I don’t, generally, think of myself as being “above” gossip. Occasionally I purvey, and/or consume, gossip. More than I’d like.
But the other day, I learned a particularly juicy collection of morsels of gossip. And it left me feeling… icky.
My first reaction was one of self-satisfaction: “I’m superior, better. Other people trade on this gossip, but not I – I’m above it, as evidenced by my feeling icky.”
I even started to write a post about this, about how gossip makes be feel bad (and how that makes me feel good).
But I’ve sat with this feeling for a few days now, and I think the truth is a little less flattering to me, a little less self-serving, than I initially imagined.
If I’m honest, my reaction against this little bundle of gossip was informed, more than anything, by fear and anxiety.
The function of gossip, for me, is twofold: first, it is a way of bonding with someone – if you and I gossip together, we are strengthening our relationship, sharing something secret, and joining one another in a position of (information) privilege. But second, it is a way of medicating insecurity – asserting or creating a position of power relative to the subject of the gossip, relative to those who don’t know the gossip and, perhaps, in the eyes of the person with whom I’m gossiping.
In this instance, the gossip – meaty, juicy gossip of just about the worst kind – made me feel alone, isolated. I knew all the people implicated, and the fact I hadn’t known the gossip – and the way I learned it – all just reinforced the thesis that I didn’t have the sweet power of the gossiper, but rather, that I was just the last to know.
[For what it’s worth, I had actively sought to avoid learning this gossip for over eighteen months – I knew the outlines of it, but not the details. So maybe there was something to the “icky” reaction other than simply being last to know….]