Did you hear what she said about your shoes? Oh no, she didn't!
Sometimes it starts innocently: “Okay, so I’m going to tell you a secret, and I know you want say anything to anybody, but please don’t.”
Sometimes it starts abruptly: “I’m going to rip her weave out. She stole Marissa’s man the other night when they went bowling.”
Sometimes is starts unintentionally: “Did you hear Sue’s getting a nose job, and she’s seeking taxidermy for Roofus?”
And sometimes it shouldn’t start at all.
So I came across a short book actually dedicated to the art of gossiping. It’s called “How to Gossip Nicely: A Southerner Ponders the Grapevine” by Susan Taylor Block. Well, I’m kind of a Southerner but I’ve never substantionally pondered the grapevine. Until now. In the first chapter, I’m told to avoid toxic gossip and in doing so I should refrain from cell phone conversations, “doing lunch,” “the walk” a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie which gives me time to catch up on everything with my co-walker where we disclose embarrassing female issues, problems with pregnant second cousins who recently inherited $6.3456578 million, and the fact two police officers were sent to jail for stealing a dozen Krispy Kremes. Please do note, however, I don’t have said issues. But if it’s gossip, I guess it doesn’t have to land in actually-had-occurred land.
Block suggests to follow the Walkie-Talkie mantra, “what happens on the walk, stays on the walk.” During my Walkie-Talkie, I shall not forget to discuss how horrific the wait service was at Magnolia, an upscale Yuppy restaurant in Durham, North Carolina; The scallops and prime rib were rich in delightfulness, but our waitress paused (and did this odd humming/”uhmmm” noise) for 20 seconds while determining if the fully-stocked bar served martinis. It did. What about the restaurant’s policy of not splitting checks?
Yes, I needed to Walkie-Talk about it, but instead I wrote up a review and stuck it somewhere in the public domain of the Web. That same night, I became the audience to my roommate’s heart pounding story where she witnessed an FBI raid. Since the police didn’t have a warrant to enter, they left and 20 minutes later, she says, a church van barreled down the block, honking its horn, and an old woman ran out of the house, into the van. Gossip-worthy news, at its finest; I repeated this story to at least five different people.
Word sure does get around on that ol' grapevine.
What satisfaction do we gain from the Big-G? Is it the adrenaline of retelling a story? Added attention? Accomplishment? To me, the feeling of holding in a juicy tidbit of news is like holding it in when you need to use the restroom and your blatter’s about to pop. Furthermore, I feel it’s my responsibility to inform my roommate there’s now a new homeless beggar at our intersection, and to top it off, he’s an eccentric – a dwarf. Another story of an ecentric is found on page 13 of Block’s book: She recalls the story of a man who had a pet donkey and took it on car rides where he sat in the passenger’s seat, and also brought the donkey to a grocery store and a cocktail party where apparently he was “the best behaved ass of the night.” Or there’s the former chicken farmer close to my old college town of Murray, Kentucky who won America’s Got Talent. In a small town, you betcha he was and continues to be the center of attention at pot lucks, bingo gatherings, and at the gas station pump(s). That brings up another point: us gossipers tend to stereotype since it always makes for a better story. This lends us to news that’s been twisted, baked and/or turned up side down, known as exaggerated gossip, the most dangerous of its kind falling into the toxic category.
In the benefit of the doubt, some exaggerated gossip is unintentional because maybe the grapevine has faltered in miscommunication down the chain. In these incidences, you should use your best judgement determining if the said news is worth spreading. Otherwise, it’s time to retire it. In high school I told a classmate I saw a teacher holding the hand of another teacher, therefor they had to of been dating. In this case, I was wrong; he had a twisted ankle and needed help up the stairs. Lesson learned: hand-holding doesn’t necessarily warrant dating. After all, in the early 1900s, brothers and sisters loved a clammy hand.
It’s difficult to determine if gossip remains gossip if you tell a stranger, particularly a hair dresser or your nail lady. That’s what they’re payed for – besides manicures and perms – to listen to your whining, complaining, dishing, bashing and other types of gossip that you would NEVER be the subject of. And there’s an entirely different type of gossip out there, known as literature. Literature, meaning book reviews, travel guides, food reviews, hotel reviews. Reviews through expedia.com or urbanspoon.com, on the same restaurant, range from 5 stars to 1 stars. Aren’t they just gossip, some true and some not, based on opinion just like my Crock Pot potato soup recipe from Southernliving.com? I proclaimed in written and verbal word never again will I make such runny, and tasteless soup.
If you talk about something, hear it, or repeat it, it’s gossip. So basically everything we say – unless revoluntionary – falls in the unescapable trap. Where gossip takes place can, luckily, be pin-pointed, and ultimatly avoided. Right? Wrong. Some places I find gossip thriving includes any family function, nail salon, college dormitory, golf course, country club, dance class, horse stable, high school gym, work space, airplane, taxi cab, coffee shop, bar, or cup cake bakery.
Can you ever really avoid the Big-G? I take home gossip with me every day, and I wouldn’t trade my stories for any amount of pumpkin pie.