On Gossip

Damon Runyon

My old man always contended that men were ten times greater gossips and tattletales than women. He said one big reason for this was that the men had more opportunities for gossiping than the women.

He said that the average married woman had to put in most of her time at home attending to her household duties and her children. She ordinarily had few social callers in the course of a working day and therefore no one to gossip with. That was before there was a telephone within anybody’s reach, of course.

He said that while it was true a good many single women were on the loose, the majority of them also usually worked most of the day in the house or in offices and stores, where they did not get much chance to do any considerable gossiping.

On the other hand, my old man said, look at the clubs and saloons where men were to be found gabbing at all hours of the day. He said he had noticed that a raft of the busiest of business and professional men always seemed to be able to find time to spend in chewing the rag in clubs and saloons, or over a luncheon table, and generally much of their conversation took the form of gossip about their fellow citizens.

He said he would bet he could go through any business building right there in our old home town of Pueblo in the middle of a business day and discover any number of men with their feet up on their desks in their private offices swapping gossip with some chance caller. He said few women with the cares of a household on their shoulders could knock off work in the middle of the day and sit down to a prolonged gabfest but he had noticed that many supposedly very busy men could always find leisure for a little gossip.

My old man said that for every pair of women you could find standing gabbing on street corners, he could show you twenty pairs of men doing the same thing. He said the ratio was about the same for hotel lobbies and the corridors of the post office and courthouse and city hall.

When it came to sitting on steps, my old man said it ran a hundred men to no women. He said he could not recall ever seeing a woman sitting on steps except perhaps in her own yard, while he could take you out almost any pleasant day and show you steps of public buildings fairly festooned with men gossiping like mad.

He said he never recalled seeing any women standing watching men at work, either, though that was a popular pastime with many men. He said they liked to accompany their watching with a little offhand gossiping, perhaps about the fellow who was having the work done. He said some of the watchers could generally recall something to the fellow’s discredit.

My old man said he had come to the conclusion that men were gabbier by nature than women, though through persistent propaganda across the years the men had pretty well established the women as the gabby and gossipy ones. He said since time began it had been a favorite trick of the men to make themselves out superior to women in every way. He said it always made him snicker when some fellow, that he knew had a tongue loose at both ends, spoke of women as gossipy.

He said as a matter of fact, nearly all gossip started with the men who picked it up downtown and carried it home to their wives and other members of their families who otherwise would never have heard it. He said just let every man who is honest with himself just sit down and figure how much gossip he had heard from his wife as compared to what he had taken home, and he would see the difference right away.

My old man said to tell the truth, he enjoyed a little gossiping himself now and then. He said he had never found himself in a gathering in a club or saloon or Pullman car or hotel lobby but what he soon heard his own tongue wagging gossipily with the best of them. He said he would hear his own voice telling rumors he had heard about someone, or dissecting characters or speculating on motives.

He said of course the best gossip was always that which presented the subject of gossip in an unenviable light. My old man said he had noticed that gossipers did not usually linger long on gossip that was favorable to the subject. He said in fact, he had found that among men gossips one got much more eager attention with gossip of a scandalous nature.

My old man said he had probably lost more sleep than any man alive through gossip. He said many a time he had been in gatherings that were gossiping about everybody they knew practically in alphabetical order. He said sometimes he would get pretty tired and sleepy and would have liked to have gone to bed but that long experience had taught him to stick around because he knew they would gossip about him as soon as he was out of earshot.

He said he always waited until only one man besides himself was left and then he would retire. He said, however, he had known men who were such inveterate gossips that even when they were the last man left they would go on gossiping to themselves.