It's often quick and painless, sometimes sexy, sometimes sweet. The pleasure is fleeting though, and then you're left with a dull "uh oh" in the pit of your stomach. Have you hit your gossip-spot lately?
Oh sisters, I speak now from humble experience. I've dished the dirt. I've sat an listened when others shared the juice. I've even been the unfortunate target of gossip, both the untrue kind (no, I did not get pregnant before the wedding) and the true kind (yes Batgirl, I gained back the weight! ) I have also seen firsthand what happens when gossip goes out of control and someone is really hurt by it.
It doesn't start in such a dramatic fashion. Gossip is usually pretty harmless.
Did you hear about Mork and Mindy? They were arguing over a car payment, but whew, all seems to be well again in paradise!
Boy that Peter and Mary sure have their hands full with little Paul. I heard he has ADD and they don't medicate him...
I heard the new girl hides behind the shed and smokes when her kids are asleep....
You know the deal. We women use gossip to connect with one another. We form bonds over cups of java and mostly harmless words about other folk. Gossip can make a person feel included, part of "the gang". It can forge new friendships and provide conversation fodder for older friendships. Whispers about someones poor housekeeping skills or perpetual tardiness are not going to ruin lives. It's not that big of a deal.
Until it becomes a Big Deal. Sometimes harmless gossip leads to a level of comfort in discussing other people's lives, that invites more intrusive gossip. The more painful, life affecting kind. Even good, decent people can be seduced into moving beyond the catty comments about someones bad haircut to whispering about someones past history as a shoplifter. The story grows and morphs and suddenly Suzy Homemaker next door has a double life as a thief. Gossip feeds itself, it grows, it breeds more spectacular, more dramatic stories.
Marriages break up, jobs are lost, children are harassed, lives are altered once gossip reaches the critical point. Once it's snowballed there, it can't just be stopped by any simple measure. Now the real damage has been done, all because of that titillating little g-spot.
Military families seem especially susceptible to these rumor mills. I think in part it goes back to that companionship and bonding element. When you're having to make new friends every few years, you grasp whatever straw is offered even if that straw happens to be a critique on the neighbor's spending habits. True friendship though, stands strong without gossip. Comfortable companions can find things to discuss other than Jane Doe's hairy legs or Jack Splat's girlfriend on the side. The trick to avoiding the life-altering kind of gossip, is to avoid the nearly "harmless" kind that plagues us all. Next time someone starts to share gossip with you ask them what they think about Hiroshima. Ask if they ever traveled to Greece. Ask if they used to want to be an astronaut. Ask how old they were when they first voted. Ask what their favorite spinach salad recipe is. Ask for the title of the last book they read. Ask for their advice on cloth diapering. Ask if they like to star gaze. Ask if they learned to swim at summer camp. Change the subject. Move on.
So did you....? Learn to swim at summer camp? ;-)