It's been a while since I was around gossip of this magnitude.
I adore my circle of female friends. ADORE. And I love stumbling on new friends who speak my language. Many of them are moms I've met through my kids. While there's sometimes an amazing connection (generally with moms who share my love of books, humor, wine, baked goods and conversation) even the moms I have to make more of an effort to converse with (their discussions center on their diets or home furnishings, neither my forte) are good people who generally don't say unkind things about others and that's why I like them.
Look, I live in a small town and I think, on some level, all of us want to play nice because we realize we're all stuck together (at least through our kids) for the next 13 years. Even more if you have younger children. But it's been refreshing that the way I've experienced the moms around me has been specifically as "non-gossipy".
We've all gossiped at one time or another, right? Especially in our 20s, when we were young and irresponsible and perhaps hadn't discovered more enriching subjects about which to chew the fat. For me, there's always been a high correlation between how insecure about myself I am feeling at the moment and the nasty things that come out of my mouth about others. It would make me feel better about myself to put someone else down. But, (and not always) for the most part, that ship sailed many years ago. On my best days, anyway.
It's been a long time since I've been around nasty dirt-dishing and I only realized it when I was confronted with it the other day.
When I look at my life and my interactions, now, I can see why I was so floored when faced with three other women dragging people we collectively knew through the mud. The friends I'm lucky enough to have tend not to be gossip-mongers. Whether intentionally or not they have been selected to fulfill roles in my life. Most of those who adore gossip have been eradicated from my circle, moving away from me and towards those who share their interests.
So when I was in the midst of it, I didn't know how to react. You see, it's been a while. The three women I was with were going for the jugular as we drank our coffee. One laughed about a "friend" who hadn't covered her greys in MONTHS! I gulped, wishing I had worn a hat that day. Another claimed that the children of her friend were "always acting like brats".
"She's annoying!" the first affirmed. "She never wants to go anywhere without her husband."
"Oh God, I HATE that!" I got quieter and quieter until it was obvious that not only had I checked out of the convo, I was sending decidedly judgey vibes towards these women.
"Oh stop it!" one said "We're scaring Natty."
I wasn't scared but I knew that our blossoming friendship was probably not going to work out. While they were very nice to me, I felt sure that they would talk about me the moment that I left. It made me not want to have any more coffee with them. But they're good people. Good people that like to gossip.
So, I'm not in the club anymore. It's okay, I don't need to be in that club. I know what I needed to do to be in the club. Agree! Exclaim! Make jokes! Validate our collective superiority by putting others down.
There are so many amazing topics of conversation. So many events, emotions, ideas and notions worth discussing. Why talk about how much weight a fellow mom has gained? Maybe she's under incredible stress. We don't know.
I'm not a Little Miss Merry Sunshine. Realistically, we all have people we don't like. You can't like everyone. There's a mom I'm acquainted with that I don't like. It's because she triggers one of my pet peeves. The way I experience her, she is incredibly rude. I don't like rude people. They bother me. Every time I have come in contact with her, she would say something to me and the way I would take it would ruin my day. But I don't drag her name through the mud when she comes up in conversation. I don't try and enlist others to dislike her also. I try very hard not to do this, because it's a waste of my time and energy. I try hard not to do this because I don't want someone who experiences me as rude to try and get others to gang up on me. So, finding this individual rude, I don't hang out with her. Fullstop. If I bump into her, I'm civil, even friendly (but not familiar). Just because I don't care for her doesn't mean that other people will feel the same way.
I know that it may sound unrealistic to try not to gossip. Everybody does it, right? But it hurts people...and mostly...putting someone else down makes you look bad. It really does. And from the upcoming election to our fears and hopes for our kids to wallpaper potentially making a comeback to wine to movies...well, there are so many fascinating topics of conversation that won't leave you feeling like you need to wash the ick of your hands because you just dragged someone else through the mud.
Mediocre people talk about other people. Smart people talk about events. Brilliant people talk about ideas.
I'd like to try to be more in touch with my brilliant self. Thanks to all the wonderful moms surrounding me who seem to feel the same way.