Contributing writer Kimberly Couzens submitted this post as a Reader Submission for Gurl. We love hearing your stories! If you’d like to submit your writing to Gurl, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It started in tenth grade. I was at sports practice and a girl I’ll call Nicole (not her real name) was humble-bragging about her romantic conquests to her friends, as usual. I was terrified of her, but fascinated at the same time. She was hot and she knew it and she didn’t feel the need to be fake-nice to anybody. This time, she was talking about a recent shopping trip in which she got “a new thong for hookups.” Her bragging made me uncomfortable, especially in light of my own lack of sexual experience. Guys liked Nicole. It was like she enjoyed rubbing it in, or had forgotten that anyone aside from her friends could hear her.
Later that week, during a carpool trip to school, I shared the details of Nicole’s newly acquired thong with my friend Anne (not her real name either), because how hilarious is that? Who buys special underwear just for hookups (In hindsight, lots of people, hence the popularity of Victoria’s Secret)? Anne and I had a good laugh about it. This little gossip session would have been fine, if Anne’s brother wasn’t in the car… and he was next on Nicole’s list of conquests. I didn’t think my conversations with Anne were of any interest to him, but apparently they were, because he told Nicole what I said.
Over the next several weeks, Nicole proceeded to freeze me out at practice. She went out of her way to mock and imitate me and I had no idea why. Eventually, she loudly complained that someone had blabbed the “details of her personal life” to a guy she liked. Oops…
It took a while to put two and two together, but eventually I figured out what Anne’s brother had done. How dare he re-gossip my gossip without consulting me! I was shocked that someone like Nicole would even care what someone as unimportant to her as me had to say anyway. I felt bad for unintentionally embarrassing her, but not that much. Surely, she could stand to be knocked down a few pegs. Besides, I had already felt like she didn’t like me.
You would think that that would have convinced me to stop gossiping, but it didn’t. A separate gossiping incident is what really got me into trouble. One day after a long and tiring cheerleading practice, a few teammates and I were waiting for our coach in her car. We were talking about the different stunts we’d been working on that day when one girl remarked how difficult it was to do stunts with our teammate, Zoe (not her real name), as a flyer. And although my own talent in the stunting department was negligible, I had to agree. Zoe was a great cheerleader and athlete, but she came down from stunts like a ton of bricks. My arms were killing me from catching her and it felt good being able to vent about it. One of the girls in the car decided to repeat this to Zoe and somehow I got blamed for the entire incident. Even though what we said about Zoe was true, it was obviously hurtful and she was nasty to me after that.
About a year later, a friend told me that my name came up at a party and someone said that I “always talk about people.” I immediately thought back to Nicole and Zoe. I was shocked. I was angry. I was like Amber D’Alessio in Mean Girls, kisser of hot dogs: OH MY GOD, THAT WAS ONE TIME! Okay, maybe more than one. Another teammate told a friend of mine in an instant message that I “talk about all of the cheerleaders behind their backs.” The irony of the situation was not lost on me: I was being gossiped about for being a girl who gossiped.
Gaining a reputation as a girl-who-gossips was frustrating. I hadn’t set out to hurt anyone; I was just venting and my words came back to bite me.
Ali on Pretty Little Liars said, “Friends share secrets. That’s what keeps us close,” and I think that’s true. I’ve certainly been able to build friendships by exchanging secrets about myself or other people. I’m not going to pretend that I don’t enjoy sharing salacious tidbits or even my subscription to Us Weekly.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more opportunities to be part of a team in different environments and in each one, the opportunity to vent about others is always there. I try to avoid vent-gossiping in group situations, especially if I can’t trust everyone in the group, but it isn’t always easy. One person sharing their gossip usually leads to another doing the same and it’s like eating something sugary: addicting and giddy at first, but you feel a little sick afterwards.
In every conversation, there is usually a definitive point when things veer into malicious trash-talking territory. Before I say anything, I ask myself if I would say it to the person’s face, should they ever find out. That keeps me from saying anything I’ll regret. Overall, I’m just more careful now about who I trust with my secrets – and who might be not-so-innocently listening in.
Do you gossip a lot? Do you know anyone who does? Have you ever been caught gossiping about someone? Tell us in the comments.