Keeping Secrets

23 Aug Keeping Secrets

First published in the NZ Woman’s Weekly 16.8.21

If you have any juicy secrets you are bursting to tell, here’s an offer – they are perfectly safe with me. This is because I am, in possibly equal parts, both discreet and a bit daft.

The discreet part comes from my childhood. Our close neighbours back then were what might be termed “movers and shakers” in the twin worlds of business and politics. When special guests arrived for cocktails and dinner – the environment where important deals are actually done and then rubber-stamped later in the boardroom – I was asked to pop on my best frock and climb the fence between our houses to hand around the nuts.

So between the ages of 10 and 17, I was privy to many a conversation about the business, political (and occasionally marital) machinations that kept our little part of the world turning. I understood without ever really being told that what happened over pink gin and canapés wasn’t to be broadcast beyond the garden fence. 

From time to time, our delightful neighbour might say to my mother, “I suppose Michele mentioned that so-and-so is running for parliament/ selling the company/ having it away with her doctor,” and my mother would first look blank, then proud, then finally a little disappointed and say, “No, she didn’t mention it.” Having passed this test, I continued to be invited over to hand around the nuts.

I loved knowing stuff – occasionally my parents would share some bit of local news and I’d say smugly, “I know” and perhaps, now that beans had been spilt, I would add an extra bit of detail they hadn’t heard, and give it an extra flourish.

I still like knowing stuff. Some of my work – as an MC for awards nights or voice artist for advertising campaigns or auditions for TV dramas – comes with a non-disclosure agreement to be signed and witnessed. I get a small frisson of excitement about being handed an NDA – it suggests you’re part of a select group who have been told an important secret, and I enjoy the chill of reading legal-speak for the ramifications you are threatened with if cats are let out of bags.

But really, I don’t need an NDA because I have also, over the years, become a bit vague. Fairly often, I’ve heard something on the radio or TV and thought, “Whose voice is that? She sounds familiar…” before realising it was some secret campaign for a fancy new product I’d recorded months ago and forgotten about the moment I’d signed the NDA and left the studio. It’s as though my brain responds to being asked to file something away as a secret by not filing it away at all.

And people like to tell me stuff. Perhaps because I tell personal stories on stage and in print, total strangers feel very comfortable about confiding in me – I hear stories in bars that I feel honoured to be trusted with, and then I promptly forget all the names and places involved. I would make a weird spy – terrific at the intelligence gathering, able to elicit all kinds of information but then… nothing to report, sir. You’d have to water-board me to make me remember what I did last week.

So really, if you have something you desperately need to tell someone and don’t want it to go any further, talk to me. I make an excellent pink gin and do help yourself to the nuts.