A few weeks ago, my friend Lori told me that her 2014 resolution is to stop gossiping. “That’s great, Lori!” I replied. “I’m so proud of you and I can’t wait to hear more. But first, I just have to tell you what our jerk PTO President’s resolution is—oh, my god, you will not believe it.”
Lori and I haven’t talked a lot since then.
I’m not too proud to I admit that I enjoy a little gossip. Not a lot, but some. And not the malicious kind or the mean rumors kind, but the newsy kind. This is probably because I’m home alone with my cats all day, so it’s nice to hear what’s going on in the neighborhood. After all, there’s only so much I can learn from peeping through the blinds or trying to decipher the subtext in all of the “furniture for sale” ads on our ListServ. (“Are they selling their waterbed because they were using it for swinger parties and it sprung a leak on Reverse Cowgirl Night? Does she no longer need her gift-wrap table because her husband finally realized she was wrapping up his golf clubs and giving them to cute high school boys as ‘thank you gifts’? OMG, is the ‘slight wear and tear’ on their couch because they have ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ orgies? And if so, why haven’t they ever invited me? Is it because I had that pimple on my lip that looked like a cold sore that one time, but totally wasn’t a cold sore? Do they think I’m dirty?!”)
Clearly, I greatly overestimate how exciting my neighbors actually are, so whenever I actually do hear the scuttlebutt, it’s a complete disappointment. “Oh, they had to sell their car because their water heater sprung a leak and flooded their kitchen and now they need money? Yawn.” But maybe it’s for the best that their lives are only scandalous in my head. Our streets stay safe and our property values high.
By far the worst type of gossipers are the ones who only give you a taste. A snack. A delicious little tidbit that drives you mad for days. They’ll widen their eyes, scoot a little closer to you on the bleachers, lower their voice to a conspiratorial whisper and purr, “I hear one of the dads at school has been placing bets on Little League games and he’s now in trouble with the Texas mafia. Can you believe it?” Then they’ll immediately stop talking, sit up straight and pretend they never said anything while reading their bible. Meanwhile I’m hunched over with my mouth hanging open, drooling like a Doberman and squeaking, “Who? Who? OhmygodWHO?” before I start an endless barrage of speculation. “It’s that weird guy David, isn’t it? The one who jogs in street clothes, so I always think he’s fleeing a crime scene. Is it him? Is it? It is. Is it? Why won’t you tell me? Wait! It’s totally Freaky Frank. I knew it! He’s a shifty mutha, that Freaky Frank. I always suspected he had mob ties because he wears short-sleeve dress shirts. I’m right, aren’t I? Blink twice for ‘yes’.”
But as every suburban mother and teenage girl knows, there’s no greater power than being the holder of secrets. Especially when you’re holding it from some blonde moron like me who gets heart palpitations upon just hearing the phrase, “You’ll never believe what I heard…” One afternoon at school pick-up time, I almost crushed three Kindergarteners in my rush to get closer to the mom who whispered, “Guess who got arrested last night because of something on Craigslist?” (Spoiler alert: It was totally Freaky Frank.) I don’t know why, but I just can’t help myself.
Of course, despite being a paragon of virtue and dullness, I’ve been the topic of gossip myself a few times. Most notably when I lived in the Gamma Phi Beta house and one day mentioned to a friend that my period was a day late. Ten minutes later, there was a line of sisters at my door holding jars of pickles and their fat day clothes, offering to babysit my twins during finals week. I would have sued them for defamation, but I didn’t even know that word in 1990. Plus suing sorority girls for gossiping is like suing fish for being wet. They, like, so totally can’t help it, you know?
As far as celebrity gossip goes, I don’t care for it because it’s usually completely made-up. And who really gives a shit about Rihanna’s “secret rendezvous in Iowa with Jonah Hill” anyway? (See? I made that up.) But what I really don’t like is the mean-spirited kind of gossip that’s more about someone’s appearance than their actions. The “guess who gained 20 lbs. from stress-eating the grocery store cookie aisle” kind of gossip. No thanks, not interested, move on. Tell your tales about failed boob-jobs to someone else, sister, because they just make me depressed and sad. That said, I will definitely consider listening to any and all tales about failed Botox injections because it’s just good common sense to know which doctors to avoid when I finally decide to have the Panama Canal removed from between my eyes.
And when that happens, will one of you please dish that to Lori? I think she’d want to know.