Illustration by Lucy.

Illustration by Lucy.

Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation is my sitcom twin for so many reasons. One: He loves dogs. Two: He is a kid in an adult’s body. Three: HE IS REALLY EXCITED ABOUT AND EQUALLY BAD AT KEEPING SECRETS.

Ahhhhh!!!! Secrets are so tough to keep to yourself!! But if someone tells you one, you have been entrusted with it. It is like a tiny baby bird and you must protect it. It is no joke to release a secret to the world (or even a single other person, which counts as the world when we are talking about secrets) when someone has asked you to chain that particular molecule of knowledge to your infinitely discreet soul. But, man, it’s hard to keep a secret sometimes. You have some very interesting knowledge at hand, and you can’t share it with anyone! So here are some ways to release that secret-holding tension without betraying your secret-teller’s trust. (P.S. If the secret involves the secret-teller being very seriously hurt or hurting others, please speak to them about trying to seek help and advice from a trusted adult.)

  • Decide for sure as hell that you are going to keep the secret. THIS MEANS UNDER ANY AND ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. This means you will not give it up when you are having a particularly juicy behind-the-shed chat with your BFF. This means you will not give it up if your mother casually asked you what you did today. This means that even if the conversation touches gently on a topic related to the secret you are keeping, you must keep your facial expression neutral and your body language totally regular (e.g. no bouncing up and down on your toes, “I GOT A SECRET”–style). This means that even if someone offers you one million dollars to tell, you may not give it up. ET CETERA.
  • Read Harriet the Spy and learn from the consequences of her actions. Harriet wrote down all her most honest and, frankly, sometimes mean, opinions in a notebook. The notebook was found, and everyone knew exactly what she thought of them—and guess what? They did not like it one bit. And that is understandable! JUST THINK of the most private thing about yourself that would make you curl up like a fall leaf because your heart has been leached of all its beautiful trust and magnificence if anyone knew about it. And then, imagine if everyone knew about it. The horror! The self-pity! The anger at whomever let your precious secret free! It would feel horrible. You don’t want to do that to anyone! Remember this always. Even if someone offers to give you their whole lunch if you tell.
  • Tell a dog or a baby. OK, so you HAVE TO TELL SOMEONE. I know how that feels. If the secret you’ve been told is an especially lascivious and fun one, you might feel the not-so-gentle urge to blurt it out because WHAT A STORY, YOU GUYS! But do not do this. Initially, I was going to suggest telling an inanimate object, but you know what? Inanimate objects just don’t respond (it comes with the price of admission, i.e. it doesn’t move, bud). So why not choose a confidant that can not only not respond to you, but not understand a word you are saying? It physically cannot make a peep to anyone that will bust you as a non-secret-keeper!
  • Write it down on a piece of paper and dispose of the document so absolutely that no one could ever retrieve the secret. By “dispose absolutely,” I mean cut it up with scissors into tiny pieces. TINIER-THAN-CONFETTI PIECES. Or soak it in water that has dish soap in it, and scrub the paper until it is just gross little paper fibers floating around in the tub. Or black it out with permanent marker, then cover it entirely with stickers. Or paste it secret-side-down into your journal and just write usual journal stuff on the other side. Or burn it (over a sink or bathtub so you don’t accidentally burn anything else). Rip it up and flush it down the toilet. Scratch it on a piece of fruit leather and then eat it.
  • Rewrite the secret so it becomes totally unrecognizable. Why not try replacing the name of the secret-teller with a fake name and, similarly, replacing all the relevant nouns with other nouns? Kind of like a secret-based Mad Libs. Instead of “Kelly has a crush on Jamie’s crush,” the secret would become “Aragorn has a stegosaurus on Spot’s fake teeth.”
  • WHAT WOULD BEYONCÉ DO? (This technique actually kind of works for everything.) Do you think Queen B would give in to her desire to disclose over respecting the wishes of a confessor she loved? DEFINITELY NOT. Stay strong. It’s what Beyoncé would want. Alternatively, what would Gandalf want you to do? I think we all know the answer to that question:

  • Tell it to yourself when you are completely alone (and unable to be eavesdropped on), and repeat it so many times that it loses its meaning. You know when you look at a word so much that it looks like gibberish? That, but for secrets. You’ll probably get so sick of hearing it that you don’t even care about revealing it to anyone else anymore.
  • Come up with an alternative topic to talk about when you are even considering or close to telling the secret. Say you settle on “best fictional characters to imagine dating,” or “first thing you would buy if you won a million bucks,” or “ancient numerical systems,” or “what you’re doing on the weekend”—if you are even thinking about the secret, switch immediately to thinking about your secret topic. Then introduce it into the conversation. BAM! Crisis averted.
  • Play “Would I Rather” with yourself. The way you play is this: Pose some hypotheticals about how important telling the secret is. Would you rather tell the secret and have to give up chocolate or tacos for six months, or just not tell? Would you rather tell the secret and never be able to pet a dog again, or just not tell? Would you rather tell the secret and become invisible every time a very attractive person enters the room or just not tell? See? Telling is just so not that important.
  • STILL not satisfied? Create a new email account—Hotmail or Gmail or whatever—call it something like [email protected], and email your secret to it, from your personal account. Then, pretend you’re a spy (or just a very practical person) and delete the draft in your personal account. THEN. Log in to the new email account and read the secret. Pretend you’re a spy again and delete the email. You could even delete the whole email account. Ta-da! You are so cautious and secretive! You are both the sender and the receiver! YOU CAN BE TRUSTED WITH ANYTHING! (Thanks to Anna F. for this one.)

OK, if you are at the end of this list and you still kind of want to tell the secret, perhaps you should tell people not to tell you secrets. You could even make a T-shirt that says, Don’t tell me your secret because I will tell someone. But hopefully these techniques will help you stay strong and be the trustworthy person you know you can be. ♦