I am always struck by the way some people value themselves not just against the quality of their friends but on the loyalty of those same friends when it comes to enemies. How many people do you know who expect you to regard someone they find distasteful or as an out and out enemy for no other reason than to display your loyalty to them? This despite you having no axe to grind yourself personally because you haven’t actually had any negative interaction with that particular person or persons or perhaps because you have forgiven some past transgression? This ability to influence others often goes beyond loyalty into the realms of their feelings of self worth. Sometimes rather than settling for a less stressful situation where they can content themselves with functional friends and simply ignore their perceived enemies for the sake of self harmony they instead turn it into something more desperate and needy along the lines of ‘if you are their friend you are no friend of mine.’ Worse still a passive aggressive: ‘You can still be friends with them but…’ also confirms it is no longer about your friendship and more about a subtle kind of bullying.
Living in a small village in a foreign land is a great leveller of people particularly when it comes to friendships. Prejudices and any affectations of societal class or things like intelligence or ideas about what does or doesn’t make someone interesting enough to be courted to become a member of your circle of friends are often turned on their heads. Although I confess that I sometimes find myself depending on the daily affection of a small furry animal – I am blessed with the ability to spend long periods of my life relatively alone. This fairly solitary life doesn’t suit everyone especially those who hate their own company. I have seen friends leave Turkey for that very reason. My other great benefit when it comes to living here is my reasonable grasp of the language, which opens up a whole new dimension of social interaction. Conversely I also have friends who have been here almost as long as I have but who still have almost zero grasp of the language beyond beer ordering type basic Turkish. But they seem happy enough with their small circle of friends, many of whom are just as comfortable living in a similar expat bubble. We all have our own needs and requirements built upon a foundations of our earlier life expectations, parental guidance and later life experiences, which is after all what shapes our character and makes each of us interesting as individuals.
In the microcosm of a small fishing village I have witnessed friendships blossom between people who would never normally speak or might even cross the road to avoid each other in another time and another place such as a town or city with a larger pool of people. That said I lived in London long enough to know quite a few lonely people who could never quite get the hang of making and retaining friends. In such rarefied circumstances out of our comfort zones unexpected friendships often flourish and thrive because we have little choice but to re-examine and abandon most of the things we thought were must have’s or ideals when seeking friendships. Of course there is also a negative that can thrive amongst any relatively small pool of people for quite different reasons if you let them… idle gossips.
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Science tells us that shared dislikes create stronger bonds than shared positives. This is why gossips seems to create a quicker and easier connection with fellow gossipers. But make no mistake, gossip doesn’t facilitate real or lasting connection with anyone. You, me, or anyone else that doesn’t know how to tame their inner critic, will inevitably be found out as untrustworthy. So the last person we’re going to feel safe trusting and sharing real life with is the public critic. Why? Because, though it may take a second, everyone eventually realizes that people that gossip, inevitably end up gossiping about you. There are also those unfortunate individuals we meet who can only really flourish on drama. We all know them: like the couple who always seem to be breaking up just so that they can feel an emotional buzz before they inevitably make up. Quite often these individuals have grown up in similar familial situation of extremes where sometimes one or even both parents would eventually become prone to domestic violence. I would never defend a spousal abuser but there is some evidence that such situations can sometimes trigger a sadomasochistic element that one or both parties get off on. In a similar way some people can’t help being gossips because of where they come from and the mayhem and drama they feed on is often the only way they can feel connected to others, particularly in a small relatively quiet village. So if there is not much going on it won’t be long before the gossip tries to create the drama that they need to survive.
An experienced gossip’s need for drama to feel this perverse connection will always find a way. Their poisonous tongue helps them luxuriate in the reaction or counter reaction their embellished observations or downright lies create. The saddest thing is that one of the other main drivers of a gossip is to be liked or wanted as the go-to source for information. So when there is nothing much happening or an unfounded suspicion enters their heads these self declared centres of ‘rumour control’ just can’t help themselves from spinning out yet another lie into the public domain. But the reality is, usually after the gossip is unmasked as such, once, twice, or a hundred times is that a lonely friendlessness is the inevitable price that most gossips must pay. This of course perpetuates it even more because when a gossip becomes ever more isolated they believe they must make their lies bigger and ever more elaborate in order to still be noticed and maintain that feeling of a connection.
In the end of course it’s about us and who we are. Just like we can only build our own circle of friends that suits us by resisting the direct or passive aggressive bullying of those overbearing friends who want to regulate who is and isn’t our friends; we must also deny the gossips amongst us the oxygen they need by refusing that all too human urge to feel connected by passing on any juicy snippet, which we suspect at best may be embellished or at worst could be a downright lie simply because of who told it to us.