Monday, January 14, 2008

COLUMN: Gossip

In Journalism 101, they teach you that the most important part of a newspaper story is the lead. You need to start off with a real bang -- something that'll lure the readers in and keep them glued to the story. Well, after a couple years of trying, I think I've finally come up with a lead worthy of your attention. Let's see if it works:

Word on the street is that I'm a sex addict.

Did it work? Are you hooked? Sadly, I couldn't even type that sentence without laughing -- but it's the truth. Well, kinda.

I work on the third floor up here at the newspaper office, and on our floor, the girls outnumber the guys by about 4 to 1. Not that I'm complaining, mind you -- there are worse fates than being surrounded by lovely ladies for 40 hours a week. But being in daily close quarters with the girl gaggle, I've discovered one stereotype that DOES ring true:

Ladies, you DO love to gossip. You're not happy unless no fewer than five juicy and/or salacious rumors are making their way around the office at any given time. I have a working theory, in fact, that gossip is what gives women their power. (Men, conversely, are powered by video games and ESPN.) If we could only harness the mighty energyof gossip, I'm certain we could cure global warming overnight.

In all fairness, I suppose I like a bit of gossip myself. I'm not immune from the lure of celebrity-skewering websites, and it's not as if I ignore those bawdy workplace rumors when they eventually reach my desk. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that the newspaper office would be a hotbed of she-gossip unseen since high school.

Did you hear? So-and-so is mad at So-and-so because of what So-and-so said about So-and-so behind their back! And so-and-so on and so-and-so forth, that's what I hear on almost a daily basis. But this past week, we've entered a new realm, because full-on scandal erupted! (Note: If that last sentence made you excited, congratulations -- you are a girl.)

It turns out that Co-worker X "secretly" went on a few dates with Co-worker Y. This, as you'd expect, is front page gossip. I could care less. For all I know, they're off making baby Co-worker Z's as I type. I dunno. I'm staying out of it.

All I know is that it's made me horribly jealous. Why do I have to be the mousy guy in the corner? Why can't I be the center of attention? Why can't somebody talk in hushed tones about MY exciting life? As I was laughing about this to my immediate desk neighbors, we began to get devious. One of my co-workers suggested planting a rumor that I, too, was secretly dating a colleague.

No, that'd never work. One query to my "lucky" bachelorette would likely be answered with a "Shane? Eww, no!" and that'd be that. I laughed and said it would need to be something juicier. No, if we wanted a proper scandal, it would have to be something like, I dunno, someone saw me at a support group for sex addicts or something.

How brilliant is that? It's completely tawdry, completely unprovable, and best of all, completely ludicrous. I mean, look at my picture. Is that the face of a sex addict? I have a difficult enough time TALKING to girls. Let's just say that if I AM a sex addict, I'm doing a really, really lousy job at it.

We laughed and I went back to work. What I didn't know, however, is that mere moments later, another co-worker was headed my way when she was cut off by my friend Jerri. "I wouldn't talk to Shane," Jerri whispered in hushed tones. "He's having a bad day. Haven't you heard?"

I honestly didn't even hear it happening, but Jerri spent the next few minutes giving an Oscar-worthy performance. She made up a whole story: I had confessed my addiction to only my closest co-workers after their prodding. I entered treatment only after the repeated pleas of my parents. [I liked this one a lot, only to imagine the look on my poor mother's face if I were to waltz in and announce that I was addicted to nookie.] I was in recovery and looking to make a fresh start at life. It was a magical and gifted performance.

"Well, that's that," Jerri said after the co-worker left the room. "Congrats, you're a sex addict."

We laughed, but I didn't think it would really go anywhere. Six hours later, I'm off the clock and gallavanting around town when I bump into one of my co-workers. I begin to tell her about my nefarious day when she stops me. "Oh, I've already heard allllll about it, Mr. Sex-aholic."

"Weren't you on vacation this week?" I ask.

"I got a call at home."

That's right. In less than a day, the gossip had made its way through the building and onwards to off-duty co-workers and lands beyond. Right now, someone in Uzbekistan is learning that I'm one tawdry dude.

So it stops now. I have taunted and disrespected the awesome power of the gossip machine for the last time. For the record, I am not a sex addict, and weird apologies to those of you who are. No more rumor-mongering for me. In case you hear something, I am also NOT the walrus, I did NOT shoot the sheriff, and I did NOT let the dogs out. Oh, and as for the hearsay about me & Britney? I issue a terse "no comment."

1 comment:

Emilene said...

I just had to leave a comment saying this is the funniest column I've read in a long time. It cracked me up. Well done. It's always fun to be the center of gossip, even if it's manufactured gossip. One question: do you have a cleft in your chin? If you do, you could pass as a sex addict. Apparently people with cleft chins are at higher risk for sexual addiction, according to some book I read a while ago. I think of that pretty much any time I see people with clefted chins now. It makes me giggle a little.