The Malicious Witness

“Word of the Day: GOSSIP

The other day I heard the first somewhat unflattering description of the behavior of some — some — of our students. It wasn’t that they got drunk, or fornicated, or cheated on papers, or did drugs, or got into fights, as is par for the course everywhere else. It’s that some of the girls engaged in GOSSIP. The trouble is that the walls and floors in the dormitory are rather thin, so that two girls talking about a third girl would be overheard by ten others.

Men GOSSIP too, but it isn’t so much fraught with emotion. Consider it to be another case of a gift gone awry. Women do use words more often than men do, and women are in fact more keenly attuned to the feelings of others. You want that sort of thing in the sex that is to take care of babies and small children. You do not want that sort of thing in the sex that is to hunt buffalo. You want, in the buffalo-hunting sex, a different gift, one that can also be abused or that can harden into something bad: the capacity to bracket your feelings and put them in the closet marked “Inconsequential,” because what counts are not feelings but getting the particular job done. And if the job is complex and risky, like bringing down the buffalo, or building the cathedral, or digging the canal, most expressions of personal feeling are quite simply in the way.… Read the rest