Gossip is a lot like a visit to your local Taco Bell: it sounds great in the moment and you gobble it up eagerly. But then you get that terrible feeling in the pit of your stomach and you know you’ve done something horribly wrong.
It’s almost impossible to avoid gossip no matter how hard you try. But every time you hear gossip, it’s like a moment of truth in your life and you are forced to make a decision: do you perpetuate whatever juicy tidbit has come your way or, do you let the words float off into space, never to be given a second thought?
I didn’t always make the right choice when gossip came my way. I used to listen with an attentive ear, anxious to hear something salacious about someone else. If I’m really honest, I think I was always hoping to hear something that would somehow make me feel better than someone else.
Did you hear that Diane bought cookies for the bake sale then took them out of the package and put them in her own container so no one would know?
Oh good, I’d think. I’m better than Diane because I baked homemade cookies.
Sheila only drives her kids halfway to school, then she makes them walk the rest of the way.
Yes! I’m way better than Sheila—I walk my daughter all the way to school.
I would pass on every bit of nonsense to someone else, trying desperately to convince myself that what I was saying was actually important.
Then I met the master of all gossip: The Talk of the Town. Every neighborhood has one. It’s the woman who is involved in everything. The woman who appears to be well-liked and somehow has friends in every social circle. It’s the woman who always seems to pop up whenever more than two people congregate with her devious eyes and her fake grin. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t notice any of this at first glance.
Being new to my neighborhood, The Talk of the Town was quick with a smile and an invitation to have coffee. If only I had known then that she had fangs hidden underneath that simpering smile.
But I was happy to have someone to talk to and talk she did. She told me about Sandy and how everyone hates her because she acts like she’s above everyone else even though Sandy sees a therapist and might be a little unstable. She told me that Becky’s marriage was falling apart because her husband is having an affair with a woman at his office. She told me to watch out for Lauren because she has a drinking problem.
I listened, horrified at what I was hearing. I felt bad for these women, not because I believed what I was being told, but because The Talk of the Town was even uttering these nasty things—true or not. This gossip was ugly. This gossip was mean.
After that day, I tried to avoid The Talk of the Town. But she just kept popping up. Like the day I was at the mall and ran into Sandy and Lauren. We were chit-chatting when The Talk of the Town walked up.
“Oh my goodness! Sandy and Lauren, I’m so happy to see you girls!” The Talk of the Town said over-enthusiastically as she hugged them both.
“Did you get the invitation to my dinner party?” Sandy asked.
“I did and I wouldn’t miss it for the world! You know how much I love you and your parties! And Lauren, my Mikey is looking forward to the sleepover at your house for your little Cooper’s birthday this weekend!”
I stood there listening to The Talk of the Town chat and laugh with her pals—the very women she told me were unstable and dangerous. I saw this woman with new eyes and I pondered for just a moment what she said about me when I wasn’t around.
The four of us parted ways and I left the mall with an ironic smile on my face. It was just as I had suspected—gossip wasn’t proof that I was a better person, it only made me feel hateful and ugly. And that’s not a feeling I like.
These days, I keep a safe distance from The Talk of the Town. Sometimes when I see her around town, I wonder if she ever gossips about me. Then I stop and think with a smile, If she is gossiping about me, I hope she makes it a really juicy story.