Pic of the day: When you have something sensational to say about others, you are sure to get an audience. (In this case, in the anime "Girl meets Girl", a girl just may be in love with another girl. Wheeee!)
I have rarely felt so alone in my life... not in a panic-attack kind of way, but it a matter-of-fact kind of way, as when I read this article in Psychology Today. Suddenly it was revealed to me, with blinding clarity, how very much I am not quite human. And in a different way from what I had guessed. I have made many guesses through my life as to why I am always alone, always a stranger, albeit less so among God's more ardent servants, even though I am not truly one of them. The answer just may be this single word: Gossip.
The article in Psychology Today for December 2005 praises gossip practically without reservations, and elevates it to one of life's necessities and quite possibly the invention that made our species possible in the first place. It proves this surprising theory by pointing out that people have a natural capacity for gossip, it seems to be wired into them: If you talk about science for 10 minutes, they get tired; but if you gossip for several hours, they feel refreshed. I am afraid this is correct; I certainly would not swear in court against it.
The thing that metaphorically knocked me back was this fact box: "Nearly two-thirds of adult conversation is devoted to people who aren't in the room, which translates to more than two hours a day." One thing is that I don't speak two hours a day, or two hours a week (well, perhaps some weeks if you count purely work-related dialog such as "what did you do before the screen froze?"). And I am not convinced that I have gossiped two hours in my entire adult life, which is in excess of 25 years now. No wonder I seem alien to people in a way they can't quite put their finger on!
I grew up in a home that was basically a gossip-free zone. My mother would actively gainsay people who tried to talk down anyone not present. Not just family members, guests too. My father was no big fan of it either. As I grew up, I also read in the Bible and learned from my Christian friends that God hates gossip and backbiting. I actually agreed with him on that, because we don't want other people to do that to us, so it only makes sense to not do it.
I guess some of my funny stories from work could qualify if you were there so you knew who did what. I've also written some funny stories about my best friend and her family, who weren't in the room when I wrote it (more's the pity). But it hardly looks like gossip, and besides I tend to warn people that "this is so going into my journal" if they say or do something funny. Like giving condoms as a wedding present. ^_^ I really doubt that qualifies as gossip. And I'm much like that in speaking too, except I speak less and listen more than when I write (obviously). If asked about someone else, I tend to answer with facts about where they live, what they do, their marital status etc, if I know. Of course, I don't know a lot of people. And small wonder.
"People who don't gossip are viewed by their peers as untrustworthy, unfriendly or unimportant." That may be too strong expressions for people who know me, like those who have worked with me for many years. (Well, the "unimportant" part is probably true, but who else than yourself and your family are important anyway?) But I think they still feel a bit creeped out, that there is something alien or unnatural about me. Conversely they rarely tell me anything either, not even perfectly valid things like death in the family. I'm simply not in the loop. I'm simply not One Of Them.
From the other side, I don't take much interest in social occasions either, and tend to avoid them when possible. When people get together, even good people, they keep blathering for hour after hour about things that don't concern me... and to the best of my knowledge don't concern them either. Perhaps this is how an atheist feels in a revival tent. "What are they talking about? Do they really believe that? What is the big deal? Why is this supposed to be a good thing?"
"Teenagers who don't keep up on celebrity gossip have fewer friends and have more difficulty relating to their peers." Of course, this may not be a simple cause & effect, it could be that they are simply born to be introverted, which would cause both fewer friends and less interest in perfect strangers. Or, in this case, imperfect strangers. If there is something dumber than spreading rumors about people you know, it is spreading rumors about people who you don't know, and who will never in their lifetime be aware of your petty little life and death. And yet people have done so through the ages. In the past it was kings and nobles (and popes, though I'm sure some of them deserved it), now it is actors and sports stars.
If you cut away the gossip, there is preciously little left for people to talk about. In a family they may still discuss the finances (don't try that on your happy evenings, couples) or what's for dinner tomorrow. Stormtroopers for God can talk about the things that belong to the Kingdom of Heaven; there is no end to that. But by and large, uncomfortable silence falls, and they avoid you in the future. Actually they avoid me in the present, and I don't much mind if all they want to do is slander each other. I am not sure if they even slander me; perhaps they by and large forget that I exist. In a very real way, I actually don't. Not as a member of society, and thus as a human being.
One last quote: "Men like to hear about money; women like to hear about everything else." Hmm... perhaps that's because in the traditional family, the husband provides the money, and the wife provides everything else? But don't tell anyone I said that...
Visit the archive page for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.