There’s a quote that goes, “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” I’m willing to admit my brain is the size of a craisin at least five times a day as my colleagues and I engage in water-cooler conversation that starts with, “Did you know Serena Williams is pregnant? Who is the stripper Carmelo Anthony cheated on Lala with? Why is Cash Money getting sued for the two-hundredth time?” But I have to admit that for me, that’s where most gossip ends. There are very few people in my life that I have in-depth conversations with that go far beyond politics or popular culture and into my personal feelings. And when it comes to breaking down my friend’s failed relationships, my frustration with a co-worker or supervisor, or just generally any less than favorable feelings I have for folks in my life, besides my husband there’s only two people I regularly turn to. The thing is, talking about folks isn’t anything I do for fun or to pass the time. So it always catches me off guard when people invite me trash-talking sessions for absolutely no reason at all.
Don’t get me wrong: We all gossip, but that doesn’t make it right. As I once mentioned in a piece I wrote called The Talking Ish Commandments, “Talking ish isn’t right but there’s a right way to do it. There’s levels to this ish. If you’re going to gossip, do so responsibly.” And a key part of engaging in gossip is being sure of who you do it with.
If there’s one thing I try to avoid, its office gossip. My luck has always been that just as I’m talking trash about Sonia from accounting with the bad breath, that broad will pop out of a bathroom stall or from around the corner of my cubicle. So most days when I need to vent about work I’ll call up my sister because she’s doesn’t share my employer and I’ll make sure to do it when I’m far from the building and at least one train stop away. When a co-worker invited me to lunch recently, I was already leery. First off, if there’s one thing about me I am very cautions when it comes to making friends at work. There’s too much potential to make a mess where you make your money. Although I met one of my BFFs at work, it took me a whole year to invite her behind to happy hour, long after I decided she was trustworthy and wouldn’t be bringing up the petty nickname I made up for the Vice President at her next employee review.
This recent situation involved a co-worker I chatted with occasionally, but definitely wasn’t on the level of texting shade regularly to within our office or even hanging out after hours. So here I am with this co-worker eating chicken sandwiches in the food court of a local mall. We have a few jokes here, rehash some office events and before I know it she’s going on a shade parade picking apart the dressing habits of another female colleague and the mental health conditions of a few male employees. What I noticed however, was that the gossip wasn’t entertaining or engaging, it just seemed kind of sad. These folks were people I barely knew, but seemed nice enough, and the convo waded through shallow waters of who wasn’t wearing designer labels and whose spouse was unemployed, nothing that actually spoke to the character of these people. I also had to entertain the idea of if she was willing to slander these folks around me and we weren’t that close, she had to be doing the same to me when she skipped out to lunch with Shanice from Marketing.
Lastly, it made me lose the little respect for her I had already built. Like I said, we all gossip. But I would hope that when I made it closer to this woman’s age of 40-ish, I’ll be in a place where I’m not judging people character based off of what brand name they are or are not wearing. I don’t want to spend my lunch hour talking prison reform and privilege, but I also don’t want an AARP membership into the Mean Girls Club where what I say of someone else says more about my insecurities than anyone else’s.
It made me wonder: Do you ever outgrow gossip? Like I said, I expect to be getting my craisin brain on a few times a day as long as Beyonce keeps popping out babies and Drake keeps being a target for Instagram groupies everywhere. But the last thing I want to be is the “Pearl” of 227 fame in my neighborhood, sitting in my window serving the tea of those who are out living their lives while I let my own pass me by. Although I’m no stranger to some Lipton, there’s a lot more going on in the world that I’d like to discuss than designer labels and other folks’ fails at love.
Do you think it’s possible to outgrow gossip?
Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.