I read this little article in an issue of Woman magazine from 7th March 1959 and thought I would share it here. Gossip is an insidious thing. Something that starts off slowly and something that you can get tempted into in an attempt to fit in with others. Gossiping is something that I am guilty of and I am also guilty of sitting by while gossip takes place. It gives me an uncomfortable feeling as though I am compromising myself. A clear sign that I shouldn't be getting involved!
The girl who said too much.
Above the general chatter of the restaurant one burst of laughter from a distant corner rose shrilly. The friend I was talking to broke off in the middle of a sentence and glanced at the little group whose heads were so close together. "Someone else's reputation being torn to shreds," she murmured with unusual bitterness. "I've suffered myself from that busy tongue." I followed her glance. The centre of the tight little group was a woman I knew only by sight. She was one of the many who drift about on the fringes of the theatrical world, though she had no particular theatrical job. She always seemed to be the centre of a small, appreciative crowd. I assumed vaguely, that she was good company.
I turned back to my companion, an actress with a solid reputation. Not at all the sort of person I should have thought who could be the victim of malicious gossip, and I said so. She looked thoughtful for a few moments, and then said, "Anna, you remember when my husband died I went through a very bad patch; life seemed pointless without him and I turned down several jobs. Then I was offered a part in a picture - a new experience for me. My friend urged me to take it, so, feeling terribly unsure and very nervous, I went to the studio for my first day's work. As you know so well, there is a vast difference between acting on the stage and in the studio - those tracks that the camera runs on threaten to trip you up, marks to stand on so the right lights will hit you, technicians milling around - in short everything to stop you concentrating on playing the scene."
"Various technical things kept going wrong and we shot the scene many, many times, and I, being completely new to it all, felt that I alone must be responsible for the number of takes. I got more and more nervous, and then forgot my lines. The director was kindness itself, and eventually that nightmare of a day ended." My friend continued her story, "But several days later that busy tongue was spreading around the story that I was all washed up - couldn't even remember my lines. She had heard somehow of that first day's bewilderment, and just had to pass it on. It was a long time before I was offered another film role."
As we were leaving the restaurant I caught the eye of that chatty little woman. She smiled brightly, but I was startled by the unhappiness behind the smile. As I went home I found myself thinking more about the problem of the gossiper than her victim. I felt sure that if she had been a professional actress she wouldn't have behaved as she had. Had she started out with hopes of becoming an actress, and found that she lacked the talent?
Then, unwilling to turn her back on the world she wanted so much to share, she had found other ways of keeping contact. If she couldn't have an audience in the theatre, she would find one off the stage by having a reputation for being in the know .... by picking up bits of information about people who really were on the inside, and satisfying the curiosity of others, like herself, on the fringe. Probably, to begin with, her stories were quite harmless, but after a time she may have found her audience losing interest. She had to find something startling to catch their attention.
And once her spicy story was told - in confidence, of course - her listener would be sure to rush off to tell it to someone else - with a few trimmings; and that other person would pass it on with more highly coloured additions until in the end it reached the ears of someone who could really be hurt by it - all unknown to the first gossip, who would exclaim, "But that wasn't the story I told ...."
It wouldn't be exactly the story she's told. But it was she who had started the ball rolling on its dangerous downhill track. If she hadn't given it the first push it might never have bowled over a reputation, or shattered a friendship, or driven a wedge of doubt between husband and wife. Because one of the most dangerous things about gossip is that it so often has the tiniest seed of truth in it.
The sad thing is that really exciting news always seems to be bad news. Disaster or quarrels add a tinge of excitement to a dull day, and talking about them gives gossips a cosy feeling of security just because they aren't happening to them. But when the tittle-tattle gets back to the person who is already suffering, it can only increase their unhappiness.