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The Secret Keeper

Michal Eisikowitz

In our world, keeping things hush-hush is almost a way of life. But when does the practice get out of hand? Here, the folly and fallouts of keeping family matters strictly confidential.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It’s no secret: Every family’s got secrets.

Whether it’s something major like a medical condition, or a minor skeleton in the closet — like the fact that ten-year-old Chavi still sucks her thumb at night — we all have bits of information that we’d like to keep quiet. But for some, secret-keeping is more than a simple exercise in privacy; it’s a way of life.

Everything in my family was a secret,” attests Shimon K.,* who is now happily raising a family of his own. “Throughout my childhood, I found myself constantly lying and patching together stories to cover up for the million of things I was forbidden to disclose.”

The secret-keeping continued even after Shimon became an adult.

“When a sixty-seven-year-old man is diagnosed with a very treatable form of diabetes, there’s no reason to treat the development as classified information. But when this happened to my father, my parents prohibited us from letting it slip even to close relatives,” he says. “I felt inexpressibly frustrated; the endless concealing was so draining.”

In Shimon’s case, the family tendency toward confidentiality clearly bordered on the unhealthy. But what are the boundaries? At what point does keeping secrets become dysfunctional? How does the desire for discretion morph into a culture of caginess that spans generations?


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