Read recently that Salman Rushdie’s mother was a first rate gossip and it was her gossiping which led him to develop his skills at story telling. I’m not insinuating anything here, but going by that precedent my son could in the future win a Booker twice over. Never mind. It is unseemly to plan for future greatness, one should just anticipate it.
Being a first rate gossip isnt a life skill one plans for, one just acquires it on the way. It is driven by pure desire to know more about other people’s lives to console yourself that you arent alone and bored out of your skull by the daily drudge of wakey, school, office, home, park and some more that comprises what is optimistically termed as your daily ‘routine’.
I genuinely like hearing about people. I genuinely like people. And I have always been insanely curious about people. All skills that have stood me in no good stead.
Nosey parker being the preferred moniker that comes to mind when I am being discussed, in company that excludes me of course. I do draw the line at malicious unsubstantiated gossip of course, only revealing stuff that I cant keep to myself or I will burst right now to my poor mother who has no clue whose shennanigans I am enlightening her with and promptly forgets all I said within the next few minutes. Which is the best place for nasty gossip to reach.
Then I read recently (yup, contrary to the philistine impression this blog might give you, I do read quite a bit. And stuff that does not necessarily limit itself to fashion magazines. And agony aunt columns) that gossiping is the best mental workout you could give your brain, excluding a hour long back to back Suduko or crossword solving tryst.
Chatting with a friend doesn’t just catch you up on gossip–it may also strengthen your mind, found a new University of Michigan study. Before taking cognitive tests, 76 participants prepped for 10 minutes in one of three ways: They chatted socially in pairs, completed reading exercises, or watched a clip from Seinfeld. Surprisingly, the schmoozers did just as well on tests as those who worked out their brains (the TV viewers were a distant third). At the very least, make a phone call or two before you turn on the tube at night.
Why is it that among all the primates, only humans have language? According to Professor Robin Dunbar’s new book, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, humans gossip because we don’t groom each other. Dunbar builds his argument in a lively discussion that touches on such varied topics as the behavior of gelada baboons, Darwin’s theory of evolution, computer-generated poetry, and the significance of brain size. He begins with the social organization of the great apes. These animals live in small groups and maintain social cohesion through almost constant grooming activities. Grooming is a way to forge alliances, establish hierarchy, offer comfort, or make apology. Once a population expands beyond a certain number, however, it becomes impossible for each member to maintain constant physical contact with every other member of the group. Considering the large groups in which human beings have found it necessary to live, Dunbar posits that we developed language as a substitute for physical intimacy.
Which is why to me, gossip is not about tearing someone to shreds over a free incoming plan. Gossip to me is all about being connected with the world I live in, my little microcosm of friends and acquaintances and relatives, knowing what is happening with everyone’s lives, making sure they know what they need to know about what is happening in mine. Carefully edited and embellished of course, nothing quite as bland as the truth. No one wants to know I creamed my feet at 9.30 pm, pulled on my socks, read the child a bedtime story and snored till the walls rattled.
I’m told new neuron networks get fired everytime I hear some “I must tell someone now or I will burst’ kind of news. I’m told I’m building social networks too at the same time. And talking on the phone brings something to an interaction that no amount of smsing, emailing or facebooking can ever bring, namely the sense of the person. Give me a choice between an afternoon on facebook, or an afternoon having a leisurely lunch with a couple of friends, and three guesses for what I would choose. The lunch not being an incentive. It is my evolutionary need that I am sating here.
Any reputations shredded here? No. I have a strict dictum. I only shred my own or celebrity reputations. Both of which no one can take any offence to.
As for the rest, I like the term storytelling. I am a storyteller. I tell stories that harm no one and entertain everyone. Dont grudge an old lady her daily brain workout, folks. Gotta keep those synapses in firing order.