By Libby Rumelt
I am a gossip.
I’m not sure if it’s due to my early exposure to trashy teen dramas, or the fact that I am extremely in touch with my feminine side, but I love me some girl-talk like you wouldn’t believe.
When I was younger, I used gossip as a source of both entertainment and power. I don’t mean power in the malicious Blair Waldorf/Regina George sense; I mean the power of knowing people’s secrets. I mean the power of being able to break a juicy story before anyone else can. Sick as it sounds, it gave me a rush to be known as the go-to person for the latest scoop. I knew when people were breaking up, I knew when people were hooking up on the sly, and I knew who had passed out last weekend from partying too hard. I knew because I made it my business to know. Talking about people’s private lives was just fun. It always gave me something to talk about, even when I felt out of place. Gossip was a tool for my social life, and it was tool that worked, and so I never thought about giving it up.
But that was then. This is now. Gossip has gone from being a device that helps me bond, to an immature habit I simply cannot kick, no matter how many problems it creates. Problems like the time I decided to share with a close friend that a mutual friend’s long-term boyfriend cheated on her and didn’t use a condom, and the friend walked into the room and heard me talking about her. I’m not sure if I’ll ever gain that friend’s trust back; I’m not sure if I deserve it.
After that incident and a few others I’m too ashamed to mention, I told myself I’d stop blabbing. What I didn’t realize, however, is that gossip had become an involuntary compulsion. I often don’t realize I’m doing it until I’m right in the middle of a story about an acquaintance, and my audience’s eyes are sparkling with intrigue. It’s those eyes that concern me; it means the story is good, which means the story is gossip. See, people don’t care about strangers, what they care about is gossip. Anyone who won’t admit that is lying to you and they are lying to themselves. We all care about gossip. We just don’t all have the same definition for what gossip truly is.
The rules of gossip are subjective, elusive even, which makes it an incredibly difficult addiction to give up. When I share this theory with my co-workers, they immediately prove my point by disagreeing with one another about whether I’m right or not. Some of them think gossip defined by how malicious it is. If it’s good news she is spreading, one woman tells me, it’s not gossiping. That’s just sharing information. Another woman thinks gossip is talking about personal business that does not include you. She puts it to me like this: if it has nothing to do with you, why are you talking about it?
Well, why are we talking about it? I have a feeling the why of gossip is not so different than the what of gossip. Let’s say gossip is talking about an event in which you had no part. The reason you want to talk about it is because you want information; you want to be in the know. I believe this has always been true, but our current culture has put that natural human instinct on steroids. Social networking and rampant celebrity gossip have made the wish for a private life, or even a personal life, something of a quaint desire. We have become so conditioned to share even our most mundane experiences and to expect the same from others; it’s possible that gossip, in its original sense, doesn’t even exist anymore.
Maybe I’m just an old fogy from the 20th century, but when all the information about someone I could ever want to know (and some I wish I didn’t know) is out there in cyber space for all to see, gossip loses its charm. For me, gossip has always been about the thrill; the high I get from having a wealth of secret knowledge. This where the what of gossip comes in: gossip is not what you say, or who you say it to, it’s how you feel when you say it. I wish I could bang a gavel and make this definition law, but since gossip is subjective, sadly, I cannot. I can only tell you how I feel about deciding to end this chapter of my life for good: I feel a little empty. I feel like I have lost a friend who was never that great to begin with, but always showed me a good time. When it wasn’t a good time anymore, that’s when I knew I had to say goodbye.
Xoxo, Gossip Girl