My friend Vivian sent the article "CHURCH GOSSIP" (yesterday's blog) to me and it made me recall a life-lesson. An acquaintance and I were talking--and I admit, I traded a few tidbits of gossip--and he suddenly stopped and said, "I'm going to tell you why I don't gossip any more."
He told me about two couples he knew who were best friends and socialized together and had godchildren in common. He referred to them as Couple Number One and Couple Number Two. The husband of Couple Number One was out of town on business and the husband of Couple Number Two was in town at work and when he went to leave, his transmission went out on his car. His home was forty-five miles away. He called the wife of Couple Number One to see if he could stay at their home because he could not get a rental car or have the car worked on until the next day. The wife of Couple Number One said "Of course!" and picked him up at his place of work. The husband of Couple Number Two called his wife and told her what was going on; she told him she would come to pick him up but the wife of Couple Number One said that was just so silly since she could take him to work the next day and he could get the car into a garage and he could get a rental car, if needed. That night, the husband of Couple Number Two stayed at the home of Couple Number One, sleeping on the couch. The next morning, before breakfast, the doorbell rang and the husband of Couple Number Two thought nothing of answering the door; the next door neighbor, knowing the husband was out of town, came to check on them. Within days, the gossip rapidly spread about the husband of Couple Number Two coming to the door in pajamas and bathrobe and it caused a great deal of suspicion, whispers, innuendo, finger-pointing, rumors, gossip and much hurt.
He said, "I'm the husband of Couple Number One and I had to hear the lies about my wife and best friend and that's why I don't gossip anymore!"
I know that it irritates a great many of my friends and acquaintances when I stop them in mid-sentence with phrases such as, "You weren't there, so you don't know if that's true!", "Did the person tell you that?", "Are you sure about that?" among other qualifying remarks.
In 1973, I worked with a woman who is one of the best people I've ever known. She possesses the traits I value in friends: respect, loyalty, kindness, compassion and honesty. She shared with me that she would like to have a part-time job because she was having financial difficulties but she did not want other people to know about it. The woman, a widow, had recently lost a great deal of weight and received many compliments on her appearance. Our boss at work complimented her as did a great number of the other men at work. Her late husband's sister also worked with us and it was obvious to me that she was a "Green-Eyed Monster". She said to me, "Too bad she couldn't have lost that weight when my brother was alive." I responded, "I'm so proud of her; she's doing it because of her health." She responded, "And it doesn't hurt that she has all those guys sniffing around now!" Refusing to acknowledge that I knew WHAT the disgusting term "sniffing" meant, I said, "Well, that "Youth Dew" is intoxicating, isn't it?" She said, "That's NOT what I meant!" I stared her down and asked, "Well, WHAT else could you have possibly meant?"
My mother's doctor lived several doors down the street from us and he had asked my mother if she would be interested in babysitting because he and his wife liked to go out on the weekends and they needed someone trustworthy. My mother told him she'd reared enough kids and grandkids but she would ask me if I knew anyone who would be interested. I told my friend and she said that would be perfect. Not only did she become their babysitter, but she eventually cleaned their house and would help cook for the dinner parties. She would park her car in our driveway because we had the room and the doctor didn't and she didn't want to park on the street. The weekends that Gerald and I didn't go out, she would bring the children with her to visit with me.
The "Green-Eyed Monster" soon noticed that my friend's car was missing from her home nearly EVERY weekend and also sometimes during the week. She extrapolated that innocent information into the specious lie that her brother's widow was "having an affair" with our boss. [I have never understood how EVIL minds work; that someone could make up a malicious story out of whole cloth!] Of course, my friend and I were the last ones to know what was being said behind her back.
One day, my boss asked me to come to his office and he told me that someone had called his wife and told her that he was having an affair and he asked if I knew about it. I was dumbstruck. He spoke to me because he suggested that my friend request a shift transfer and asked if I would encourage her to do so! I said, "That would just make both of you look guilty and why should she have to change her lifestyle because of lies?"
I went to the "Green-Eyed Monster" and asked her about the story but I didn't do it in a confrontational manner, but with a "conspiritorial" tone. I said, "I heard you'd found out what your sister-in-law was doing on the weekends." She was positively thrilled that she thought she had me in her spider-web of calumny. She was positively gleeful when she reported that when she first saw her brother's widow's car not at her house for long hours, she also went to check at our boss' house and his car was also missing she actually said, "1 plus 1 equals 2." and she bragged how she checked it out every weekend but she had never been able to follow them. I asked, "You mean you spend YOUR weekends trying to catch them?" She said, confidently, "And I WILL catch them!" I said, "Oh, no you won't because she's with ME every weekend!' I saw the color actually leave her face. I said, "Now, I need for you to go and tell everyone you've told your lies to and tell them you were wrong and you need to call the boss' wife and tell her you were wrong!" Of course, she didn't do that, but I went to every single person, on all three shifts, and said, "I need to tell you that no matter what lies you've been told, there is no affair because she's been at my home EVERY weekend." Many asked what she was doing at my home, but I would tell them it was none of their business. I said to my friend, "Hell, they'll be saying we're lesbians!" We would laugh as we would see the car of the "Green-Eyed Monster" slowly go by my house!