They came to tell your faults to me,
They named them over one by one;
– “Faults” by Sara Teasdale
“She’s a home wrecker!”
“He’s a compulsive liar!”
“What a prostitute! Can’t she keep her legs closed?”
“Those people are strange. Stay away from them!”
“I heard he murdered his whole family!”
Gossip! We have all heard or been the subject of some form of it. I cannot begin to recall how many times my phone has interrupted a good reverie, a meeting, work, or even my sleep only for me to answer the phone call and find out that the person at the other end of the line just wants to share another tidbit about a mutual friend or someone I ought to know.
How many times have you been sitting at home and a friend calls you up to tell you he or she is coming over to see you and when the person gets to your home all the person has to impart into your already overflowing life is news about some other person? And have you noticed how this “information” is rarely positive? Has it come to your attention that the talk contains, more often than not, denigrating particulars about an inconsequential event in the victim’s life put together in a derogatory manner designed to show the one gossiped about in an execrable light? In simple English, have you noticed that the “gist” is usually delivered in a manner that makes the person being gossiped about seem horrible, useless, aberrant, mean, immoral, snobbish, selfish greedy or just plain unpalatable?
The next time someone comes to you with gossip, I want you to watch the person closely. I’m sure you will be more entertained by the person’s mannerism’s than by the actual discussion – if such talk can properly be labeled a “discussion”. I’ll gladly elaborate what I mean using an example based on fact. The last time a “friend” came to warn me away from another friend, I zoned out as soon as I realized she had nothing constructive to say about the person and I observed some amusing things.
First off, this young lady could barely control herself! She was literally shuffling from one foot to the other in her eagerness to spread this disparaging piece of information along. When she grabbed my arm to emphasize the damaging import of a rhetorical question (“Don’t you know she smokes?”), I was astounded to find that her hands were trembling.
As though she realized that she was becoming a source of amusement to me, the illustrious talebearer, ever willing to please, added some more entertainment. Her words started to jumble. No, jumble is not the word I’m looking for; it was not exactly a jumble, it was more like a conjunction. Her sentences became something like this: “ThelasttimeIraninto her shewassohighI’mquitesureshedidnotknowwho I was.” For a while I was so sure I could not be hearing right that I became fixated on her lips, unwittingly providing myself with another pleasurable observation: the young tattler was almost drooling!
Her tongue flicked in and out of her teeth, peeking occasionally out of her mouth to lick her lips in a manner uncomfortably close in resemblance to a garden snake just before it pounces on field mouse as its mid afternoon snack. To erase that image, I looked for something else to hold my attention, I did not have to look far because-wonder of wonders- my prattling airhead of an informant had broken into a sweat! This was a remarkable feat because we happened to be in a fully air-conditioned room, however in her bid to malign and destroy a friendship (which by the way I cherish and have benefitted from in so many ways) that did not require her approval or disapproval to survive, she had managed to generate enough body heat to cause herself some discomfort.
Finally, and most amusing of all, was the way her eyes shone, I had to wonder a bit at her sanity at this point. I have never seen anyone look so happy to be in possession of “information” (the veracity of the information in cases like this is suspect and often times impossible to determine. Wisdom, in a situation like this is to discard the information as trash and the informant as a tattling ditz), so damaging to the character and reputation of a fellow human being who has in no discernible way hurt or offended you. Her pupils were darting from place to place as though she was hoping to be overheard even though she had been speaking in a hyperbolized whisper since she started to abase the other girl.
If my observations are to be treated as symptoms, can we not infer that gossip should be treated as a disease and the carriers of gossip diseased? Can we not even go as far as saying that gossip is a contagious disease? Because most times (sadly) after we hear, we turn around and repeat. The cure? Walk away from the diseased; please do it slowly and carefully. Another cure? Change the topic. Some people might argue that you should hear them out so that you can defend your friend. My response? To what end? We must keep in mind that when we hear something, we might not believe it, but it stays with us. We always unconsciously remember what we have heard and sometimes it can affect our behavior even when we don’t realize the change.
To end the first part of my rumination concerning gossip, gossips and the bandwagon effect they have, I will drop a few words that have helped me remain an awesome personality: DEATH TO WAGGING TONGUES!!!!!!
I laughed aloud when they were done,
I knew them all so well before, –
Oh, they were blind, to blind to see
Your faults had made me love you more.
– “Faults” by Sara Teasdale