I’ll admit it. When I was a teen, I used to be a bit of a gossip. My own self-esteem was so fractured after my merciless stint in middle school, I felt less “different” when I learned of others’ flaws, weaknesses and mistakes. A good gossip-mongering session made me feel included because everyone was doing it. Face it, most teenage girls are prattlers – vicious, fanged creatures who can tweet a libelous story about a frenemy faster than they can flip their hair and roll their eyes.
Thus, in high school, joining circles of prattling, adolescent girls while they shared secrets, rumors, and, frankly, big ass lies, seemed like a brilliant idea. After all, if the vipers were hissing about other people, they weren’t throwing shade in my direction. Nothing like the logic of the recently estrogen-infused.
Fortunately, I got older and, eventually, wiser, and learned that words can hurt, rumors can maim and lies can destroy lives. Talk about a paradigm shift for a blogger who calls herself Miss Snarky Pants. I could have been Perez Hilton if not for that pesky conscience of mine. Now granted, I make generalizations about people and take stabs at celebrities who deserve it because IT’S A HUMOR BLOG. Yes. That’s how humor blogs work. If it’s too edgy for you, please feel free to get your funny on by reading the “Laughter Is the Best Medicine” section of Reader’s Digest. Or, may I suggest, Breaking Amish.
And for every crack I make about Kanye “Officially-As-Narcissistic-As-Trump” West – who’ll become President when gravity turns out to be just a prank (What? The GOP thinks climate change is a conspiracy.) – I make at least ten digs about myself. After all, I’m uber-comfortable with the whole self-deprecation thing. Why? Because when I poke fun at myself, I’m not hurting anyone else. And with my muffin top, I barely feel the stick, anyway.
As I grow as a writer and a person, I sometimes wonder if I’ll outgrow snark. Then I slap myself and come to my senses. Still, I continue to learn from others’ behavior and, predominantly, my own mistakes. I note what hurts, who it hurts and why it hurts. Each day, I find myself a hair more compassionate and a freckle more thoughtful.
Very recently, I ached for someone else because of gossip. A tidbit, anyway.
After all, let’s not be ridiculous. I still luuuuurvve me some gossip. I won’t lie. I often kid, “I don’t repeat gossip, so listen carefully the first time.” However, in reality, when it comes to the rumor-mongering game, I’m a catcher, not a pitcher. I don’t like to spread gossip and I despise the idea of disseminating lies, but I love information. Information is, well, information. I thrive on knowledge, even if it’s just the ingredients in my cereal. I will, sometimes, share my personal stories about a person with another because, to me, it’s not gossip; it’s part my experience and may have impacted the person I am – or was. It may explain why I like or dislike a person. Or it may be something the recipient of the information really should know.
For example, If Gary Busey tries to chat you up at a film festival…run. Fast. Here’s why. Trust me, this is info a person needs if he or she going to be within a 50-mile radius of that lunatic. However, the older I get, the more carefully I choose the stories and with whom I share them. I often leave out gossipy tidbits, that while juicy or lascivious, aren’t necessary, because the harm they could do outweighs their benefit.
Recently, I wish someone had done the same. I was talking with an acquaintance – we’ll call her, Blair – who shared some, erm, intimate information with me about a mutual friend, whom we’ll call, Serena. Unsolicited, I might add. I can say without fingers crossed that I neither expected the salacious detail, nor particularly enjoyed it, but I made a joke…because that’s what I do. Particularly, when I’m uncomfortable. Blair wasn’t gossiping, at first. She simply shared a personal story about her relationship with Serena. Then an opinion. And then came, the tidbit. Oh, the tidbit. I could have done without that tidbit in the same way I could have done without peritonitis after my gallbladder surgery.
The problem with that snatch of private information is that it was like butt implants on Kim Kardashian – completely unnecessary. It didn’t enhance the story, nor did it garner Blair any empathy from me. Instead, it made me sad. Sad for Serena – who is a person I care about. Sad that I now know something I can’t forget, but I feel is wrong for me to know. It’s the information a pervert gains while peeking through a hole in your blinds. The car accident you can’t unsee, even years later. It’s a tidbit that I know would embarrass Serena – if she knew that I knew. And it’s not a shameful thing. Not at all. However, it’s a personal one. And I made a joke because I didn’t know what to do, in that moment.
That was shameful.
In retrospect, I should have said something, like, “Hey, didn’t need to know that!” or “That’s uncool.” In the jumble of it all, I didn’t. No, I spurted out a pithy statement that summed up the whole thing and elicited a laugh. The problem with my behavior is that I inadvertently encouraged Blair’s tattling. I rewarded her indiscretion with a quip, when I should have discouraged her revelation, because its harm most definitely outweighed its benefit. The tidbit changed nothing about Blair’s truth. It didn’t encourage me to upgrade her from acquaintance to friend status. If anything, I knew then that my words would forever be guarded in her presence.
It also made me want to apologize to Serena and give her a big hug. But I can’t do that because I know something I shouldn’t know. And it would be totally weird if I suddenly showed up on her doorstep and gave her a bear hug just because it’s Tuesday. So I’m sending this embrace out into the universe and hoping it lands, warm and tight, around Serena.
Blogging about yourself can be a freeing experience. You’re shedding your mistakes, your embarrassing moments – and your shameful ones – in front of the entire world. You’re coming clean. You feel honest. Still, honesty has a price. It’s not fair when someone else has to pay it, in the blogsphere or in real life.
So, today, I learned something. And while I’m a hair more compassionate and a freckle more thoughtful, I’m still sad – and I don’t feel the slightest bit wiser.
Mea culpa, Serena.