I went out to dinner about two weeks ago with a close friend. Somewhere in the midst of talking about our busy schedules and how we’re liking the UO, we realized we had a mutual friend in common that I’d been seeing. It didn’t work out between us, this guy and I, but the point is that once we started talking about him, we couldn’t stop gossiping about people we went to high school with. Part of me enjoyed the gossip, what girl doesn’t? However, when we had finished our dinner and had gotten back to my place, I pulled out the yearbooks and was swept away with how easy it is to judge and critique those you don’t know… simply for conversation. Now, I don’t feel like I was a big gossiper in high school – I was too quiet to begin with – but the fact that I felt so bad after engaging in it proves it’s not for me.
Sure it’s nice when you are still friends with the people you endured high school with and can talk about how people have changed, but I couldn’t help but wonder: where is the line drawn?
For me it was clear when my friend pointed at the picture of a girl and said, “She was such a bitch.. now she’s just a ho.” At first I laughed because the way she said it, so matter-of-factly and randomly, was just hilarious. When she left to go back home, I thought about her comment.
What gives us the right to talk that way about people we’ve only known for five minutes? I’m all for first impressions, but 5 minutes is not enough time to get an idea of who a person really is. It’s almost surprising how easy it is to slip into the pattern of judging someone and making up your mind about them without ever saying a word to them. But this can go both ways. In order to have your opinion about someone, you do need to judge them to some degree.
And I caught myself doing it again this morning: judging. The buses to class had to sit in traffic for a pretty lengthy amount of time, and in doing so, I was late for class. I came in as quietly as I could and found a seat in the back. There was some girl with her laptop open who refused to scoot over so I could sit down comfortably, and I don’t know what it was, but my mind instantly flashed the word ‘Bitch.’
I immediately realized what I’d just done and spent the rest of class, to my expense, thinking about it and wondering, What if I had become friends with this girl? Then I would’ve felt bad starting off our friendship as nothing more than harsh judgment. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Maybe the way I was perceiving her signals wasn’t the way she intended them to be.
Whatever it was – and I’ll never know because I did not in fact start talking to that girl – what I need to remember is that everyone has a story; a reason for why they are the way that they are. Everyone has bad days, so why add to the pile?