Moral Of The Story: Don’t Gossip About Your Neighbors

, , , , | Related | June 17, 2018

(From the time I am five until I am about eight, my parents and I live in an apartment in a gigantic Soviet apartment block that has a large common courtyard and playground for kids to play in or just hang out. I have a bunch of friends that live all over the block; we’d play with whoever happened to be at the playground when our parents allowed us out. My mom usually lets me go there for half an hour to an hour per day at most, so I am only casually acquainted with most of these kids. One day at home, my parents somehow get on the topic of my friends, and my mom decides to talk with my dad about one of the girls I sometimes play with. I am very obviously sitting right there, only a few feet away, listening and looking at them, and they make no sign that I shouldn’t be listening.)

Mom: “[Girl] is so bad-mannered. She is rude, and she clearly learned it from her family: they’re all rude and uncouth. She is always dressed terribly, too, like a gross and dirty street urchin. Her entire family is so poor; they can’t even dress their daughter in clean clothes, and what she wears is dirty, torn, and often unbuttoned and just falling off. They’re so low-class, and I’m pretty sure they’re drunkards, too, and have other problems, if you know what I mean. Oh, and [Girl] is so incredibly stupid, too; my God, she’s just such a dumb girl. Can you believe it, [Dad]?”

Dad: “Uh, huh. Yeah, I guess she’s one of the poorer-looking children in the yard. She certainly doesn’t seem well-looked-after.”

(My mom continues ranting at dad about this extensively for several more minutes. Dad doesn’t seem to me to be that interested in the topic, but we both know that trying to quiet mom in any way, ever, will just not end well, so he lets her rant as she wishes. I am sad to hear this, and being only about six and unsure what else I can do, the next time when I meet up with the girl in the playground, I take her off to a corner and quietly tell her that my parents don’t like her and mention a few of the things my mom said. I’m not sure what my thinking process was exactly, except I somehow thought this would be helpful to her to find out. The girl looks pretty disheartened to hear about this, but doesn’t say much in response except a vague, “Oh. Okay.” Then she goes off somewhere. About half an hour to an hour later, my mom calls me over to the other side of the street from the playground. My dad is also standing there, and they’re both looking angry and giving me accusing looks.)

Mom: “Did you actually tell [Girl] what we said about her at home?”

Me: “Um, well, yes, I did tell her some things you said.”

Mom: “Dear God. How could you do that? How could you be so utterly stupid? It was obviously meant to be a secret! Her parents just spoke to us about it; they’re very upset with us! This is so embarrassing! I’m so upset with you, [My Name]! Why do you behave like such an absolute, gigantic idiot? You’re obviously not ever supposed to tell anyone what we talk about at home!”

(She ranted on and on in this vein, upbraiding me for being terribly stupid and revealing a secret that made them look bad, before she finally towed me home. Dad didn’t say much, but clearly agreed with her. I was very upset and confused, thinking I’d done something completely awful and was the cause of my friend and her family being offended. However, later it did occur to me that it was in no way “OBVIOUS” to me, a child, that my parents, two adults of sound mind, intended for what they said to be kept secret, since they never in any way whatsoever told me that, not about this stuff and not even about anything they ever said at home previously, either. This was definitely not one of the lessons that was ever taught on any children’s TV show I’d seen, or in any children’s book.)

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