I’ve been reading Knit to Kill, a mystery featuring the Black Sheep Knitting Club. They’re at a resort in Maine, having a decorous bachelorette weekend for one of their number. While enjoying the natural beauty and the luxurious setting, they solve a murder by way of gossip.
It’s a lot more plausible than the books in which a knitting club ends up rushing all over town breaking and entering and investigating things till the miscreants decide to kill the knitters as well. Indeed, the sleuthing by gossip method was the one chosen by the original knitting sleuths like Miss Marple and Miss Silver.
Gossip is unquestionably a sin, though the well-intentioned knitting sleuths are not the slanderers and malicious tongue waggers the Bible warns us about. Or maybe they are in their free time.
But #1 daughter encountered the issue in real life as she brought the Baby down to visit me. She was also transporting the matriarch of a gossipy family we know.
I call them a gossipy family because I’ve spent enough time with them to know that as soon as a family member leaves the room, the conversation turns to that person.
I don’t care to think about what they say when I leave the room, but I know it’s something. That’s their pattern.
So the matriarch was trying to make conversation with #1 daughter during the drive to my house. Trouble was, everything she said was gossip. A tidbit about one of the grown sons in the family. A snide comment about her son in law. An update on one of the grandchildren’s romantic adventures.
#1 daughter didn’t run with any of these topics, obviously. She was brought up to greet this kind of thing with a damping “Hmmm,” a change of topic, or, in extreme cases, “I’ve never heard him say anything negative about you.”
But as the drive went on, #1 daughter realized that the matriarch had no other topics of conversation.
#1 daughter told me this not as gossip — as mentioned, I already know that this is a gossipy family from my own experience. She was instead offering a compassionate explanation of why this lady gossips.
I shared, at this point, that I’ve enjoyed hearing about the matriarch’s early life. When she starts telling me stories about other people, I gently shift the focus to stories about her.
#1 daughter agreed, though she assures me that she has already heard all those stories.
Her point, though, was that this lady actually has no other subjects she can speak about comfortably. She doesn’t read or follow the news of the day, and she’s not interested in discussing ideas. She doesn’t have hobbies that she can discuss with #1 daughter, though I’ve talked with her about needlework and canning. She doesn’t watch movies or play games.
Her life is focused entirely on her friends and family, and that’s nice. But it leaves her with nothing to talk about. Once she has shared a funny story or a little gentle bragging, there’s nothing left but gossip.
The Baby and I had a pleasant evening, though she was fussy and yelled a lot. I don’t think this is gossip, by the way. She’s a baby. She yells. No confidences there.
No murders, either.
I intend to spend the weekend reading about murders and knitting holiday gifts. No gossip for me.