Sunday, March 15, 2009

It's National Busybody's Day. Spill the Beans

I used to wonder how busybodies kept track of both their business and your business.  As for me, nine times out of ten I could care less about the gossip in your life.  (Sure, that last 1/10th of the case, tell, do tell!).  What I finally realized is that the busybody makes your business their business.  I mean, I suppose it becomes like any other hobby: you like it, you invest time in it, and you find out ways to get better at it.

What with Facebook, Gchat, Twitter, and other rapid, expansive sources of juicy information, I strongly believe that busybodiness is at an all-time high.

At one point in my life, I used to think it was hard to recognize busybodies.  No more.  Just start telling them something personal, and see how artfully they employ their pocket-size nutcrackers, crowbars, and wedges.  (Nutcrackers are well-timed sentences with question marks; crowbars are well-placed "Oh's"; wedges are well-worn encouraging comments.  When translated from busybody speak, these phrases mean, "Goodie-goodie: now for the morsel!")  If you can only see a blur, and you'd like to see the tool they're using on you, when you come to an interesting part in your account about the embarrassing moment on the bus when you realized your pants were inside-out, act as if you're so ashamed you just couldn't go on.  As you pause, look up and catch the expression on their face.  The suspense will be palpable for about three seconds, and then out will come the crowbar, the nutcracker, or the wedge, and you can see it in all its glory. 

Successful busybodies know how to create the semblance of a welcoming environment.  This is an environment where it's natural for you to spill the beans, tell the good part, open up, and all that stuff.  The successful busybody will never leave dead air between you, or sufficient time for you to ask the question "Should I be telling this person this?"  If you're "chatting" (they never call it "pumping") with a busybody and you start saying something juicy and catch yourself with "Should I...?" their answer will always be "Yes!"

Prepare yourself: the busybody has an almost limitless amount of patience if there's a prize at the bottom of the Cracker Jack.  You may be the worst storyteller in the world, but if your story ends with "...and that's why my great aunt's called Matilda the Hun..." they're going to hear you out.  But be aware that whatever you tell them is going to be distilled down, and passed on in draughts to whomever else finds this to be heady stuff.  If you really didn't want anyone to know that as a child you wanted to be a clown, don't go tell your closest busybody.

They're more interested than your mom in the ins and outs of your life, and give a willing and encouraging ear to your astericked sighs and your double exclamation points.  They're also uncannily good at remembering details of your life.  Better, often, than you are yourself!

Be very wary, however, of trying to get similar information out of them.  Of course, this varies by busybody, but some claim to have such uninteresting lives that there's nothing juicy they'd like to swap with you.  They just want your goodies: they don't want you to know their goodies!  (Though, to be fair, they may have such uninteresting lives that they want a slice of yours!)

As for me, I think my new hobby is going to be frustrating busybodies.  My first strategy will be to alternatively tell them true things they don't care about (you just wouldn't believe the price of papertowels in the stockroom!), and outlandish things that never happened (Hey, [name changed to protect the guility]!  Did I ever tell you about the time I dated three guys named Bill?).  This is going to be fun.

No comments: