If you grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, you know who Gladys Kravitz is. She’s the character from “Bewitched” who is the neighborhood snoop and gossip, always lurking around Samantha Stephens’ window right at the moment when some witchcraft was about to be performed. When I was little I would think, “Oooooh, Gladys Kravitz is about to catch Samantha! I hope Samantha knows what to do!”
Samantha was beautiful, talented and kind, and I wanted to be just like her. Gladys was old and mean-spirited, and I vowed to never be like Gladys Kravitz.
Southern traditions of hospitality are very important to us here in the tiny red barn. By that I mean dignity, grace, equality and discretion. One of the true marks of a gracious hostess (and human being) is pretending not to know the gossip you have heard about someone while you are talking to that someone.
I’ve been around gossips all of my life. My grandmother was a world-class gossip, and she set the tone for her entire family when it came to interpreting the tiny bits of information she was able to acquire in her extremely rural surroundings. When I came of age, I surrounded myself with friends who gossiped. I engaged in gossip myself. It was fun. Information is power, and gossip gives you the illusion that you have power. But the problem with gossip is that information is the currency to gain more power, and you often have to betray the confidences of those closest to you in order to feed the beast. I once had to make the heartbreaking decision to end a longtime friendship because my friend wouldn’t keep the private details of my life private. So yes, I understand gossip and the pain it causes.
I am dismayed at this new abortion law that just went into effect in Texas. This is not a post about whether abortion is right or wrong, it’s a post about dignity and privacy.
According to The New York Times, “The Texas law deputizes private citizens to sue anyone who performs an abortion or ‘aids and abets’ a procedure. Plaintiffs who have no connection to the patient or the clinic may sue and recover legal fees, as well as $10,000 if they win.”
This law turns the most private and heartrending decision a woman ever has to make into a profit center for people willing to do the work of proving the law was violated. How many women are going to be dragged into the public square by the hair of their heads so that someone who was never harmed by her decision can pocket some money? How many Gladys Kravitzes will be lurking outside the windows of families in pain and mourning in order to prove their case and get rewarded? At what point can idle gossip wind up triggering a lawsuit? What if your friend uses the private details of your life as currency to pay the gossip beast and the people who helped you in a crisis wind up losing a crushing amount of money and their personal reputations? When do friends become profit centers? When does the craven need for personal gain warrant the destruction of other people’s lives?
If this law withstands court challengers, it will most likely spread to other Southern states, including my own. This is not a South that I want to live in. It’s dishonorable and unkind. It gives the Gladys Kravitzes of the world a temporary balm for the emptiness of their own hearts by causing pain in the lives of others at their most vulnerable moments. It rewards public shaming and unleashes our baser instincts.
But mostly, it’s just downright trashy.