Gossip by any other name

Gossip is usually an unsavory but juicy hot commodity at times.

Particularly among certain people.

My grandmother reveled in the little nuggets of information she would glean from people, which is probably why she loved to go to the grocery store and beauty parlor when I was younger.

She could find out all kinds of dirt on just about anyone, down to what pew they sat on in church.

Granny was a great collector of dirt; and like her sole and sometimes-favorite grandchild, people just told her stuff. Unsolicited, out of the blue, random yet glorious stuff.

Some of this stuff was about people Granny didn’t know, which was rare. I think the old gal knew everyone in our little community.

But the best tidbits were about folks she did know – especially people she did not like.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Granny’s ability to collect all this dirt is that while it came to her fairly easily, Granny was quite judicious with who she told what.

There was one exception, of course.
Granny’s best friend, LuRee.

What’s so funny is that for the longest, those two little mean women would scrapple and fuss with one another deep-fried Baptist style.

Then one day, a vortex in the Universe opened and I think Satan himself caught a chill.

The two of them walked out of their Sunday School room, arm and arm, hugging and slopping sugar on one another like they were best friends.

I remember seeing this as I stood in the hall just as plain as it was yesterday; they even moved in ‘80’s style slow motion as they walked towards the double doors to go outside.

“When did you and Miss LuRee decide y’all liked one another?” I asked from the backseat on the way home.

“What?” my grandfather perked up at this news.

“We have always been friends,” Granny lied. Look at her lying right after leaving the house of the Lord.

“Little ‘un, scoot back in your seat; lightning is about to hit your grandmother,” my Pop said. “Woman, the two of you ain’t never been friends. I have seen y’all shoot evil looks at each other across the sanctuary before. What’s going on?”

Granny twisted in her seat as she drove. “We found out we both dislike the same person.”

Nothing brings two people together more than shared hate.

“Oh, good Lord,” my grandfather muttered under his breath. “Helen, what were you doing gossiping in church?”

“It was not gossip, Bob,” she said.

“Yes, it was.”

“No, it was not.”

“Then what do you call it?” he asked.

Well, for once, the old gal was speechless which did not happen often.

She didn’t say a word the rest of the way home.

I, like my grandfather, thought that was a one-time event and they would end up back mortal enemies loathing one another over Amazing Grace and I’ll Fly Away, but the friendship stuck.

It was almost like two rival mafia bosses joining forces or something with these two. It was unnatural and scary.

Usually, it was a Sunday afternoon phone call that went on for at least an hour, Granny sprawled across the bed on her stomach, shoes off and feet in the air as she and LuRee discussed things.

My grandfather would just shake his head as he watched his football game.

“Your grandmother is in there gossiping,” he would say during a commercial break.

I nodded. It was just a fact.

“I am not,” Granny protested heatedly as she came down the hall. “I resent you saying that, Bob.”

“Well, I don’t know what else to call it.”

“We are talking about who to pray for,” she said.

“Say what?”

“You heard me,” she said. He may not have; the man was deaf in one ear.

“We are talking about who to pray for.”

My grandfather rolled his eyes. “I’ll bet.”
“We were. We were talking about who we needed to pray for and the best way to know who to pray for, is to discuss their circumstances.” She paused and gave him a look. “I think we may need to pray for men who don’t believe their wives, too.”

He snorted. “I’ve heard it all now.”

From that day on, whenever the phone rang, and it was LuRee, Granny would proceed to hold their so-called prayer discussions.

This went on for several decades, and when Granny passed away, LuRee passed six months later.

“You suppose they are allowed in the same corners of Heaven?” I asked Mama the other day.

Mama laughed softly. “Those two are together, I know they are,” she said. “And they are still talking about who they need to pray for.”

If you can’t say anything nice (6/3/2015)

Mama always cautioned me about speaking ill of others.

Gossiping and toting tales were big no-no’s according to her.

“If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say anything at all,” she would say.

I would roll my eyes.

I was a youngster and knew what the nursery rhyme said on the matter: Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

But for Mama, words were a pretty big deal and were shrouded in “don’ts.”

“Don’t say things that aren’t true. And sometimes, not saying or correcting what was said is just as bad because you are contributing to the problem.

“Don’t repeat things just because you heard them – it may be a lie you’re repeating.

“Don’t talk bad about people, especially to someone else; more than likely, you’ll be talking to their kin folks and they won’t appreciate it.

“Don’t say anything about someone you wouldn’t say to their face.”

And of course, “If you can’t say anything nice about someone, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, her words felt like she was imposing some terrible punishment on me. They were words, right? Words don’t hurt.

But our words have so much power.

And words, even though they don’t break bones, can hurt far worse.

I neglected Mama’s heeding in all those areas and ended up causing myself a lot of drama, and others, a lot of pain.

I learned my lessons the hard way – I made the goof up’s and paid for them.

There’s nothing like seeing the face of someone you have said something about and seeing their hurt.

Knowing you caused someone else pain may be fun for some people out there, but not me.

I apologized profusely but knew my words could not be unsaid. Once they were uttered, they could not be taken back and they had hurt another person.

“I apologized, but it didn’t matter,” I had explained to Mama.

Mama listened to my complaint in silence – one of the few times she let me carry on and wail uninterrupted.

If anything, she would quickly interject her: “I told you this was going to happen, I told you, I told you, and you didn’t listen!”

Instead, she listened quietly before she asked, “Were you sorry you said it, or sorry you were caught?”

Truthfully, the answer was “both.”

I grew wiser and more cautious with my words, understanding the power they can yield.

I’ve even added some wisdom of my own: Is it necessary? Does it hurt? Does it help? If the answer to those three questions is no, I have been keeping my mouth shut.

And my fingers from commenting on many a thing.

Because now, our words go beyond what is just said behind someone’s back.

Our words can be used on public forums to spread gossip and rumors and things no one knows the first thing about.

It’s not like the day of yore when people would just talk on their phones in their homes about everyone. Or in the grocery store, or where ever they happened to be.

Now, they feel free to share their interpretations of events of which they have no intimate knowledge online.

Ironically, those who know the least are the most vocal in every situation.

Granny did always call the Internet the modern fool’s party line.

Maybe she was right.

I’ve never been a fan of rumors and now, I find gossip as distasteful as Mama.

Hearing someone suffering poor circumstances does not make me happy; it makes me feel dirty and ill, like I just swallowed a rotten egg.

I’ve learned to temper my conversation with compassion and understanding – that’s not to say I don’t have my opinions, because I do, I just feel like what I think about someone is my business and no one else’s.

Not everyone feels that way, unfortunately. And some folks feel like everyone needs to know what they think about everything-especially if it’s unnecessary, hurtful and unhelpful.

Mama’s words would urge me to find something pleasant or not speak.

Mama took the path of politeness and social boundaries. But what about those who kept talking even when it wasn’t nice?

“Tell them to shut it,” is what Granny would suggest. “What’s up with all this ‘be nice’ mess? If someone ain’t got nothing nice to say, and all they can do is run their mouth saying a bunch of lies and nonsense, tell ‘em to shut it. Shut it up tight! Tell ‘em to shut it, or you’ll shut it for ‘em!”

Mama’s method may be the more genteel, polite way of dealing with things, but I have to say, Granny’s is a lot more effective.