Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gossip Girls

This evening on the bus ride home, I participated in a conversation about two people - a couple. I won't go into the details but the conversation pertained to their history together and their private life that was made public through an event that occurred long before I came to meet them. My partner in this conversation was rather generous with details and opinions while I, though not entirely without opinion, tended towards the more passive role in the conversation - with more or less a "to each his own" attitude. Well, rather, with a "to each his own, but still... that's embarrassing" attitude. Having been the topic of malicious gossip more than once in my life and having also taken on the role of gossiper several hundreds of times, I can say with all confidence that, although my friend expressed a more opinionated point of view, my comments were of an inquisitive nature and not of the destructive or malicious quality that is often associated with gossip sessions.

Stop reached, I exited the bus and ventured home without giving the matter any further consideration. Just as I reached my front door my friend phoned me, a bit panicked.

"You'll never guess what just happened," she said. My heart froze as I imagined her having been accosted by one of Vancouver's many, many late night drunks. "(Blank) and (Blank) were on our bus. They were sitting right behind us." As it turns out, they got off at the very next stop and she saw them pass directly in front of her. "Should we apologize?" She asked, guilt ridden and frightened at the prospect of having been overheard. (She had been speaking pretty loudly and was pretty certain that they, along with the entire bus, had heard her.)

As someone who generally feels guilty about just about everything, in this instance, I do not feel any remorse for what I said. It didn't occur to me that I should, even after she broke the news to me. I can understand though, based on her intentions and comments, why my friend might feel concerned.

She rehearsed her apology speech to me and seemed bemused as to why I wouldn't feel bad. "Well, I guess I should apologize if they overheard me talking about their private life," I said. "But if they hadn't been on the bus, would we be having this conversation?" The issue wouldn't have occurred to either of us had the couple chosen to exit out the back.

In bringing this matter up with N, I found that he was of my mind. I was talking about them in any way one talks about the lives of people who are not there. We all do it. "This happened to so and so. This was the result... Gee... that's too bad. I think that what (Blank) did isn't what I would do, but that's all one." The difference is, the subjects may or may not have overheard. I don't like to do things that could make nice people feel bad but at the same time, I don't think it would make anyone feel better to receive a false apology. Plus, I don't even know if what I said, or the fact that I was involved in the conversation, had any effect on them.

Yes in truth, I facilitated and participated in a conversation that was about the private life of a couple. I enabled my friend to express her strong opinions. I listened to her opinions and didn't tell her to stop. I offered my take on the matter. The end.

So the question is, should I apologize to these two people when:

1. I don't feel any remorse
2. I wouldn't apologize if I didn't know that they may have overheard
3. I don't even know if they did overhear

Of her gossiping ways, my friend said "I knew I was going to get caught one day." That's how she feels. I guess I'm writing this because I don't really feel that I've been caught doing anything. Perhaps this could all change when I see the couple tomorrow and they potentially give me icy stares but for now, I'm not overly concerned with the fact that I listened to a story and expressed my opinion.

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