Let’s Give ’em Something to Talk About by
100
(171 Stories)

Prompted By Gossip

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The mid-1980s were a roller coaster for me, but at one point in 1984 things were looking up. My business started to take off, and John and I decided to move in together in a really nice condo in the Silicon Valley. Lee, a location photographer, began to work with me at one of my clients, and we had an enjoyable collaboration, with me doing newsletter writing and him capturing interesting images of people and their activities.

We didn't think too much of it; at least, I didn't think much of it until ...

Lee was about the same age as I, early 30s, with bright blue eyes and prematurely gray hair that looked really sexy on a young person. It was hard to believe he wasn’t in a relationship. We got along very well, and whenever we were in the same room, people smiled at us a lot. Our client was a small company with a lot of social activities, and they were generous in including both me and Lee in them. I made close friends with many in the company and enjoyed many confidences. There was gossip, mostly benign.

Back at home, life was headed downhill. After three months living together, John and I weren’t getting along–at all. We were doing so badly that we thought it had to be a fluke, and given our year lease on the condo, we decided to give it three more months. In the meantime, the assignments for my client increased, Lee and I worked together closely and often, and were having a wonderful time. We didn’t think too much of it; at least, I didn’t think much of it until the head of human resources, who had become a friend and confidante, took me aside one day and asked, “How are things going with Lee?”

“Kathy, what do you mean, how are things going with Lee? What things?”

“Oh, come on … everybody can see you and Lee are an item, and people are talking about it.”

“Well, there is chemistry,” I replied, “but nothing is happening. And anyway, Lee plans to move to New York within a year as the next step in his photography career.”

Kathy smiled. “Well, okay, if you want to keep it private, I understand, but everyone already knows. And we think it’s great.” I was stunned. What did everyone see? How did they come to that conclusion? What were people saying? I struggled with what to do and finally decided not to say anything to anyone, especially Lee.

The second three months of John’s and my cohabitation had passed, and home life was terrible, so we broke our lease and parted ways, surprisingly amicably. I think we both were tremendously relieved to be able to move on.

A short time after, Lee and I were in his apartment studio going over contact prints (this before digital photography) for a project. I finally got up the courage to tell Lee what the client people were saying about us. He was less surprised than I anticipated. “Well, maybe they are onto something,” he said, taking me in his arms and kissing me.  Ooh, la la … Let’s give ’em something to talk about, a la the Bonnie Raitt song.

While sparks flew between Lee and me in the short term, neither of us expected a long-term relationship to result, and he did move to New York at the beginning of the next year, while I stayed in the Silicon Valley. I worked with the client for many more years and smile to remember how perceptive they were, but also, if they gossiped, how they did it in a kind way, without malice.

Profile photo of Marian Marian
I have recently retired from a marketing and technical writing and editing career and am thoroughly enjoying writing for myself and others.


Characterizations: funny, moving, well written

Comments

  1. Suzy says:

    I love this story, Mare! The other people in your office could see it before you and Lee did, and it turned out they were right! Too bad he moved to New York, but at least you had some time together before he did.

    Re your title, I knew I had used that song, but when I went back to look, I found that my story was just called “Something to Talk About.” Maybe you knew that, but in any case, glad our titles were not the same.

  2. This turned out to be kind of a sweet story, which I was not expecting, given the prompt. One doesn’t equate gossip stories (at least I don’t) with mature adult behavior, but here that is what you exemplified. PS. I’m glad you were able to have some fun with your co-worker–after what must have been quite a painful situation on the home front–and without it undermining your career path.

    • Marian says:

      Yes, Dale, I was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. It helped that Lee and I were both contractors rather than employees, so the politics were a lot more benign than being standard office workers.

  3. Pity the word “gossip” has such a bad rap . . . good gossip can be kind of sweet, as was the case in this sweet story. Thanks, Mare!

  4. Marian, yes sometimes observers see something going on that the principals don’t!

    I remember R, a biz counterpart of my husband. We’d socialized with R and his wife on occasion.
    Then I accompanied my husband to a conference and saw R there without his wife – spouses can’t or don’t always attend so that was nothing strange.

    But then I noticed that over the several days of the conference R was constantly with a female colleague of his. Months later when we heard R and his wife had separated and R was romantically involved with that female colleague, I told my husband I wasn’t surprised.

    How did I know, he asked. I knew it from their body language.

  5. John Shutkin says:

    Just a lovely story, Marian, as others have well noted. And I agree with you; this wasn’t so much gossip on the part of others (or at least discreetly so), as much as careful observation of you and Lee and your interactions. And, not that gossip is always wrong, but here, whatever you want to call it, it was right — even if you hadn’t thought about it yourself.

    I once had a somewhat opposite experience at my old law firm, where I started to heard rumors that I was having an affair with one of the other lawyers. I knew her, but in the most casual way (this was a very large law firm), and we didn’t even work on the same cases. Plus, I was very much married. So I asked her about it and she was equally shocked, but then mentioned that she had just started to seriously date another lawyer in the firm. Wanting to keep that confidential, she had referred to him to her friends as “John,” rather than by his own, less common real name, without considering that someone might think I was the guy. She promised to clarify that, which she did, and I thanked her. I also suggested to her, with a kidding smile, that, had it been true, it would have been “a real feather in her cap.” She really liked my faux braggadocio.

    Back to your story, also thanks for now giving me a wonderful Bonnie Raitt earworm.

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Thanks for sharing an interesting perspective about gossip. It can be kind in the way you described. People saw your chemistry with Lee before you were able to acknowledge it. Interesting.

  7. What a sweet story, Marian! I think it would make a wonderful short film. People are at their sexiest in their 30s, I think, hopefully having had a bit of experience to give depth to still-youthful looks. Now I have to go listen to that Bonnie Raitt tune!

  8. Betsy Pfau says:

    Lovely story, Mare-as everyone has pointed out. You two just didn’t have the the distance to notice what was obvious to those around you could see. Good that you were contractors so didn’t have to abide by any code of conduct work rules and it all worked out so nicely, even if he did move away. I told my husband today that I thought (at some level) people peak in their 30s. Those were good years.

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    This sort of reminds me of an incident with my Mom back in 1986. I was in grad school, and my parents dropped by (it wasn’t a long drive) to take me to lunch. I was newly single thanks to my wife leaving me for one of her Professors*. As I was getting into the car, a tall and delectible new grad student named Gina approached, heading toward our lab building. As one does, I asked her if she wanted to join us for lunch. She said she had work to do that would not wait, and went inside.

    As we pulled away, my Mom turned around and said “David, that girl REALLY likes you!” I told he she was nuts; Gina was too young, was fending off better guys than me almost daily, and I’d been single maybe a week. Gina and I were just co-workers. Mom insisted that as a women she could read all the subtle signs that (she claimed) Gina was flashing.

    Well, about seven weeks later….

    *I was FAR from broken up by her departure. It was like having a brain tumor suddenly vanish….

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