Gossip Goggles

April 11, 2013
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Few people have a chance in life to be a new face in a pre-established peer group. I'm experiencing it, and there are good and bad sides to blending in. On one side, it’s complicated to get deeply bonded with people who already have had their life-long friendships established for years; on the other side, I have a unique point of view regarding my friends in high school. I don't see the labels that were stuck to them since junior high or even before that, and I don't know anything about the "personal baggage" they accumulated throughout their adolescence. That's why I was very surprised when I innocently asked a couple of my junior friends if they knew other who juniors I have classes with. I was trying to find out if we had common friends, but ended up getting some unexpected opinions from them.

I know I can't expect to know people better than those who have been in school with them for years. Therefore, it would make sense to expect everything my friends said to be true – but it isn't. I might not thoroughly know my peer group yet, but I can already differentiate a well based opinion from pure gossip.

That's why what bothered me the most wasn't their ridiculous giggling when I asked about two of my best friends, or the fact that their definition of who is "cool" and who is not is totally different than what I think. No, what upset me was that most of the time, in particular regarding those two friends of mine, the opinion I got was solely based on what is by some considered "common sense." I prefer to call it silly gossip, or stupid prejudice (or "BS," if I could write that on a paper.)

I can't accept that hurtful or meaningless comments such as "they are weird," "he is creepy," or "those are the supercool people" can come out of the mouth of those who don't even know these people who they label so easily. The irony is that sure enough those people who place the labels also have labels placed upon them. I should have asked others about them, just to find out how high or low they are placed on the high school “coolness rank.” But again, those labels don't mean anything when we can have our own experience to give us an accurate insight about someone.

What I did instead was tell them right there how wrong they were, that it was ridiculous to have such childish definitions of people without knowing them. Unfortunately, I know that by doing it I’m more likely to get myself labeled the same way as those people who I tried to defend, but I don't care. After all, labels aren't more than pre-definitions used to categorize a group of people that otherwise would be too big for anyone to completely know. Labels make life easier: by following them we avoid the weird people and try to hang out with the cool group, resulting in a fulfilling and happy high school life, right?

Of course not, because no one is defined by what they appear to be, in particular those who try really hard to appear something that they aren't. The solution is to see through those "gossip goggles" and find out who is who – this time for real. And if someone says it is impossible to do once already in a group with lots of "baggage," I say it is simple. The next time someone asks if you know people who you never talked with, forget all those thoughts that come in your head, most of which you don't even know exactly where you got in first place, and just say: "I don't know them. Do you? Are they nice people?" Simple as that, and you will get to know much more about the people around you than any gossip at the lunch table would ever tell.

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