If six (oy vey) seasons of Gossip Girl taught us anything, it was that NYC prep school students put a particularly high premium on both dishing and discerning “dirt.” As a lifetime member of that ever-exclusive sphere, I know plenty about the injury that canards can do to a person’s name. I’ve heard it all in the realm of irreversible falls from grace, from The Girl Who Recorded Herself Masturbating With A Cleaning Apparatus to The One Who Faked A Pregnancy Scare In A (Failed) Attempt To Make A Monogamous Man Out Of The Son Of An American Royal.
I’m not too guiltless a gal to admit that, in high school, I enjoyed gossip as a source of entertainment. Still, I recognized that it wasn’t a good idea to start it or to trust it. In college—at least, at my college—however, I’ve learned that as long as you’re not the poor sucker about whom rumors are being disseminated, gossip can actually be constructive.
After ruminating on last week’s post a bit, I realized that I may have expressed a certain degree of false contempt for the absence of anonymity at a small college. While I maintain that the rate at which infamy is established at a school like mine can be ruinous for some, those of us who (generally) have our sh*t together can definitely benefit from the speed with which word tends to spread.
The small school/big gossip phenomenon is advantageous in two areas, both of which concern pre-hookup research. First, gossip is a tool you can and should make use of when conducting a preliminary background check on your soon-to-be partner’s venereal history. If you hear that whomever you’re after has a sweet case of genital herpes, it’s safer not to question it. Second, gossip can help you figure out whether the object of your desire or the person hitting on you is a consummate weirdo, or not.
One of my dearest (and most tragically unsuspecting) friends, Oliver, did not fully appreciate Gossip’s proceed with caution advantage. That is, until he met Harry.
Oliver had never spoken a word to Harry when Harry friended him on Facebook. But Harry was handsome—in fact, Oliver had noticed him on the quad weeks prior—so, naturally, Oliver accepted.
Though Oliver had never heard anything about Harry, I had. Months earlier, not one but two of my friends had informed me of Harry’s bizarre practices. Harry was forward in reaching out to guys he’d never met on different social media forums. He would text them incessantly, pester them about their whereabouts, and insist upon meeting them in person. Then he would suddenly drop them and move on to the next one. Judging from the grapevine, Harry probably wasn’t worth the time. So when Oliver got that suspiciously random friend request, I warned him.
“Oh come on, whatever. He’s hot, I’m not gonna write him off because of some cheap gossip,” Oliver scoffed.
“I don’t know,” I insisted, “Sam doesn’t really exaggerate. Just be careful.”
A few days later, Oliver received a text from his maniacal ex, Dylan, indicating that he wanted Oliver to meet a friend of his.
“I think of him as my little brother,” Dylan said when introducing Oliver to Harry.
Since this is not how one typically describes someone they’ve entered, Oliver should have taken note of Harry’s creepy acceptance of this characterization. But, like I said, Harry was handsome.
From that point, Oliver and Harry started chatting. Almost immediately, Harry began to drop premature confessions regarding his infatuation with Oliver, unabashedly claiming that he was “smitten” and that he had “never felt this way about a guy before.” To me, it was clear that Harry’s prophesy seemed to be fulfilling itself; to Oliver, Harry was “just really bold.”
Eventually, Harry and Oliver hooked up. After they’d rendezvoused several times, Harry admitted that he’d been hooking up with one of Oliver’s ex-flings, Alex, simultaneously. Through some innocuous snooping, Oliver learned that Harry had also been promising Alex that he was utterly taken by him.
Harry is a weirdo. A player. A weirdo player. And if Oliver had heeded the buzz about Harry, he wouldn’t have ended up hurt. Instead, he shrugged off the red flags and proceeded with his guard entirely down.
I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should make final, abiding judgments about their peers based solely on gossip. But if the hearsay comes from a reasonably reliable source, why disregard it entirely? At the end of the day, disrepute is rarely entirely without grounds.
Featured Image Courtesy of Deviant Art