Friday, May 16, 2008

A Treatise on the Christian Gossiper

I eat lunch with a lady every day who bugs me a little. I don't necessarily choose to eat with her, but she also eats with the teacher in whose room I spend my lunch, so I, being a nice person, am stuck with her. We don't have a lot in common, this rather short lady and I. I'm 6'3" and she's 4'Something". I have fairly liberal ideals, experiences set in other parts of the state and the world and wide ranging interests in some slightly esoteric topics. She's not that interested or knowledgeable about topics dealing with something outside of her hometown or church. I'm pretty cool with people whose lives and interests differ from mine as long as they don't infringe on my own life and interests, and she's never once commented negatively about me or my topics of conversation, just as I've said nothing insulting about her or hers (until now I guess.)

That part of her doesn't even bug me. We'd never be friends if not for our mutual lunch buddy, and I don't really miss her on the days she's required elsewhere during our lunch, but it's not like I see her and cringe or anything. What does bug me is that she's a huge gossiper. She's not just any sort of gossiper, though. She doesn't talk about who's sleeping around with whom, who got caught in the liquor store, or who's getting a divorce. She doesn't have enough of a mean spirit for that. No, she's a Christian gossiper. I don't know how many of my readers are familiar with this type of person, but being from where I'm from, you get a lot of these. Everything they talk about is who's getting married, who's sick, and who has died. Everything is positive and you can't really criticize them for their topics of conversation, but I still do. The thing is that I've never really been a part of the local culture here. Beyond my family members and a cluster of people about my age I went to high school with, I don't know most of the people who live here. I went to a very small church as a kid and half of the congregation came from other counties where there was no church of our denomination. My mom is about as social as I am, so her circle extended no further than family and teachers in the school. She's a good teacher and cares about her students, but her interest in them really doesn't extend beyond the classroom. My dad is a much more social creature, but he always expressed that part of himself during his work day.

This makes these Christian gossipers entirely alien to me. I don't give a rat's ass about people I don't know personally beyond my basic regard for human life. It takes too much energy to sincerely care about every sick or dead person, so I save my true concern for people I have an emotional stake in and refrain from even feigning interest in the rest. The type of person the Christian gossiper tends to be is one who does seem to know everyone and even though they probably don't feel strongly about some of these people, they do get a sense of satisfaction, or at least entertainment, from knowing this stuff about other people and feeling some emotion about it. I prefer to get my artificial sentiment and emotion from foul humor, movies, and books, but some people prefer reality, I guess.

So, unless someone makes the mistake of starting me off on some topic I'm too passionate to shut up about (I typically never bring these topics up, but woe be to the conversation partner who dares to) I get to listen about all these people I don't know and all of their prayer needs, or who's getting married, or who's getting a new job. I DON'T CARE!

What's worse is that these people tend to be drawn to one another and they create this little microcosm where everyone knows everyone else and likes talking about everyone else in a non-malicious way. They're so used to talking to people who share their vast social knowledge and interest that it seems to baffle them when they come across someone, especially a fellow native, who has no clue who any of their topics of conversation are.

Of course, if I were to ever have my house burn down or contract terminal cancer, I'd hope that she or someone like her was one of the first people to find out. Places like this are good about taking care of their own, but word of mouth is needed to make sure those able to help know about the problem. If people like me were the only people to find out about your sudden and unearned destitution, you'd pretty much be screwed.


Julie said...

I have two points to make:

1. People who don't gossip about people they know gossip about people they don't know. HELLO reality tv.

2. I forget my second point. It was a long post and I have a short attention span.

Jacob said...

Julie: I hate reality TV. I'm not saying that I'm not a gossiper, but social goings on are about 138 spots down on my list of top conversation topics tied right there with the best way to clean a toilet and the types of baby poop. People who gossip about fictional characters are a little sad. I mean I like The Office and I'll talk about what happened in an episode but some people get hung up on the relationship storylines like they're real people.

And sorry about the length. It's going to be long posts for a while now. I've gotten back on a roll again.

Julie said...

Oh! I remembered my second point.

Who am I to judge people about gossiping when I tell the same stupid stories over and over again. You've all heard them a bajillion times. You have to be tired of them by now. Might it be more interesting to hear me talk about someone's cancer battle? I dunno.

And also, I understand the dislike for reality tv, but you should really give Top Chef a try. I really think you would love it. It has totally become my new favorite show.

Courtney said...

This is exactly why I don't go to church. It has nothing to do with a belief or disbelief in God, but I refuse to be a part of a culture that takes such an interest in my personal life solely for the purpose of gossiping about it.

I sometimes get caught up in fictional storylines, especially on The Office, and I see nothing wrong with that. It's just fun.

Hank Gay said...

That's because Top Chef rocks.

Julie said...

Thank you, Hank.
Richard Blaise 4Ever.

Mickey said...

Your last paragraph summed it up nicely. I too often complain about other people with the caveat that if everyone were like me the world would go to shit real quick.

Thank god for all those do-gooder gossips.