In an unconscious way, I seemed to encourage people to confide in me. I’d always delighted in asking folks questions. Could I help it if they answered me? Recently, I’ve heard three doozies. See links below for all 3.
These three unsolicited revelations shocked me and caught me delightfully unaware each time. But, upon reflection, I admitted to myself, when I first met someone, after I’d established an initial rapport, I felt free to ask questions about their children, parents, where they lived. And maybe they intuitively knew how much I would savor their delectable details...
#3 – Stand Up and Be Counted
A few days ago, I saw an acquaintance, Joe, in a drawing class. During a break, he took me aside and furtively told me he had become a count, a title inherited from an Italian grandfather. Joe apparently didn’t want anyone to overhear and he swore me to secrecy. Although, his family had been in America for generations, this distinction had recently landed in his lap.
He’d always seemed like a serious and honest person, so I didn’t doubt him and burst out, “Do you have a castle?”
“Luckily, no,” he said. “Can you imagine the upkeep and taxes? But there are lands and art.”
And overthrow plots. He somberly reported that, at his grandfather’s funeral, all his siblings and cousins demanded he stand down because he was gay. Everyone wanted his younger straight brother to inherit. It sounded horrifyingly medieval. But Joe held firm, telling them, “I am and will remain the head of this family.” I clapped for him.
I asked why he whispered to me, as if the other students would care. He said he had told no one, except his husband. He feared he’d either be ridiculed at work or sucked up to. Apparently, being on the cultural frontier as a married homosexual provided enough limelight in his life. But he explained a new phenomenon: many European aristocrats today hid their status, to avoid scammers, false adulation and scorn. I guessed some people still had an “off with their heads” attitude toward the privileged. But Joe needed to work, so it seemed that an income did not accompany the title.
But why tell me? I had no idea. I hadn’t asked any leading questions. It had never occurred to me to inquire about someone’s secret aristocratic title.
Cate Burns is the author of Libido Tsunami: Awash with the Droll in Life, in which she unearths the ludicrous in the emotional live traps surrounding us — in families, friends and disastrous romances. Get it on Amazon today.