Welcome to GOSSIP Week!

BLOG,Gossip August 22, 2011 03:55

Welcome to GOSSIP Week!

Tabloids, Perez Hilton, intense acronym-filled text-versations at midnight; the only thing more  exciting than hearing something that most people don’t know (yet), is when that tidbit is about someone else. And the only thing better than that, is telling it to someone else. I am not sure what it is, but there is something irresistible about the speculation and third or fourth-hand information exchange that allow us to take a peek at the hidden side of people that we may or may not know. There is something uniquely tantalizing about the conversational marketplace of fact and fiction that can change the way we perceive others and even sometimes ourselves.I’m not sure exactly what it is, but I think it is part of what makes Reality TV so good.

In the spirit of he-said she-said, I’d like to kick off Gossip Week with the text from three short posts (links included) about, or related to Gossip. We’ll start with Nick’s irreverent accidental social promotion,  Clara’s tragic but formative social betrayal and finally Carmen’s deep exploration of our relationship with Gossip. These are just three personal stories, as Gossip always is, and three perspectives that will help us begin to explore Gossip as an experience and a part of our life story. In no particular order:

1. Nick Schonberger, NYC:

Back in 7th grade, I was walking down the hall one day and heard a younger girl say, “HE IS SO UGLY.” A great blow to the spirit, especially for a young guy on the precipice of puberty.

Several weeks later, I’m sick and a day off is required. It’s a Friday, so naturally illness translates to a long weekend. And, everyone knows what long weekends bring… rumors.

My return to school brings a flurry of inquiries. “Did you make out with her?”, classmates asked. “She said you touched her boobs.” My first thought, “Had she even sprouted breasts yet!?”

It was, really and truly, my first experience of any gossip at all. Not media gossip. Or, political gossip. Unfounded school yard rumor spreading. A ruthless sort of gossip with aims toward social climbing of suggestions of loose behavior. The oddest thing, was being subject of such chatter. Scandalous, no. But, status affirming certainly.

2. Carmen James, NYC:

Its fair at times to find the most innocuous person to tell a secret—right? Secrets of mistakes of others burn until shared. The incredibility that she could have said that or he could have done that, and how it could possibly be true is like staring through dense foliage into darkness– better to stare with another person. Better to comment on the unconfirmed spectacle with someone who doesn’t know any of those involved so that its the same as telling no one at all…but there is a sinking sense when we do this, as though we’re pandering to our schadenfreude…and then there are some rumors that hurt too much to repeat…

The Goddess of Rumor Ossa is often described as a fire sweeping through a city. She reverberates against every wall and like dams breaking free to water spilling forth onto a city, she finds her way into every crevice filling it, bursting the imagination. There was a woman in a myth who swore never to tell a secret and though she tried and tried, the secret inside her burned and one day, as she was washing by the river, she bent down and whispered to the river and the whole world knew…

This time it came through the tunnels  of the night, a pounding desire for a moment had—and then here, now, on the bright cold blue day she looks me in the eye and asks me: why would he act in this way? Her eyes meet mine, an avalanche of certainty crumbling to the soles of my feet. Do I say what I heard, what I saw or do I, as I did, keep the truth that’s as good as a rumor to be told to the trees tomorrow?

I walk burning with the question after the talk is over, the coffee passed. So there, Ossa, I stopped the flow of that rumor.  I think I’ve won, stamped out your fire, but suddenly—why, Ossa, do I yearn for your rumors? In my quest for answers, in all that is not lining up and making sense, I scan the horizon waiting for you to fly down and give an explanation instead of waiting for truth. Ahh, this rumor is most satisfying, it calms me, becomes even in its un-truth, no matter how far fetched, it is an answer…

3. Clara Bosak-Schroeder, Michigan:

When I was in sixth grade I fell in love for the first time, with a girl who was a part of my close circle of friends. The awareness of my love hit me all at once, though the symptoms had (I later learned) been apparent to others for some time. With my realization came the desire to confess my feelings, not really because I expected them to be returned (though I couldn’t help hoping), but because they were too overwhelming not to speak aloud. She was uncomfortable with this news and wanted to share it with our circle, and so I did, and they all (almost all) promptly ostracized me from the group. This was not what she had intended or expected, and she struggled internally to stand by me against the homophobia of the crowd, but she couldn’t. And so, in order to distance herself from me without taking responsibility for her revulsion, she told me that she didn’t want to be friends anymore for different reasons: not because of my feelings for her, but because, all that aside, I was a bad person — not the sort of person she wanted to know.

Later on, in college, she and I found one another again and become very close friends, and she told me this story of her self-deception. She is still very angry at herself for telling me “such a terrible lie.” But I am grateful for the lie because I believed her, and my belief in her lie woke me up for the first time to a great truth: the truth of my selfishness and self-involvement. I wasn’t any more wicked than anyone else my age, I’m sure, but I realized then that I was not living up to my potential for goodness. And because I loved her and wanted to be worthy of her friendship, I resolved to become good, or at least better, than I was.

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