I made an ugly realization of myself the other day. I was accused of gossiping at my last job, I was furious and righteous wanting to face my accuser, who I assumed was Gloria, the secretary nearest me. I was not a gossip.
So I thought at the time. I just recently realized that it was my boss who overheard my conversations. (I finally put 2 and 3 together.) I never thought he paid attention to anything that went on beyond his office door. So that was my justification in assuming Gloria was the snitch. Somehow it took me over a year for it to dawn on me. The huge loss of face this cost me is really hurtful. On the plus side, I retired shortly after and was permitted to depart with grace, and no one else knowing. For that I will be writing a kind thank you letter to my HR rep at my last job. She treated me with respect, never argued, just let me vent, knowing all the while the truth.
I admit I was talking about people who weren’t there. But in my defense, I never revealed secrets, never said anything intentionally cruel or unkind. Not that I can remember any specific conversations. I can tell you anything I said unkindly was made in jest, often exaggerated for humors sake. Though in retrospect it might not be taken that way by someone else. Hence I am a gossip. It really hurts me to admit that. To realize I am not who I thought I was, or who I wanted to be was a huge shock. I’m still crying over the realization.
I’ve been examining the idea of gossip since I made this awful realization about myself. A friend (Chinese heritage) told me that the Chinese symbol for “gossip” is the symbol of “woman” repeated three times (or the symbol for woman and the symbol for three). This leads me to believe that gossiping is a way women got to know each other. While talking with one woman about another, you learn a lot about both women. You learn who is trustworthy, who may dislike you, subjects to avoid with certain people, it may give you inside information. It’s how women bond. I was not alone in my gossip, it was the entire staff. And I mean entire. Not that that excuses me. I truly liked and respected each of the women I ever spoke to or about. In speaking about someone it was just as often, what’s wrong with so and so, she’s not herself. I never asked such things to be nosey, but out of caring, and to see if there was anything I could do to improve the situation. It creates a bond. Or at least it made me feel like I was part of the group, that I was included, even if I might prefer to eat alone.
I’m not saying what I did was not gossiping, I just contend that I never saw the harm. I knew others talked about me behind my back, and often wondered how I was perceived by others. I also learned who I could trust, who would be willing to help me out with a problem, often with another person.
Here you are a lowly Neanderthal female. Males were an unknown species (still are to most women), all you had were other women to talk to. You don’t make any connections if you don’t talk about the real life stuff. The way so and so treats you, you get sympathy and a hug. You talk about the new dress codes, and how you wouldn’t dare dress so daring. You understand your place, your co-workers, and your world makes a little sense.
Maybe I’m just using all this as an excuse to continue this behavior. I tell you truly it will be hard for me to do, because I want to know people. I need to understand them, talking about them was a way to do it. Maybe it’s part of the writer in me.