the like). I acknowledge and appreciate these people. I simply avoid them in general; their judgment skips over me entirely, and if they ever try to sling uneducated mud about me, those closer to me would respond with, “well yea, we all know that about him anyway.”
Not a few hours ago, in responding to a comment about music on a website, I told one of my coworkers that I had a Pokemon website in middle school. Not only does this betray my age, extremely nerdy tendencies, and association with Japanese sub-culture, but it is also something that many people would probably never say (even if they had a totally bad ass Pokemon website back in the day).
But I don’t care, and my coworker got a good laugh out of the comment. And now she knows that if she ever needs someone who understands her kids a little better, she can ask the weirdo in the cube next to her.