Whip-Smart: Talkity Talk Talk Talk

Whip-Smart: Talkity Talk Talk Talk

This town and I don't get along
It's been that way from the start
I think it's time I broke her heart
Finest Hour, “Small Town Disease”

Recently I was talking to a new instant messenger friend from a neighboring town. We had both just recently graduated from university and had both moved back to our respective hometowns because we each had no idea what we wanted to do with all the years of education we had recently finished, me with my English major from UW-River Falls and he with his double major in psychology and neural science from a substantially more elite East Coast college. That evening we found ourselves doing what a lot of people who leave and then come back to their hometowns end up doing, namely talking about all the people we had left behind and were now socializing with again.

“I don’t know a lot of people that went to your high school,” he wrote to me. “Well my friend did date a guy I think from there. Super attractive, really, really, really hot.”

There was a pause.

“Oh,” he added, “he also has one ball.”

“I know who you are talking about,” I said, a little ashamed I remembered that bit of a gossip about a popular guy from my graduating class but couldn’t remember half the books I read in college. “He’s nice.”

“See I thought he was kind of a dick,” he typed back to me.

“Well the pretty ones can be,” I replied. “Pretty and mean, pretty and dumb, pretty and some derogatory term. God rarely gives out two positives.”

“But you can’t fault the pretty,” my acquaintance retorted.

“At least he has that,” I said.

“And the one ball.”

Don’t let all the degrees and prestige and general academic hoopla fool you. At their core, colleges are glorified small towns. Like any good small town, the inhabitants are bonded together through neighborly relations, none as important and frequent as gossip. Through all the haze of keg parties and stress of research papers and the cramming for finals, gossip formed a integral part of the social atmosphere for me as an undergraduate at UW-River Falls. With the benefit of the internet, you could trade details about who was doing what to whom over virtual picket fences and delight in the misfortunes of others. Was it totally immature and adolescent? Most definitely. But like Pop Rocks and Disney Channel movies, it was the glib immaturity of it all that made it so tantalizing.

When I left “Rumor Falls” in December and moved back to La Crosse, I had assumed that this gossip stuff would fall by the wayside like my six nights a week barhopping or my reading of anything that even had a hint of subtext, but alas I found myself reading Ernest Hemingway still and giving way to gossip. Except this gossip was gossip with a purpose, namely that snoopiness that comes out of a neurotic need to find all the information about a potential match.

“He’s an asshole,” Mark wrote to me in reference to his former flame Denton the bartender. “You know he fucked my ex-boyfriend while I was dating him.”

Okay, I’m fully aware that information gleaned from an ex-boyfriend is fraught with more not-so-hidden agendas than a talk show on Fox News but like people who watch Bill O’ Reilly, I was not looking fair and balanced news. I wanted some skewed information.

“And he hates women because he says that they are too emotional,” Mark said.

Before Mark could tell me that Denton kicked dogs or slapped nuns or popped his collars, I interjected and said, “He’s hung though isn’t he?”

“He’s hung but doesn’t know how to use it.”

“That’s a waste of a natural resource,” I said to Ridley the Rugby Player the next day, recounting my tale of Denton because developmentally I’m clearly a junior high mean girl.

“I can’t believe he hates women,” Ridley replied. “What gay guy hates women. That’s unnatural.”

“This is the same guy who invites me over for sex one evening and then a few weeks later says he was never attracted to me,” I answered. “And then he preceeds to bitch about how nobody is interested in him. He actually asked where my empthay was for him. I told him I was fresh out of empathy but had tons of bitter witticism.”

“Awesome,” Ridley replied.

“I seriously have bad taste in men,” I sighed. “Like Pam Anderson bad taste in men. I should’ve never got interested in somebody who is into philosophy. I mean, years of education just to be able to ask, ‘Why?’ about every fucking thing. That just screams project.”

That weekend, I decided to laze around as usual and dive into a marathon of Grey’s Anatomy. Mid-way through my marathon on my laptop, I struck up a conversation with the man who is the McNightmare to my Meredith: The Scot.

“Are you going out this weekend?” I asked him, pausing Meredith and Derek in one of their ten thousand scenes in the elevator of the lust.

“Thinking about it,” he replied. “Why don’t you call that guy, the 28-year-old?”

I had to give The Russian credit in his ability to make the simple act of saying somebody’s name the height of bitchiness.

“I’m sure he is out at the bars,” I said.

I thought back to a few months ago when the Russian had been propositioned for sex by Denton and then a few weeks ago when I had brought it up in the heat of conversation.

“Maybe you should go to the bars and get drunk and maybe the Russian won’t turn you down this time,” I said with the proper amount of indignant hissiness.

My mind quickly snapped back to the present.

“I hate this town,” I sighed to myself.

“I hate the internet,” Denton said to me a few days later.

In between grading papers at the university for his numerous classes and spending time bartending/hopping, Denton had apparently taken up looking up what people were saying about him and where better than one of those rate your professor websites. A bad review from one of the two people who had posted had gotten his newsboy cap all in a twist.

“He says that my class is super easy but I’m a bad teacher,” Denton bemoaned. “If my class is easy, doesn’t it mean I’m doing well at teaching? I always thought that I would be one of those lauded teachers. I guess that’s not going to happen.”

“One person gives you a bad review on a class you’ve never taught before and you’re dooming yourself to teacher hell,” I pointed out. “You’ve just started. Some people start off shaky and really do well as they refine themselves. Perfection can’t happen overnight, I don’t care what the cosmetic industry tries to say.”

“When did you become such an expert?” Denton testily asked.

“I’ve grown up in the university system,” I explained. “I’ve heard all those whispers of self-doubt and bitchy students commenting on stuff.”

The conversation cooled until I mentioned I was just finishing an Edith Wharton novel all about scandal and intrigue among the insular world of the rich in New York City.

“You know,” Denton said, “you can tell so much about a person by what they read. You’re romantic and overwrought. I’m intellectual and spare.”

“I’m overwrought because I like Wharton and Jane Austen?” I asked. “Is this because you hate women that you hate female authors? You always harp on it and your ex-boyfriend said that you do detest women for their emotionality.”

“You must find me awfully transparent,” Denton remarked.

As I sat there, giving way to every overwrought feeling in my hopeless romantic body, I slowly realized that in Denton’s small little world of teaching and drinking and slutting I could never find a home for myself that wouldn’t be an emotional slum. I had had this feeling before but this time with this man, I knew that it was time to move on a lot sooner.

“You know,” I said, “I find you to be a man who likes to be an asshole to people because if someone dislikes you, you’ll have that as a fallback. In that way, you’re not that different from the Russian in my eyes.”

So, admittedly, maybe this had less to do about gossip and more about my bad judgments when it comes to guys I like. In the small town of homosexuality, I was still setting my sights on brokedown fixer-uppers. Yet, like in every town, big or small, there is that great neighborhood where even the air smells just a little better. Even though, at the moment, I was in the dating equivalent of the projects, I know that eventually I’ll find my guy, that deluxe apartment in the sky if you will, that will make me the hottest topic of gossip this side of Brangelina vs. Vaughniston.

Okay maybe not that hot. I mean, I do value my privacy.

“You’d be so proud of me. I had a threeway!”
“Didn’t you feel like a rotisserie chicken during it?”

“He touched my boobs so I hit him in the balls.”

“Of course my parents didn’t take me to San Fransisco. They would’ve never seen me again.”

“He gave me a sip of his drink.”
“At this point, who hasn’t taken a metaphorical sip of his drink?”

“Who wants to bet on when birthday girl will swallow her own tongue?”

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