Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Is This Gossip or Just Entertainment?

"Plums," 2012, by Bill Gekas 
I had a conversation yesterday with a friend about a mutual acquaintance.  He wanted to know why I was so obdurate about refusing to have anything to do with said mutual acquaintance. 

First I told my friend that I didn’t consider my choice not to speak to the woman as obdurate, so much as resolute – the first smacking of bloody-minded stubbornness, and the second, a sensible choice that I stuck to for good reason.

In fact I do speak to the shunned one in certain situations.  I am the manager of the apartment building where she lives, and I will speak to her in the instance that there is something that needs to be discussed in that context.  I will also respond in kind when receiving a simple greeting, although there is no warmth in it, and I make it clear that enough has been said.

A more reasonable question to be put, regarding my shunning of the woman in question – we shall call her Jane, for the sake of convenience – is why on earth would I want to carry on converse with Jane?

Jane has lied to me on more than one occasion, and worse yet, she has lied about a very close friend of mine – lied, and spread a potentially hurtful and asinine rumor about him.

Moreover, Jane is a tireless gossip.  She’s the sort who says “Don’t tell anyone, but…” and then proceeds to tell everyone – in the same fevered, conspirational tone.  She has a habit in this vein that is one of my pet peeves.  She will be talking about someone (when is she not?) and will lower her voice to a hoarse whisper, glancing from side to side and tell you with great earnestness and hushed excitement about what that person has done. (Or said.)

Frequently the trespass described is simply the person’s refusal to agree with one of her multitudinous and close-held opinions. 

I was once greatly amused by her when she told me something – I don’t remember what – that I was supposed to take on faith.  I told her that as I hadn’t seen for myself whatever it was that she was asserting, I would rather go on the evidence that I did have, which pointed to a different conclusion.

Her response was very dramatic.  She literally wrung her hands, and moaned about how horrible it was not to be believed.  I refrained from pointing out that if it is important to one to be believed, one should take pains to reliably tell the truth.  

I have other reasons not to speak to Jane.  Her habit of hogging up the common spaces in the building, her posting a blizzard of notes all over to tell everyone how to behave, (I must admit - she is getting better about this), her habit of flinging hair-clippings and fruit peelings out her window and into my back yard, (Which I have finally put a stop to), and her generally loud and loutish behavior.   

Jenifer Brilliant - Manspreading Woman 
Recently she was described to me by another tenant in the building as the Donald Trump of the Building.  Alas, it is only too true.
But the thing that really gave me pause was her answer to a question which I often put to people when assessing their character. 

She was bemoaning a rift in one of her older friendships. 

Apparently there had been a difference of opinion on some issue and it was threatening to destroy their relationship.  I asked Jane if she could not simply agree to disagree with her old friend on this one point.  But no, this was not possible – Jane knew she was right and would not back down.  Catastrophe was imminent.

So I put my question to Jane – framing it as completely rhetorical.  The question was, “Which would you rather be – right or happy?"
Jane puzzled over this for some minutes.  The smell of burning insulation issued from her ears.  She chewed her knuckles.  At last she replied.  “Right,” she said.  

At that point I knew it was inevitable that she and I would part company.


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