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  • Writer's picturePat Birnie

Back in Canada; The Hazards of Hearsay

Well, here we are back home after our longest time away - 3 months! We had a long but smooth day of travel, came home to a broken water heater (meaning 60 hours between hot showers!) lots of laundry, a big grocery shop and finally feeling life is back to normal. I am happy to be home but finding it a challenge to get back into my routine. I was also weirdly annoyed at the fact that the temperature was barely above zero this morning. Come on - it's April! Oh well...on we go; let's try to come up with a blog post!

One of the podcasts I listened to last week, discussed rumours. The episode caught my attention because of the title "I Heard You Slept With Jann Arden (and Other Rumours)". I am a huge fan of Arden and love that on top of being a talented singer/songwriter she is hilarious. They talk about the rumour that one of Jann's closest friends is her romantic partner. It is untrue and the conversation had me laugh/crying. (This podcast, Unmentionables is light and very funny, but the title should warn you - It may be a little shocking and no topics are off-limits).

Based on some recent experiences, this really got me thinking about the risk of repeating hearsay -- if you don't get it from the real source, it's probably not correct. Spending the past three months with a bunch of seniors in sunny Mexico there were a lot of juicy stories traveling around. Perhaps the fact that many of our new friends are hard of hearing further distorts the truth, but I think this is pretty common. There is usually a grain or element of truth which has gone off the rails and becomes like a game of broken telephone.

Here's one story: We were out with a group for dinner at a popular restaurant for food, music and dancing. One of our group let us know that the owner was dealing with cancer. We were of course, sorry to hear that and concerned for him. In fact he stopped by the table to check in, and after he left, we all sadly commented on how bad he looked. Later in the evening my husband, who talks to this fellow regularly told him quietly what he'd heard and said he was sorry. The incredulous response: "I don't have cancer! Please tell everyone to stop spreading that rumour!" Which we did in fact do:) . Where the heck did this rumour originate?!

I have tried for many years (look, I'm far from perfect, so still trying!) to follow a policy of not repeating anything negative about someone else. I guess that's called gossip and it can be very hurtful. I learned my lesson over 40 years ago when I heard a juicy story about an affair, I repeated it and it came right back to bite me in the butt. As this nasty rumour circulated at a party one of the "victims" asked who they heard it from and I was pointed out. I was ashamed and embarrassed, with that feeling sticking with me decades later. Just think - Hearsay, as they call it, is not admissible in court. It is just not reliable.

This pastime definitely is more of a hazard in our teen years and can be very hurtful. But ask yourself -- how often have you heard a story (negative) about a neighbour or acquaintance and allowed it to colour your opinion of that person? It's so easy to do - for some reason we love to share the "juicy" stuff? I did find this interesting article about how much time is spent "gossiping" each day (I suspect in a workplace) and the good news that it's not always negative.

There was another incident among our Mexico friends where the distorted stories going around were so far off that it was almost funny. When I finally heard the truth (as I was genuinely interested, it was about a medical event) I could not believe the crazy rumours and misinformation traveling about the community. Honestly, it was never hurtful, just confusing. It just made me shake my head and reinforced my goal not to repeat any stories (not matter how juicy!) unless I heard it from the source.

On the lighter side, some rumours can be very funny -- like this one: "When I was in high school there was a rumor going around that my best friend was pregnant... for 2 years." (2 years?? really - those kids weren't paying attention in biology class were they?)

What ever you call it -- scuttlebut, spill the tea, being a busybody, the dirt, the dish or the buzz -- just remember that if you didn't hear it from the source there may or may not be a grain of truth, and there likely will be a grain or more of untruth. Remember what mom used to say: "If you can't say someone good about someone, don't say anything at all!"

Pat xo

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I'm giggling at the rumor mill stories. Maybe your high school friend was pregnant TWICE in that time?

I'll have to look up the podcast you mentioned because I do enjoy laughing.

Sorry about the hot water heater---what a bummer, but I bet it's better than if it had emptied into your home and flooded. Right? Tell me that didn't happen.

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