July 10, 2012
Our family is probably like most others; some people get along well, and others just can’t seem to manage the ins and outs of adult relationships. There are people who concede and go along just to keep the peace, and there are those who love to keep the pot stirred. I think it’s just the tendency of humans in groups to migrate toward one of these poles.
I learned a long time ago to steer as clear of gossip and rumor-mongering as possible. It just seemed to be common sense to me that if someone will dish gossip to you, they’re just as likely to dish gossip about you. It just seems easier and less stressful to avoid it altogether.
Families, by virtue of the fact that there is so much familiarity, are a breeding ground for ripe, juicy gossip. All that’s required for the fire to take hold is a willing ear to listen. Listening to gossip, by the act’s very nature, is the same as encouraging gossip.
Now that I’m in my 50s, I get that everything that pops into my head doesn’t necessarily have to be spoken. That’s a good thing to remember when family squabbles rear their ugly heads. This weekend, my mother-in-law was visiting us. She’s a sweet woman who believes with all her heart that her son is absolute perfection (I agree with her on most points, by the way). However, he tends to talk less when she’s around (is that a normal son/mother phenomenon?), so most of the conversation that involves her is left up to me. Much of that conversation revolves around family issues, and many of those issues have been seeded by gossip and rumors. I tiptoe my way through those conversations, because in this case, blood truly is thicker than water – and sometimes, it’s thicker than common sense.
Anyway, the weekend was an overall success and I don’t think I got us into any more hot water than we’re usually in. I will say that I took a good long look at our children and hoped once again that I gave them the “respect each other always” speech and the “remember you can’t take some words back” speech enough times for them to sink in.
I guess we’ll see in a few years, won’t we?
Carole Townsend is also a Gwinnett Daily Post staff correspondent and author of the recently-released book, “Southern Fried White Trash.” The book takes a humorous look at families and how we behave when thrown together for weddings, funerals and holidays. She has been quoted on msnbc.com, in the LA Times, USA Today and the Christian Science Monitor, been featured on FOX 5 News and CNN, and is often a guest on television and radio shows nationwide. Her next book, “Red Lipstick and Clean Underwear,” is eagerly expected in late summer 2012.