Saturday, February 28, 2009


What makes gossip so tantalizing? Why is it that talking about someone else's business to a third party makes someone feel better about themselves?

I know something you don't know therefor I'm more important because I have privileged information.

Poor So-and-so, we're so much better off than them.

Did you hear what happened to whats-her-name? What a shame.

Recently a lady, who I know just marginally from walking Zeke in the park, came up to me and asked me how my sister was doing. Last month my sister was diagnosed with breast cancer and she's now currently undergoing chemo treatment. I've spoken to only a few people about this. I feel like this is a personal and delicate matter that I'm not quite sure I've processed myself yet let alone feel comfortable discussing with peripheral dog-park people. I felt violated.

I said "Excuse me?" She said "Oh, I just heard about her and wondered how she was doing." She scurried away. I must've shot her a threatening look, she has avoided me since and the subject hasn't been brought up again.

This morning another one of the dog-park ladies tried talking to me about yet another dog-park lady. She asked if I'd heard something about her and began trying to pull me into a conversation by making fun of the other lady, setting me up to take verbal jabs at her.
I identified the impulse to engage but almost immediately got angry at her for encouraging this behavior as well as at myself for being susceptible to it.

Is feeling better about oneself at another's expense an inherent human trait or is it learned behavior? Does everyone naturally fall into this trap or is it a character flaw engaged in by only the morally weak?

I don't like the way it makes me feel. Being someone who talks about other people's business is not the kind of person I want to be. Having just recently been on the other side of this I'm more convinced now than ever how hurtful it can be.

Should I confront these park gossips about their nefarious chatter or just try to be an example by avoiding their indulgent clucking?

Gossip! I don't want to do it and I don't want to hear it. I realize I might show more compassion as these ladies may only be talking about other people's business because of a lack of substance in their own lives. Still, I find myself annoyed and offended.

Every morning Zeke and I walk briskly around the park as the same cluster of neighborhood ladies stand in the same spot and jibber the same jabber. Their dogs run around them as Zeke and I circle; down the stairs, along the river, up the path, around the playground, up the stairs, down the path. Two or three times we do this and the ladies gab and cluck.

I'll not be drawn in. I'll not be affected. I'm there to walk not talk. If I can make just a small difference by not even listening to it then I've done something good.

1 comment:

Ilene said...

What a great example you make by your unwillingness to engage. Isn't that what we do...lead by example? You certainly do. I am nowhere near your abilities, but I find myself in a similar position. Engaging in gossip is getting more and more uncomfortable. thank you! Love you.