I saw an article the other day on my twitter feed (I believe) and the gist of it was that young people having secrets is an important part of development toward individuality and adulthood. The gist was that having something to hold back creates social connections (who trusts you with their secrets, who are you not allowed to tell), and that navigating this social web makes us smarter. Additionally, a secret develops an interior life, a thing that exists but is intangible and important.
It’s a nice theory. But the thing with theories is they tend to generalize/averagize us–taking a world view that exists for Joe Average, the Statistical Norm.
There are a lot of secrets we keep because we can’t bear to let anyone know. Because there’s too much ego at stake, too much shame at risk. We can barely admit that reality to ourselves, and there are people in the world who cannot be trusted with secrets. They are the ones with the power to hurt us most.
My mother, to stop talking in generics, does not know about the time I was raped. (No trigger warning: I won’t go into gory details). Why? Because my mother would manage to make it my fault, even this many years later. I did something wrong, something stupid, something to deserve it. And she’d bludgeon me in the now, insisting I lock myself in my house after I get back from work, never go anywhere, especially not after dark. It would cause so many fights that would wear me down, diminish all the work I’ve done to get past that moment, to refuse to let that moment, that bad thing, define me.
Jane Average could tell her mother. Statistical Norma could tell her parents, and get support and help and sympathy, not blame, not recrimination, not guilt. And it is always in the back of my mind, that I can’t do that. That there’s a ‘normal’ way parents should be, and I can never, ever have that. That damages me far more than the actual assault–many–too many!–women get raped, but when you feel you can’t tell anyone about it, even the people who should love you and trust you and support you the most, you feel so suddenly, terribly, awfully alone.