Saturday, December 5, 2009
Okay, let's talk about gossip.
Here is an excerpt from the Bible about gossip:
Someone named James said to Jesus:
"And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell"
So Jesus said:
"But I say to you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account therof in the day of judgement.For by thy word thou shall be justified, and by the words thou shall be condemned"
So, Jesus, you are telling me that if/when I eventually float up to the pearly gates and St Peter is sitting there waiting for me that I will have to account for all of my gossiping I did while I was alive? I would expect to have to apologize for all of the awful jokes I retold involving various trios standing at the pearly gates (thanks to my grandfather), but atoning for gossiping? Jesus H Christ, Jesus, that will be one long line to stand in.
" ummm, and then there was the time in second grade when I told Jesse that Elizabeth picked her nose, and then there was the time also in second grade when I told Klaus that Jesse picked her nose..."
I mean, Christ Almighty, Jesus, it would take me a whole other lifetime to fess up to what I have said about other people.And I can assume I won't be standing in line alone- everyone talks about other people, it is human nature. Now,I don't recollect being particularly mean or gossipy as a kid, but perhaps I said or did hurtful things, and for that I am very sorry.( I really hope I didn't do that because I hated the kids that did.)
As an adult, gossiping is a totally different deal. I actually have a sign in my house that says "sit relax gossip", so I am certainly not trying to say that I don't gossip.I just don't intend it to be mean spirited.We aren't sitting around feasting on someone's misery or mocking people's attempts to better themselves or whatever malicious gossip actually entails. I find it to be extremely useful in the understanding of other people. Let's call it constructive gossiping.
If I have a strange experience with someone, where I am left holding a figurative bag of shit that I don't deserve, and I mention it to someone else, most of the time there is some sort of explanation. For example, there is a mom with whom I am acquainted, and every time I see her, no matter the circumstances, I leave feeling like I have done or said something wrong. She manages to interpret me and my intentions all wrong and it is really annoying because I don't even really like her all that much, but I want her to know that I am not the asshole that she makes me feel I am. I actually reconsidered being friends with a mutual friend of ours because, as much as I like the friend, if she is truly good friends with the mom I don't click with then what does that say about the friend?
Eventually it came out with some constructive gossiping that the mutual friend agreed with some of what I said, which was all true by the way, and I felt such relief that I wasn't imagining things. The mom in question has some major issues and many people react the same way I did when they interact with her. Ahh. sweet vindication...
However, I have a tendency to speak before I think, which I really don't like about myself, and it has gotten me into some trouble. In my attempt to further understand the issue ridden mom, I brought the subject up with another mutual acquaintance and only realized after her awkward silence and pained expression that she and issue mom are friends. Luckily I didn't phrase my inquiry about issue mom in a deprecating way but acquaintance mom gave me nothing. She could have said “oh she is a friend of mine so let's not go there" or “yeah she can be a little intense sometimes" but she just looked at me all deer in the headlights as if we were being secretly recorded and she didn't want to implicate herself. She wanted no part of constructive gossiping. A minor infraction but it was slightly embarrassing nonetheless. And, no, I never called her again.
The worst incident of my wagging tongue that comes to mind occurred pre marriage/kids when I was acting and hanging out with a group of friends having dinner parties and playing cards every so often. There was one person, who I shall call B., who was just delightfully funny and sweet, and I looked forward to seeing him whenever the events took place.
B. was also in my acting class at the time, and we got to talking during the break one day,and he told me that he had recently split up with someone because he knew he didn't want to marry her.He figured, why waste the time if you already know she isn't the one. I was reminded of all the time I had wasted with people that I definitely knew weren't the one and was kind of impressed at his ability to make such a calculated decision. A few weeks later, I attended one of the usual card games and there was a new girl, I will call her S.,sitting on the couch when I walked in.She was pretty and seemed nice and I was discreetly told that she was invited as a set up for B.
I had no interest in B. in "that" way, but was instantly jealous that someone else may soon be taking up all of his time and depriving me of his fabulousness at future events. I adored B. and like an overbearing mother,I sauntered over to suss S. out. Is she good enough for B.? Is she even funny?I sat on the floor next to her and we talked about B. I told her that all I knew,besides the obvious stuff, is that he did break up with someone after a short time because he knew he did not want to marry her.Probably shouldn't have said it, but B. didn't tell me in confidence.We were sitting around the studio with forty other actors. Still, total asshole move. Then I heard myself talking about him like I was a character in a Gigi Grazer novel talking about some hot guy at the office.I felt foolish and, as I got up to leave I said, in total self mockery:
" oh, and he has a really big dick.."
Now, if you know me, you know that I am 100% kidding. Not only have I never shared that sort of information about someone, but I don't recall ever assessing anyone in those terms before. And,I had no idea if B. was well endowed or not.It was a joke. I don't remember the rest of the evening but B. and S. begin dating and several weeks later B. and I were sitting in class chatting away and B. turned to me and said,
" you know, S. and I almost broke up because of you". I asked why, since, as I predicted, I had not seen him since they got together. He said "well, I guess you told her that I broke up with the last girl because I knew I didn't want to marry her" (I felt my face begin to get red -busted for gossiping by the gossipee!YIKES!).I started to backpedal, and he said "wait, that's not the reason. I guess at the party you also told her that I have "a really big dick" and she wants to know how you know that".
I was speechless.I actually had no recollection of actually saying it at the time because I was so mortified at having been caught gossiping.There was nothing constructive about it. I was ashamed because the last thing I would want to do is interfere with B's happiness.It also sounded really cheap and crass when he repeated it, even though I meant it as a joke.I can only imagine what went through S's mind. I told him that I never said that, and then the moment sort of popped back into my head. He smiled at me, sort of wryly and said " you did say it, and I actually thought it was funny but she was a little upset about it". I think he forgave me, but I don't really know. Months later I sheepishly attended a party at their new apartment and S. and I had one moment in the kitchen where we were alone.I had no idea how she felt about me. I must have said something like " nice apartment" and she said matter-of -factly " yeah, you are one of B's favorite people". It came out a little more like " too bad he actually likes you" but I can understand. She probably still thinks I am an awful person. No, S., I am not awful, just an idiot.They got married and had a kid and are a happy functional family despite my best efforts...
A friend of mine posted the following quote on her facebook page: "When one experiences truth, the madness of finding fault with others disappears"-Goenka. Well, that may be true, but in my experience, the truth about a person is in the details of how they behave and the choices they make. I mean, what is a person defined by? Their attributes? Their faults? How much they earn? This seems to be the main reason why I/people gossip, to figure shit out about other people and ultimately myself/themselves. But life it isn't always what it looks like so I suppose any kind of gossiping is all in the interpretation.
Obviously this Goenka fellow has never navigated a preschool classroom brimming with nervous parents and clearly hasn't spent much time in junior high school or he would have said something more like ”In one's search for truth, other people's faults help light the way".
Okay, I am kidding. I am not such an egomaniac that I think I know more about life than S.N. Goenka.
I could have left the last paragraph to itself and allowed the reader to gasp in horror at my audacity in correcting one of the most prolific meditation teachers of the century. They would quickly forward the offending text to other easily honked off friends and all of them could shake their heads together at my profound ignorance. And gossip about how much weight I have gained and how my kid kicked the bumper of a stranger's car in anger last week. Tsk tsk tsk.....some people....
And what will I say to St Peter at the moment of truth? "St Peter, have you heard the one about the three Polaks who are standing at the gates of heaven...?"