June 24, 2007

The other day I was on the phone with my friend Katie talking about a private matter when suddenly I heard a voice in the background ask who she was talking to. 'Ariel,' she said.

I didn't know that her boyfriend was in the room. 'I thought you were alone,' I said. You would think there would be some advance warning. Does talking to her mean that I'm talking to him? It does. And even if she tells me he's not listening, that's not the point. Most people don't listen. But I want to choose who they are.

What I really worry about, though, is the pillow talk. That's when I assume she tells him everything. All the secrets I prefaced with 'This is just between you and me, okay?' are shared because when you're in pillow-talk zone, you lose all sense of discretion.

In relationships, pillow talk is prime time. Crucial information is exchanged and the dangers are immeasurable. Lying face to face, you throw caution to the wind and open up. It's like confession, only without the Hail Marys. What's the worst that can happen?

The next day, you remember the worst that can happen: he can tell someone. I tend to regret things I've shared during pillow talk, but once it's out there it can't be reclaimed. I walk around in a haze of sharing-shame. Why did I tell him that? Who will he tell? The only thing I can do is hope that he wasn't paying attention. Which is likely. But then, I think, that's the upside.

I always over-share. How I'm feeling, what I'm thinking... people don't need to know. My friend Audrey under-shares. She was telling me that the other night she was with her new boyfriend. They had just had sex and he was opening up about his past relationships. She listened, knowing soon it would be her turn. There was an unspoken obligation that she too would have to reveal something. She couldn't just say 'Oh, that's nice,' and roll over. So what did she do? She fake-shared.

I've done that before. Men don't catch on. I'll reveal something that isn't exclusive to pillow talk but they think it is and feel closer. For instance: I have abandonment issues. It suggests I've disclosed an intimate secret when really, I'd tell this to a taxi driver. I rationalise it's okay because chances are he won't remember it anyway.

Which of course opens the door for the re-share. Also known as the tester-share. Or the trap-share, if you're on the receiving end. That's when I share something I've already shared before, just to see if they were listening. If the response is 'You told me that already,' I'm delighted. But that's rare.

Here's when I'm not delighted. When he is the one re-sharing. He'll say he forgot that he told me already, but I can't help but wonder: is he sharing with anyone else?

The accidental share is the one I that I really dread. This is when I go one detail too far when talking about a past relationship. I can tell by the look on his face that he's seriously reconsidering everything while simultaneously plotting his escape.

So I've decided, from now on, I'm not going to share. Which should be easy, since I have nobody to talk to.