Secret Seduction

I saw a fabulous movie yesterday—”The Debt,” starring Helen Mirren, Sam Worthington, Jessica Chastain and Marton Csokas. I don’t want to spoil it if you haven’t yet seen it (I hope you do!) but I will tell you this: It got me thinking…about secrets.

What would I do, if presented with the same secret? How many of us have secrets? What are the advantages of keeping or revealing them? What are the deciding factors that lead us to the secret-keeping decision in the first place? And what are the risks?

These questions are some of the reasons secrets make for such fascinating tales—whether we’re aware of the hidden truth or not. They seduce us with questions that challenge our own beliefs and choices, the proverbial “What if…?”

In “The Debt” three former Mossad agents keep a secret for decades. As viewers, we absorb the secret’s weighty consequences long before we (or at least I) realize what it is.

One of my favorite books, “The Big Picture,” by Douglas Kennedy, centers on a wealthy lawyer with a seemingly perfect life. From the beginning, we know about the snap decision he makes to save his life and his future, only to end it all for someone else. Yet, we can’t stop flipping the pages.

Keeping an unwanted secret makes way for tumult.

“People will tend to misread the return of unwanted thoughts. We don’t realize that in keeping it secret we’ve created an obsession in a jar,” said Daniel Wegner, a Harvard psychologist who investigated the effects of secret-keeping among humans.

The longer we keep it, the more capacity it has to magnify and grow. Although this makes for awesome fiction, it can zap the pleasure from our lives.

Secrets can also draw people closer together. Two siblings who keep a secret, positive or negative, from their parents, for example, create a common bond. The same might happen for a couple, both of whom cheating on their spouses. They share much more than the same hotel room bed…

One of the worst kinds of secret, in my opinion, are ones we keep about our desires solely within, or even from, ourselves: An artist who never puts his paintbrush to the page…a writer too afraid of failure to write Chapter One… Another in a damaging relationship who never admits she’s unhappy, and thus never leaves.

In an interview with “USA Weekend,” Anita Vangelisti, a researcher and professor of communication studies at the University of Texas-Austin, said that most people say they will keep a secret, only to tell another: “I promised I wouldn’t say anything, but…” Only about 10 percent of people reportedly keep secrets “no matter what.”

So what’s your deepest, darkest secret? KIDDING! I won’t make that silly move, but I would love to hear your thoughts on secret-keeping. If it’s for a good cause, is it all good? What has life taught you about secret-keeping? And…because I love a good thriller—any secretive books or movies you’d recommend?

If you do wish to share your secrets, “there’s an app for that.” Check out Post Secret to share and absorb others’ secrets from around the world.

Not Your Common Stalker

After reading this paragraph, close your eyes and imagine you’re walking alone down a dark alleyway. You hear footstep echoing your own. You pause, so do the footsteps. Yours quicken, the footsteps do, too. You run as fast as you can, your stalker a step behind until—wham! They’ve got you. You turn to see…

Who? Lemme guess—a large male, dressed in black. If you’re into “Twilight,” he probably has fangs.

Female stalkers are scarcely studied or understood, according to a study published in the “Journal of the American Psychiatry Law” in 2003. Yet an estimated 15 to 20 percent of stalkers are female. These facts lead me to wonder how many are truly out there? And are they less-studied because we don’t expect women to act in such a way? Or are they simply extremely good at their…”jobs.” (Um…this is not an invite…FYI.)

We women can be freeeeaky, right? Consider the following villainesses:

– Glen Close as Alex in “Fatal Attraction” and Patty in “Damages”
– Uma Thurman as Poison in “Batman and Robin”
– Famke Janssen as Xenia Onatopp in “GoldenEye”
– Michele Pfeifer As Cat Woman in “Batman”
– Sharon Stone as Catherine Tramell in “Basic Instinct”

Who’s your favorite fem fatale? What makes her so terrifyingly great?

I plan to investigate these issues further for upcoming posts. I hope you’ll join me, but not too closely, in the ride.