I have a teenage daughter. I have watched her struggle with the torrential storms of teenage gossip and relationships for years. I have often counseled her against rash action, and to rise above it all. I have counseled prudence and honesty. I have tried to soothe her hurt feelings and teach her witty retorts, when necessary. All the while, I have clucked my tongue when commiserating with my friends and other mothers about the endless teenage drama.
This week, I was reminded of the natural tendency that we all have to become embroiled in silly gossip. In an effort to protect the innocent and guilty alike, and also to avoid fueling the embers of a now-smoldering fire, I will speak in broad generalities. Essentially, a person came into my life over the summer, through an acquaintance. This person's role in my life was about two weeks long, and not directly involved with me, other than a few social engagements with a group. There was a separation, some drama, then this person took a bow, and exited our social group.
For months now, there was no word, until just two nights ago, this person resurfaced as a new love interest with my existing client and acquaintance. The client and love interest ran into some of my friends at a local party, and the love interest realized the connection. This person began immediately gossiping about me and my friends. My friends, perhaps in an effort to gather information, though also because we all fall prey to the lure of good gossip, kept this person chatting, while also informing me.
While the information conveyed was less than flattering, there was an effort to malign the integrity of my relationships with two other friends. This was what was most distressing to my friends that were hearing this, and why they found it necessary to convey the information. When I was told, I immediately reached out to the friend in question, who reacted with anger and indignation, assured me of their loyalty, then confronted the person who initially spread the gossip. This person reacted by breaking up with my client, who then broke professional ties with me, and social ties with at least two other of our friends. I neglected to mention, that the ages of the people involved range from late 30s up into the 60s.
I write this to illustrate how we are all tempted by a good story. It is human nature to lean in when we hear gossip - particularly when it is about someone we know. It gives us a feeling of moral and ethical superiority, and perhaps we feel we are helping the person by sharing the story. What I know is that someone who played a bit part in my life, has reached out nearly a year later, and cost me a client and a friend. They also broke up with their love interest, and this person was hurt. They made some unflattering comments, which after tracing down the story, we found to be an inaccurate representation of the facts, but at least we could find the source of the distorted truth.
I am sorry to see that after all of these years, I am no better than my daughter when it comes to childish drama and gossip. The difference is, mine had economic consequences. I will never understand why this person, upon realizing the connection with me, would convey information to known friends of mine, but that is really immaterial speculation, at this point. What this has done for me, though, is taught me the value of circumspection, of keeping my mouth shut, and open honesty in all of my relationships. You never know who may be listening, and who your words may hurt.