The first floor of Dafoe Library is notorious for its hustle-and-bustle, chatty and noisy, heavily trafficked nature. This part of the library is for those people who like to study, or socialize, with a lot of other people. It is comfortable, and it is strangely intimate. It is also my favorite place to study on campus.
There is, however, an unsettling story that has emerged from the freeness that saturates this floor of this library. The first time it happened, my second-generation iPod Nano was gently pouring beautiful music out into me through my cheap plastic ear-buds. I had a paper due at the end of the week, and my fingers were productively tapping away at the keys.
Okkervil River was singing about how my life is not a movie . . . when, all of a sudden, the beautiful music stopped. My iPod, which rarely lets me down, had died. Irritated but not defeated, I plugged my headphones into my laptop and was just opening YouTube, to fill the musical void, when I heard a voice.
“Wow. I can’t believe she wore that dress. I mean, how could she not know how fat she looked?”
My fingers froze. “That is so mean,” I thought. I looked over and saw a brunette with crimped hair, bright eyes and more gum than teeth. A large group of girls, whose description I cannot recall, was hovered around one of the school computers, flipping though pictures of the dresses that had marched down the red carpet at the Golden Globes the night before.
“Oh, well if she’s just insulting a celebrity,” I thought. But then I began to wonder. Gossiping is in bad taste, am I right? So what gives us the license to be so cruel, whether we know the person personally or not . . . And, with that, this question on the nature of gossip began to percolate.
I stopped bringing my iPod to Dafoe and began to obsessively eavesdrop. This resulted in a drastic decrease in essay-productivity, but the research I obtained was well worth it. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that gossiping is not shunned — at least, not in our biggest library. It is celebrated.
“Yah. She kept a computer. . . kinda a computer diary. Do you know what I mean? . . . of all of the guys she’s slept with. And looooots of them were while she was with Jim. And, yah, one of the guys found out somehow and he stole it, and then he sent it to Jim. Yah, and he stayed with her. How stupid can you be?”
“He sent her a picture of his dick. Who does that? That is so disgusting.”
“She’s not even pretty. Everyone knows she sleeps around. That’s the only reason any of the guys talk to her.”
“I hate Kaylee . . . like, I hate her so much. She’s such a cunt.” Yes, the “c” word is definitely in circulation.
“I never liked him. Especially when he hung out with the older guys. They’re all so stuck up.”
It is a jungle out here! Everything goes. And all of this is not being said in hushed voices. It is casually and shamelessly, spilling forth. This is what conversation, in an academic institution to boot, has deteriorated to.
Gossiping is something that burns. It hurts when you find out that people have talked about you when you have not been around to defend yourself. Everyone knows that they do not like when somebody gossips about them. Logically, the pain and the shame that we feel should dissuade us from inflicting this same pain on other people.
So why are the tables of Dafoe covered in this “word vomit?” It is unintellectual, it is unkind, and it is all over the place.
The sad — and kind of pathetic — truth is: everyone is guilty of it. Everyone is tainted by it. And everyone needs to reevaluate how they speak and the things that they speak about. What pours out of you when you open your mouth? I have been monitoring myself, and the results are unsettling.
I was hesitant to address this topic because, by circulating this opinion, I am, in a sense, committing the crime I have grown to abhor. But at least here, in these words, there is an idea hovering beneath the surface.
I think Eleanor Roosevelt had it right when she said, “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”
Let’s try and clean up our acts because the metaphorical verbal puke all over the wooden tables is making me sick.