A friend was about to tell me to keep something secret. This friend seemed to be under the impression that I tell people things.
At first, I was offended. Because people have entrusted me with hundreds of secrets that I have never revealed. Never even THOUGHT of revealing. People have confided in me. They really have. On top of that, I have secrets of my own, which, despite occasional ribbons of revelation, I am quite content to keep to myself. I'm quite sure the world is a better place with most of its information classified.
So I tried to go back through time and find the reasons why someone might have this low opinion. The occasions were found.
INCIDENT THE FIRST: During some bizarre sleep over in some cabin, or condo, or something, in Tahoe, apparently a bunch of people crashed together on a sofa bed. The next morning, I reportedly "sold out" an engaged friend to his fiance. Given that there was no alcohol involved, (don't drink; never have) my complete inability to remember any part of the entire affair was a little odd. I had to meditate extensively to recall even vague impressions. But the salient details and concrete facts are simple to recall: 1)The friend in question had nothing to hide or be ashamed of, as nothing happened on the aforementioned sofa bed; 2) I was, at the time, completely unaware of any history between said friend and any other participant in the innocent sleep that occurred; 3) I considered the relationship between the friend and his fiance to be more solid than any I had observed; and 4) A joke about the proceedings under the circumstances must have seemed, I can only suppose (as I don't remember) completely harmless. If I made a mistake, it was being wrong about the solid footing of the relationship, or mistaken in my perception of the "innocence" of the proceedings. In which case, sue me. But clearly there was nothing in the occasion to merit a reputation of being a blabbermouth. There didn't seem to be any secret to keep. I seem to have spent the subsequent years in a constant state of apology for leaking non confidential information about how nobody did anything.
INCIDENT THE SECOND: During the "State Fair" era, wherein we all worked summers building exhibits at the fair, we had the pleasure of working with a skilled carpenter we dubbed "Safety Dave." We liked the guy; and I, for one, admired his dedicated use of eye and ear protection. At some point during one of many commutes, or lunch breaks, I made a reference to Safety Dave. My "friends" literally used the following words: "We're calling him 'Sweaty Dave' now." There was no further explanation. Later that day, I politely called him Sweaty Dave. He was slightly confused and offended. My bungled apology must have included something stupid like: "I thought that's what we were calling you now." It was a faux pas on my part to underestimate the insulting nature of the nickname and misjudge the situation. It was worse to implicate anyone but myself in the fiasco. But it was certainly no breech of confidence. At no point did anyone say: "We're calling him Sweaty Dave, but that's top secret, so only say it behind his back." I seem to have spent the subsequent years fighting the constant accusation that, based on this incident, I cannot be trusted with information.
If anyone can think of anything else, then I'll eat these words. But it seems to me that based on this meager evidence, the reputation is unfounded, and I do have a right to take my place in the human race. People around me will probably find at least one slip for every secret kept. Which is an embarrassing possibility I'm willing to entertain.
Because, come to think of it, that's not my point.
Initially, I wanted to defend whatever illusion of Honor I might have amongst the people who seem to delight in calling me unworthy of trust. But even as I constructed the defense, I came to realized the HUGE advantage of the reputation, (however egregious.) The fact is, when people think you're going blab it all over, they tend keep the sordid, awkward, potentially draining, crap details of their lives to themselves. And when they're keeping such to themselves, they can't possibly expect you to entrust them with anything potentially embarrassing. While it is important for me that people consider me worthy of trust, it is equally important to me that they save the gossip for people who give a crap.
To be clear:
1) If you tell me to keep it a secret, I will. (But be clear about it, as I am often aloof enough to miss the point when you're blabbing to me and you want the blabbing train to stop there.)
2) If you have developed the habit of keeping so-called "secret" information away from me, I'm fine with that. I don't live in a world where a friendship is based on how much you can't talk about. Keep it to yourself. It honestly improves my quality of life when I can go on thinking everyone is open and honest and realizes the value of George Bernard Shaw's axiom . . .
"The only real secrets are the secrets that keep themselves."