Sunday, January 27, 2008

The addiction

Everyone loves it - from grandmothers to hip young things, from schoolteachers to fashion designers. Anyone is in danger of falling prey to its perilous lure and addicts will tell you that once begun, its hold on you is nearly impossible to shake off.

It's not alcohol, drugs or gambling that I'm talking about but the often overlooked but highly addictive pastime we all love to indulge in - gossip. One of the irresistible attractions of gossip is that it’s forbidden - which only makes us love it more!

At some level, we all know gossiping is a bad idea. The information that gets passed around is usually only half true - at best. Often, it's not true at all.

What’s worse is that gossip, the really juicy kind, is NEVER positive. Let’s face it nobody wants to know how Ali overcame incredible odds to own his own business or how Rani put herself through law school while holding down three jobs. We’re all far more interested in discussing why so and so is such an insufferable snob or how someone else drinks cocktails before noon. People seem to have an instinctive need to ferret out 'dirt' about their friends and neighbours.

I think it’s because, even though we know it’s dangerous, gossiping is SUCH a delightful mode of passing the time! I admit that I often let my mouth run off before my mind can catch up and this appalling habit has led to broken friendships and broken hearts.

Everyone knows what goes around comes around and when it comes to talking about someone behind his/her back, what you said has a nasty way of getting back to the person you're talking about. It's instant karma - you don't have to wait for your next life before you face the consequences of your actions but this never used to stop me! I tried to assuage the guilt I felt by telling myself that others were just as guilty gossiping about me as I was of them - which was true.

I hardly ever heard someone say something like "hey we were all talking about how much you deserved the promotion you got, good for you!" I've been around for more than 3 decades now and that has never happened to me. I usually got wind of something down the lines of "eh, do you know Rani thinks you have thunder thighs?" or "Su Chin told me you're really childish"

Which means that Rani, Su Chin and all the rest had taken precious time out of their lives to discuss my shortcomings. How typical!

But deep down I knew that just because other people talked about me, it didn’t give me a ticket to talk about them. As my mother used to say “are you going to jump off a bridge just because other people decide to do it ?” If I’m honest, I have to admit that I was just scrambling for an excuse because I loved discussing other people's lives and analyzing their actions.

Despite my checkered past, I must say that I've been pretty good recently and resisted the gossip trap for a good, long while. The people I hang out with these days are - no joke- astonishingly impervious to the evil lure of gossip!

However, a couple of weeks ago, I was in a situation that put my newfound gossip-free self to the test. A friend was busy discussing the flaws of another person whom I happen to like and the more she talked, the more I felt the familiar pull to 'unearth' more information and join in with my own negative input. I think I must be getting old (and wise!) because for the first time, I managed to catch myself before I opened my big mouth. I remained silent and let my friend get her grievances off her chest.

Like an alcoholic fresh from an Alcoholics Anonymous stint, I felt like I had personally tussled with the devil and won! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the little gossip-monger inside me has been far, so good!

During my gossip-mongering days, I used to wonder what people talked about if they weren't talking about other people. It turns out that you can talk about plenty of stuff like the US Presidential Race, how to bake a chocolate cake or even the way the wind blows.

I’m here to say that it's definitely not as appealing as discussing someone's scandalous behaviour at the pub last Friday or speculating if so and so's husband is having an affair but resisting gossip will give you a great reputation as a trusted friend.

Like a healthy diet, a get-together without gossip can seem bland and boring but like a healthy diet a life free of gossip is good for you and will eventually make you feel good about yourself. Trust me.

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