Monday, April 29, 2013

I Think It's In The Intent

I grew up in a very, VERY small town--a place many people consider idyllic, but a place I visit as little as possible.  In some ways, it's very interesting to be from there, because even people you barely knew up there are still people you know to speak to.  Last week I ran into a couple from up there whom I hadn't seen in at least 20 years and would never have known well, but that sort of thing doesn't matter.  You have a common bond and we still knew each other.  That part is nice.

But the part I could never stand was the gossip.  Not much happens around there, so talking about what happens in other peoples' lives is a main topic of conversation.  I don't think I'm a terribly private person, but I was still furious when I found out my mother was sharing details of my dating life with the town in general.  They weren't even people I knew extremely well--but it was NEWS.  That people may wish to choose for themselves who knows details of their lives is not a consideration in a small town.  Forget HIPAA--If you don't want the entire town to know your medical records, you pretty much just have to keep them to yourself.  When I was in junior high, my mother had a hysterectomy, and my sister and I were forbidden to even mention to anyone what type of surgery it was.  Which made sense, as I assume she wanted some privacy and if you told one person, you pretty much told the entire town.

Recently a friend and her family were going through a very rough time, and things were not looking good.  I wanted to let people know, but still respect their privacy.  I know my father's illness has been a general topic of conversation in the area for months, but it was unusual and it ended well, so that's okay.  Their battle wasn't going to end well, and I could so closely identify with what they were going through that I wanted to protect them from being part of the gossip mill.  I let people know who would (I thought) visit, send a card, call, or in some way be there for the family.  But if people weren't actually going to do anything, then I didn't tell them.  A family's pain is not a news item.  All my adult life I have loathed gossip, and have always made little rules for myself about information to be shared.  If it was happy news that wasn't private--fine.  If it was positive about the person--fine.  If it was bad news but the other person would likely do something for the subject (such as a card or visit), fine.  But if it was just "news," then no.  I think the difference--in this as in most things--truly lies in the intent. 


bittenbyknittin said...

I went to college in a small town and many of my classmates grew up there. It's a lovely town BUT everyone knows everyone else's business. I am still friends with some of those people but I don't tell them anything that I don't want the whole world to know (sort of like my blog). The city I live in is not very big but I feel much more anonymous here, and that is how I like it.

LoriU said...

Having grown up in the same small town, I feel the same way. And I think you're right... it's the intent. Your kindness, support, and understanding are undoubtedly appreciated.

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