After an evening spent with several wildly intelligent and amusing women, I awoke with a massive hangover and not from the red wine. It was a gossip hangover - full of 'OMG what did I say?' moments. More to the point, I felt lousy about myself. The sad truth is I wasted time on subjects and people and who-did-what-to-whom moments dredged up all in the name of being entertaining. After moping around all day nursing this gossip hangover I sent emails to the group and each one in turn 'fessed up to the same feeling.
So out with the old and in with the new me. However, for some of us it's not so easy to give up.
As a journalist trained in the Rupert Murdoch school of Star Magazine and used to infiltrating motel rooms of movie stars (we are going back a bit in time to the days when the legendary Steve Dunleavy ruled the tabloid world), I've lived through some major highs in gossip history; for sheer deliciousness nothing beat Watergate and late night calls from Martha Mitchell or the day when Marla Maples confronted Ivana Trump on the ski slopes or even Jim McGreevey coming out. And let's not forget the time, flush with excitement, when I confided to my parents' mostly Republican friends that there was some "intimate" relationship between Richard Nixon and Bebe Rebozo. Accurate? Not accurate? Who knew and who cared.
So why was that okay and amusing? Because it wasn't about anyone I personally knew and it was gossip on an uber freedom of the press level or so I rationalize. Where it gets dicey is on a personal level and because my name will be passed along as the source. (Someone I know does a lot of this "so and so says" gossip to make sure she's not the source and therefore not responsible. Her friends refer to this as "the voices that tell her things.")
Another time I ran into an old friend who mentioned the "two worst gossips in New York" and they were two people I knew well. In fact, I've run into one of them walking down the street whispering behind her hand to a companion obviously confiding trade secrets.
My brother is a highly respected lawyer in New York and what people value so much is his ability to keep his mouth shut. My dad used to say "loose lips sink ships" but they also sink people's lives. Our family knows that if you absolutely must share a secret, you go to my brother because he's the Fort Knox of secrets.
And that's the reputation to have going forward. It does absolutely no good to be either the source of gossip or to pass it along. Whatever muscle in our brain gets us to stop talking about others, let's learn to exercise it along with our triceps.
While these may be nothing but amuse-bouche remarks told at holiday parties or confided in a dinner partner, remember the victims, the damage and the source!! And of course, remember what usually happens to the messenger.