If you can’t say something nice, talk about pizza
In 2008, this kooky movie came out called “Doubt.” It was about the sheer terror of Meryl Streep as your Catholic school nun, but also about the dangers of spreading around salacious rumors, suppositions and gossip.
Poor Nun Meryl was at first so certain of the murmurs she was spreading around the school, but as the movie wore on (and after the word “doubt” was uttered no less than a bajillion times) she admitted “I HAVE DOUUUBTS!” In case you didn’t get the idea hammered into your brain already.
All it took was a little parable about gossip being like a bag full of feathers, thrown out a window or something and lost in the wind. Getting all of them back into the bag is impossible, as is taking back all of the gossip and stories and half-truths you put out into the world.
And most of the time, a word of gossip is one you want to take back.
Everyone gossips. If you can talk, you gossip. Little kids “tattle,” but that’s just gossip that gets your little brother in trouble, and it’s usually about toys. When mobsters do it, it’s “ratting.” All the way up to old ladies at the card table, most people have some kind of need to speculate about other people. And it usually results in hurt feelings, misunderstandings, or worse.
I gossip. I shouldn’t, though. I don’t know if it’s the journalist need to constantly inform and inquire, but when I’m around people I find myself doing the who / what / where of mutual friends.
If it’s just harmless stuff like who moved, who got a new job, who’s dating who, then dish away. Just make sure it’s all true.
When it gets into derogatory, hurtful or personal matters, then it’s probably better to keep quiet. I’ve gotten catty before, and sometimes it came back to bite me. The pang you feel after you say something you wish you could take back isn’t worth being able to chime in on a conversation, or to be the focus of attention.
And gossip isn’t always right. This guy I know was mad at me for, like, years, because he thought I said something about one of his friends who dated one of my friends or something like eight years ago. It turned out to be a game of Telephone gone wrong, and I had no idea what he was talking about. It took a sit-down meeting to get everything straightened out.
It may seem tantalizing and scandalous, but juicy rumors involve real people, and when they’re upset or hurt because someone they thought was a friend was talking smack behind their back, it just sucks.
There’s a reason all the Real Housewives hate each other – just imagine if everything you said about your friends aired on Bravo every week. Would you all still be friends? If so, then cool. If not, then tone down the chatter.
In a small town like Warren or Youngstown, gossip gets around. It’s not worth the worry, so just talk about football or pizza. Everyone loves at least one of those.
The Internet is a big open window, and everything you write on it is a feather. And Facebook. Curse you Facebook! Facebook is like a feather vacuum, not only capturing gossip feathers, but basically delivering them to the one they’re about.
I?wouldn’t want to go back to Warren G. Harding High School now, with Facebook and texting. Lies written on the wall of the girl’s room couldn’t be forwarded to dozens of people. Forget that mess. If I showed up with my high-school goth makeup and loud mouth, I’d so be toast.
I saw a book recently that had a chapter called “Good Gossip,” about how putting out compliments and good attributes about someone else turns into good things coming back about you. The cosmos takes your negative thoughts, and turns them into positive ones. Supposedly.
So, don’t be all Meryl Streep on people. Get the facts, and if they’re good ones, share them. If I’ve said anything unfair about you, I apologize. I’ll watch “Doubt” again as my punishment.