Juicy gossip has always existed and always will as a reliable source of communication. It also has high social and economic value.
Gossip has the power to move information so quickly and effectively throughout whatever social village we belong to that most religions have injunctions against it. It’s in the fine print. We choose to gloss over it as we head to the office water cooler to pick up what we’ve come to appreciate is critical information.
This 411 dials us in directly information as to how we fit in to our circle. It can even guide our decisions even when it’s up against hard evidence available to us by other means.
Gossip connects us in our daily lives, but I see it as simply another way of sharing cultural stories, whether at work or at leisure. Rumor, hot news and stories of both victory and victimhood are not only interesting but also provide a way to virtually test out scenarios and to learn lessons.
Sometimes camouflaged behind a celebrity gossip magazine, it provides a safe and satisfying communication channel for all the good that gossip can yield.
Who among us has not stood so long in a grocery store line up that we haven’t leafed through such a publication, for free? It’s safe and satisfying. Exhale and care to risk a comment out loud, you’ll find that people will even gossip about gossip.
A variation of this valuable social ritual happened to me while at the checkout in a boutique grocer I like to call “Whole Mortgage.” A clerk motioned for me to come on down and take my turn at his checkout, I lamented my inability to easily separate a couple of in-store coupons while the clerk looked on.
Wordlessly, he handed me a pair of easy grip and long bladed scissors. Clearly, this has happened before.
“Thank you,” I said. “It appears that despite there being perforations, I don’t have the strength to pull them apart. I have tennis elbow and it’s terribly painful, and I don’t even play tennis.”
He said he’d pack my groceries while I manoeuvred the money-saving portion of my visit at his counter. I tried my hand at humor to entertain the troops of tired and hungry customers breathing in the single waiting line behind me.
Time ticked. I spoke again, as if about a friend, “Cher said aging sucks, and I guess I agree with her, but it’s not the looks that I care about. I can live with wrinkles. It’s my mobility and being able to do things that I would miss.”
Invoking a celebrity calmed the clerk. It piqued people’s interest as they leaned in.
“I’ve never had a customer here quote Cher,” he said.
“Really?” I added. “She’s great.” Smiling, I added, “She’s another lovely dark-haired woman.” I wasn’t sure if he had noticed the features Cher and I shared.
Bespectacled in a totally cool way, and gay (It’s OK, where I live I am the minority and well-tolerated in a decidedly and decadently gay residential pocket) he added, “I follow her on Twitter.” As if his entire being was dedicated to a higher cause of communication when not on duty ringing in dollars.
Ooh lala, counter top turned. Now HE was the celebrity on that spot. I was within fingers-on-forearm touching distance to someone who followed Cher’s words. “Oh, she’s been on there for quite a long time and she can be quite interesting, but” … his face twisted a bit as he communicated with concern about her typos and message mishaps.
“I dunno. It seems like she hasn’t exactly gotten the hang of how to be on there yet” he said. “She does have a lot of things she likes to type in her opinion about.”
My public relations DNA sensed it was appropriate to toss in a comment about Chas and how I liked her, now him, and how I heard a CBC Radio interview where he talked about his famous mom and her challenge in accepting his transition. Clerk nodded approvingly as he tucked my organic Lacinato Kale into a big paper bag. I blurted sincerely about how I envied his great relationship with his partner. We had gone from elbow pain to the human need for companionship through the channel of celebrity gossip.
Clerk of Communication Central cut me off. “Oh no, that’s over. Yes, it died just recently and I’m ashamed to say I know about it.” He cast his eyes down as if to signal an end note.
We resumed our respective roles of customer and cashier.
To end formally and positively, I footnoted our chat with academic research on how we contributed to the social good. I told him about gossip being a social value in Joseph Epstein’s book “Gossip.” Then I suggested a good movie I’d seen last week, “Teenage Paparazzo” by “Adrian… Oh… that gorgeous young man from ‘Entourage’ who plays a celebrity famous for being famous. Oh, I don’t have a TV so I’m a little rusty on newer celebrity names,” I trailed off apologetically.
“Next” Other clerks wailed, beckoning customers to step forward to them from that single line up.
The automatic door swung open and I pushed my cart, careful not to hurt my elbow as we rolled out into the cool West Coast night air.
Over communication about celebrity, the clerk and I negotiated a relationship in neutral territory. We shared personal issues, learned something new and safely revealed our feelings about our mutual interest.
Had I known I was going to drag Cher into my social interaction that night, I would have dressed with a bit more flair to communicate my admiration for her career and how she carries herself. No doubt she is not tweeting about clipping coupons for almond milk and protein bars.
End note: “Teenage Paparazzo” is an entertaining and high-value look into the history and current lives of paparazzi. It follows a 13-year-old professional paparazzo.