This week, the spin cycle prompt is about secrets. I was one to easily spill secrets as a child. My sister always knew what she’d get for her birthday at least a week in advance, and this was not just due to the fact that there were noticeable patterns in my gift-giving – from a few years where I’d give her pavement chalk to a few years of colored markers to at last the inevitable cheap tween fiction when she was about ten to twelve. I think I didn’t quite understand the concept of secret-keeping if someone was going to find out about the “secret” soon enough anyway.
I also didn’t keep my own secrets. As a teen, I kept a journal faithfully and hoped my parents wouldn’t read it, but I spilled bits of it to anyone who remotely resembled my concept of a friend. I know that deep down, I wanted people to know the darkness of my experiences. I was extremely naive, yet also mistrusting of people like my own parents.
This discrepancy grew when the Internet came into my life when I was sixteen. I spilled my deepest secrets to my online diary, but when my parents asked me how I was, I responded with the usual “fine” or a grunt. My parents had a proxy server through which we accessed the Internet, and I now know they at least had the opportunity to log my Internet activity. I think they actually may’ve done so, as one day when I’d had an Internet connection for about six months, my father offhandly remarked that all I looked at were disability sites or storytelling sites (the story site being about disability, too, but he couldn’t tell that by its name).
With regard to other people’s secrets, I don’t “just know” when I shouldn’t say something. This has led to a number of awkward situations, from my spilling personal details about my relationship (and hence, my husban’ds life) to the Internet, to my telling my parents my husband’s jokes that mock my parents’ political persuasion. I truly have to be explicitly told that something is private or that I need to keep it to myself.
There are several factors that contribute to my inability to keep secrets. First, there is the idea, which I’ve read is common in autistics, that other people know anyway. I don’t literally think that, as Stephen M. Edelson pointed it, other people can read my thoughts, but the idea is at the back of my mind nonetheless. Related to this idea is the inability to see that, what I know, not everyone else should necessarily know too. Lastly, there is a reason why I particularly spill secrets to the Internet. I think I may not fully realize that those on the other end of the Interwebs, are actually real people. That doesn’t mean I don’t develop online relationships or that I’m not affected by what other people put online. However, it is still hard for me to grasp that screen names (or even real names on Facebook) correspond to actual, real people, even those I may encounter in real life.