You don’t have to spill your tea

Keena Du, Executive Opinions Editor

Armed with the cruelest  interrogation tools, they poke and prod to find out everything I know. I am a towel, being wrung out for every drop of knowledge I have.

No, these torturers aren’t part of a cult or gang — they’re my friends when they suspect I’m hiding something.

From a very young age, we’ve been taught that “Honesty is the best policy.” We chanted rhymes about how secrets ought to be shared, we frowned at whispered conversations and we cried when we thought sPhoto illustration by Richard Chu
omeone might be hiding something from us. But as we grow older, we need to realize that although honesty is important to any relationship’s development, we still have every right to keep certain things private.

As a senior, I’ve been receiving a lot of pressure to share my grades, test scores and a list of universities I’m applying to. While many people have been understanding of my desire for privacy in these matters, many others have also been stubborn and insistent. I’ve received incredulous responses from friends who ask, “Aren’t we friends? Why don’t you trust me? Why are you keeping everything such a big secret?”

I began to believe I was a bad friend for choosing not to disclose personal information. I started to feel embarrassed and ashamed when I told people I wasn’t going to share the details of my life that my peers have so easily exchanged about themselves. But relationships aren’t measured by the number of secrets shared between two people. Friendships should not be sculpted out of the obligation to surrender our unshared truths. They should grow under the mutual understanding that while no one is bound to the obligations to share, the option is always there if either person wants to.

Whether you are being promptedto answer a nosy stranger’s questions,or compelled to respond to a persistent friend’s relentless badgering, evaluate how necessary the information is to the recipient before sharing. Very often, their line of inquisition is simply brought on by curiosity, competitiveness or the desire for inclusion.

It’s because of this third and final reason that we find it so difficult to operate under the pretenses of a “non-binding secrets” friendship. Humans are perpetually in a state of either self-consciousness or self-obsession to some degree, if not both simultaneously. When I find out my friend has a secret she won’t share with me, fueled by both insecurity and narcissism, I automatically assume that whatever dirt she’s hiding must relate to me. If she’s chosen not to share, then the secret must concern me in some way. What other explanation could there possibly be for her secrecy?

To those who are self-centered or self-conscious like me in these cases, newsflash: it’s not always about you.

I never stopped to consider the possibility that her “secret” wasn’t a matter of keeping something from me, but rather a matter of keeping something to herself. Likewise, I’m sure my friends don’t always realize that my privacy regarding my academic statistics is not meant to be an assault against our friendship, but rather a personal decision.

We all choose what we keep to ourselves and what we share with others. Friend or not, those choices should be respected.

So don’t listen to the begging, urging and whining from whoever is bothering you. Between you and me, I say feel free to keep your cat in the bag, your dirt un-dished and your tea unspilled.