"Of every ten persons who talk about you, nine will say something bad, and the tenth will say something good in a bad way."Antoine de Rivarol, French writer and epigrammatist
Poor Monsieur Antoine.
There's a girl I know who once told me that she categorised everyone she knows into either the subset of "harmless" or "harmful" people. In spite of her simple dichotomous approach to the taxonomy of human beings (and other animals which are quite physically indiscernible from the rest of us), I found her system to be quite comprehensive.
Firstly, we have to assume (if we even need to) that everybody gossips - and no doubt enjoys the sport greatly. I have long accepted the necessity of humans to talk about other people. I also understand the unquenchable urgency they feel when they have just heard the latest, juicy, steaming hot, right-out-of-the-oven and just-off-the-press prime-time goss - to immediately repeat that to the nearest bitch...
Whoops. Did I just say bitch? I mean friend. Friend of the bitch.
I have been a 'friend of the bitch' on many occasions, and sadly, I have tuned in to what they have to tell me with less than healthy enthusiasm on more than one instance. It may be because some girl dumped some boy. Or a classmate did drugs and blew the Dean. Or Guy X screwed Chick #46 over at his apartment and then had spaghetti without meatballs for dinner. Half the time, I don't even know I'm listening to a bit of goss till I've already heard all of it
A "harmless" person is someone who sometimes/always repeat a gossip but does not add anything or much to it. Of course, it's easier to understand all this if I analogise a "harmless" person to a benign tumour. A benign tumour are slow growing, localised lesions that do not invade the surrounding tissue, or spread to other sites of the body. However, it doesn't always mean it can't hurt you. Case in point; a benign meningeal tumour pressing on your brain (I don't think I need to tell you that that's bad news). Someone "harmless" just repeating a story she heard is not malicious, but what she pass along is almost always something detrimental to another person's reputation. After all, where's the kick of spreading around something good about someone, eh?
Extrapolating from my cancer analogy, a "harmful" person is like a malignant tumour - a rapidly growing, invasive, destructive sort of cancer that goes everywhere in the body making lots of baby tumours which will then all gang up on you and pawn you real quick (not the exact words used by my textbooks, of course). A "harmful" person might purposely tell whatever she knows to someone involved in the issue, maybe to watch the ensuing drama and LOL's. She might tell half-truths to as a many people as she can to turn them against someone she dislikes - because she's so paranoid that that person might turn those people against her first. She might try to dig up more dirt by pretending to know more than she does when she talks to an involved person, and then spread what she learns. Sometimes, a particularly malicious one would go right out and fabricate something that's has nil truth in it - either for some unknown motive or out of pure psychopathic spite.
Here's an example; Girl A confided into me about her boyfriend Boy A. Another girl, let's call her Girl B, claims to know Girl A's secrets with Boy A and then tell Boy A that I was the one who told her, when in fact, I have not breathed a single word to her. That's pure slander. Definitely harmful as fuck. This may not be the exact events that happened, of course - it's just an example. This may not even be remotely associated to anything that happened in real life in recent times. And since nothing of the sort happened last week, I will not confront Girl B after my Block 3 exams. Nosirree. Girl B got nothing to worry about because I will not fucking wring the life out of her with my bare hands.
I have been misunderstood on so many occasions I have since long since lost count. A classic instance was when I was thought of as a stalker when the girl I was allegedly 'stalking' was actually my girlfriend then. I never blamed those people who dished around the gossip that I was some sick, depraved pervert (though that didn't stop me from hating their guts, fortunately). Gossip is inevitable, but being slandered is a totally different thing. To have someone wittingly - knowing full well I am innocent - telling vile lies that mar my character, that's evil. Pure evil. Fucking goat-shit evil. To have someone who said she was my friend doing that to me, I can't believe that's even possible! I still hope that everything was all a big, dirty misunderstanding - hypothetically hoping obviously, because nothing like that happened at all.
As for the rest of us "harmless" people, don't get too smug just because you don't hurt other people as much as the "harmful" ones. I have seen people sitting at the dinner table eating when suddenly a girl would lean to a friend and ask, "Eh, got gossip ah?". I have had people telling me other people's secrets on MSN Messenger to me, right that very moment when those secrets are being told to them by whoever that was so unfortunate as to choose them to confide in (grapevine live-update WTF). It felt wrong somehow. It's schadenfreude. Do you know what that is? Hint: not a type of German sausage.
It's being happy because of someone else's unhappiness. That's basically what gossiping is. Every time you gossip, you are rejoicing that someone is sad. Remember this the next time you want to repeat some shit you heard.
Let us all try to keep the bitch inside us on leash and collar, okay?
Needs more mudita,
k0k s3n w4i