Small towns gossip, but shhhh! we don’t Talk about that

I was reading an article recently that was written by a woman that grew up in this small town, moved away for school and then moved back. She was waxing poetic about the people in the community and how they were the reasons to come “home”. There was this strong connection and love for your family and childhood friends that lived there that was so important. Being a part of the small community was the best because they were united and always had your back…

*record scratch*

… um, didn’t I just listen to you trash your best friend and her family over lunch? And weren’t you the one also telling me those nasty stories about your boss and how much the town disliked her and her family?

Where exactly is the love and connection and support there?

I’m not feeling it.

You see, that’s what no one ever talks about. There are many small town folks that thrive on malicious gossip about each other. It’s just what they do and they see nothing wrong with the harmful and untrue lies they spread about their friends and neighbors. It’s a way of living they grew up with, like Snuffy Smith’s wife, Louisa, over the backyard fence chewing the fat with their neighbor. It’s how the “news” was shared long before there were newspapers, televisions and community forums, except this would be the news whispered behind your back.  

Even though they all talk about each other, it never seems to affect the way they interact. I don’t know if it’s just ignorance that tawdry rumors are being shared, or maybe they don’t know what’s being said, though I can’t imagine they wouldn’t know. It didn’t take me that long to hear the rumors being spread around about me, mainly because the person I was hanging around with at the time truly relished and lived her entire waking life gossiping about people. She gossiped at work and she gossiped at home. She loved it!

So how does everyone continue to walk around like everything is fine, when it seems like the whole town has turned against you?

I keep thinking of the Eleanor Roosevelt saying:

“Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.”

She also said this:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

No one ever talks about this affliction with small towns. Everyone wants to believe the hype that it’s so idyllic when the reality is that if you don’t know the right people or wear the same clothes or do the same things as almost everyone else, you’re going to be the subject of their most salacious conversations where they rip you to total shreds simply because you’re different, you’re not a native or you scare them.

I honestly don’t think the location or the town has anything to do with the horrific whispers anymore. I think it’s some of the people and how they choose to make themselves feel better about who they are, their own insecurities and lack of mature and well rounded growth. I have never met snottier people than I have here. People that have less education, are in debt up to their eyeballs and have never traveled farther than the Virginia border, but they will look down their nose at others and act like those people belong in a leper colony and not here on their tiny slice of paradise. I usually walk away blinking my eyes several times in order to clear away the fog they produce from their cold shoulder shunning and prejudices.

That’s not to say that everyone I meet has been akin to a monster, because I actually know some great folks that live here. I often wonder how they maintain this tenacious grip, upholding decency and decorum above all else, when gossip and intrigue are the preferred poison of many of their friends here. How do they remain completely unscathed and beautiful while others are beaten down because they can’t resist hearing the latest scuttlebutt and then get bruised and bloodied because they simply don’t have the spine to pick a side? Hey! That’s what you get for being two-faced!

I do not have a small town attitude. I’m not interested in speaking badly about my neighbor. I’m more interested in lifting her up. My neighbor happens to be mighty awesome all on her own, just so you know.

My arms have always been opened wide and receiving with love and understanding, but that’s all changing for me now. It’s kind of sad for me to feel this way, but in order to protect myself from being just as damaged as some of the folks I run into, I’m going to have to toughen up a bit. I guess that’s where making personal boundaries and sticking to them will be a blessing in disguise.

I am going to open this can of worms today. I’ll be that person that talks about the thing that no one ever wants to talk about and hopefully the people that need to hear it most, will be listening and by that I mean, people suffering at the hands of the town gossip.

Don’t think for a minute that the circle surrounding the gossiper is safe from being maligned, because they’re not. In fact, they are more susceptible to being the target than an outsider would be, simply because of their close proximity. I tell people all the time not to feel so special because the minute they walk out the door, they become the person that’s being talked about. So getting on their “good side” is an urban myth and I’m here to finally tell you that a person like this does not have a “good side” to get on.

I’ve lived here for eight years and I can still recall the joy and elation I felt crossing that bridge to come back here after living so far away in Texas for so many years. I had been riding in a cellular dead zone for the last hour and right in the middle of that mile long bridge, that was the first of many bridges to cross on my way to those outer lying islands, I received a text message from my husband who was here waiting for me to arrive, “Welcome Home!” it read and I remember shedding a few tears of happiness because I felt like I really was coming home.

That feeling quickly came to a halt when I started hearing the gossip about me that was being shared, some of it by my own “family”, most of it was just mean and hateful and all of it was untrue. So how would you continue to make a home for yourself in a small town that gets off on trying to make you feel miserable?

  1. Learn how to change the subject. If someone is sharing a story about being hurt by others, I’m going to listen, but if someone is just sharing gossip that’s meant to be hurtful, I’m going to change the subject to talk about something else, not someone else.
  2. Stop judging yourself based on what others are gossiping about. You know who you are and that should give you the strength to rise above their petty bullshit. If you are doubting yourself or feeling anxiety about what’s happening, find a good counselor and settle in for some healthy and revealing chats about yourself.
  3. Confronting the gossiper is sometimes a good idea, but make no mistakes here. A gossiper is a bully and bullies are fearful people that do not do well when confronted. They tend to wait until you walk away again and then they strike out with even more vengeance. Pick your battles wisely and know who you’re approaching by watching how others have handled them. If for some reason you make this mistake, prepare yourself for the smear campaign they will surely wage.
  4. Never be afraid to be in the presence of the Town Crier. You’ll quickly realize they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Gossipers operate from a place of fear.
  5. When you realize the person you’re friendly with is nothing more than a malicious gossip, walk away quietly. You will avoid years of drama if you just keep your distance from this person. No matter how much fun you think they are now, they will soon be your worst nightmare.
  6. Don’t make assumptions about anyone based on someone else’s gossip you might have listened to. A gossiper’s intentions are never good.
  7. Don’t gossip.
  8. Do show respect for the folks that have lived here their whole lives, even if they don’t show any respect for you or anyone else. Respect can also be shown by keeping your distance and being cordial when it’s required.
  9. Don’t keep secrets. You can maintain your privacy, but secrets are never a good thing to nurture. You are only as sick as the secrets you keep so if someone asks you to keep their secrets, suggest they tell a counselor or their clergy instead of you. That keeps you completely out of harm’s way.
  10. Don’t go looking for acceptance. I have always been a very generous person with my time, my spirit and love of life and also with whatever I might own that someone else could benefit from having. I do not give out anything that has strings attached or expectations and I certainly am not looking for acceptance. I give because it makes me feel good. If you are giving in hopes that your friends will like you better, then do yourself a huge favor and find better friends than this. Friends don’t care if you can give them anything, they love and accept you because you’re you.
  11. Don’t listen to gossip. Someone was telling me gossip about me once and when I changed the subject because I didn’t want to hear it she  said, “Well, I’m sure people come up to you and say nasty stuff about me all the time.” I told her that they did not and if they did I would tell them I didn’t want to hear it. She was a bit shocked. I’m not friends with her anymore.

The best way to survive life in a small town is perhaps to not live in one, but if you find yourself here on purpose, then enjoy the trappings that come with life on a sandbar. Learn to enjoy your surroundings and take part in activities and events that serve your soul and your heart, rather than those that serve to annoy. The good folks will eventually come out of the woodwork when they realize your vibration is a good one. Just keep living your life in those good and lovely ways that have always served you well and life in a small town can be easy street if you let it be.

This is Madeline Laughs and I think I’m going for a nice walk on the beach to soak up some sun and search for a few nice shells. I’ll see you for another beautiful sunset later this afternoon.



About Madeline Scribes

A writer with a sense of humor. If anyone can laugh at life, it's me.
This entry was posted in All kinds of Advice, Personal Boundaries Primer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to Small towns gossip, but shhhh! we don’t Talk about that

  1. So relatable.. We moved to a small town from Toronto, so as you might imagine all of that was this introvert’s first lesson in small town life. One of the drawbacks of country living is that a city person will never be accepted by locals. However, from a life lesson perspective it’s really taught me to keep doing my own thing no matter what, ignore the haters, and that the right people do come into your life. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As I was reading this, I couldn’t help but apply the idea of “small town” gossip to the microcosms created in social media, in particular the MUTUAL friends list we share with others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed passive-aggressive gossiping amongst mutual friends I share with a handful of folks. To know and keep up with the business of others seems like it requires a lot of energy, and I’m just too lazy to bother. Hehe! I’m the type who hears gossip not realizing I heard gossip. But it doesn’t matter, because if it’s gossip or not, I forget the details of the lives of others within minutes of hearing about them. It’s not that I’m disinterested; I just need to focus on my own issues and don’t have unlimited reserves of energy to focus on others’ lives. Gossips must be amazing multitaskers, huh? 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. anne leueen says:

    Great post. I am not a small town person but in the horse world it is similar to a small village or small town. I recently confronted a gossip . It did me a world of good. She may snipe at me behind my back but the people I respect see her as the gossip and malcontent that she is. Onwards and upwards.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ve never cared about gossip, even when I moved to this town as a kid I never cared what people said. I guess it’s part of the reason I can live without other people being too close. If they want to gossip and spread crap that’s their problem, I can’t change it and wont bother trying, but I also wont let it get to me. If others want to believe gossip again that’s their problem, I can’t change it so I don’t get upset by it. Let them talk if their own lives are so boring they have to spend their time talking about others.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a great way to be, unfortunately many of us would love for people to find something else to talk about. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I’d be happy for people to find something else to do as well, but I refuse to lose sleep over the fact that they wont.

        Problem is too many people think gossip is as much a part of life as breathing and you’ll never change it so it’s easier to ignore it. Things disappear quicker when ignored than they do when made a point off. Add to that the person who is making the gossip often just wants attention, ignoring it and not letting it get to you is far better than trying to stop it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. mumsthewordblog1 says:

    Its not only small towns, it can be courts, or streets that we live in, the school pick up, the footy club and so on …… 😃🐻

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Ell Cee says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! It has become so bad in my small town that I cancelled my gym membership and started working out at home. I’ve come to realize that mean girls grow up but they don’t change. Even the principal at my sons school gossips about me to other parents and I’ve done so much for the school. I understand that women can be insecure because I have insecurities too but I can’t imagine hurting others to make myself feel better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s such self defeating and trifling behavior, but it’s not something any of us that won’t participate in can change ab out these people. It’s the only way they know how to be and much of that comes from never having gone far from home their whole lives.

      All we can do is become more and more selective about who we invest our time in. Luckily for us, there are more of us like you and I out there.


  7. Syd says:

    Thank you for this article, I was searching for it. I moved to a small town for the city a year ago I have been told twice to leave because no one wants me here. There is been terrible rumors and lies spread about me.. It’s beginning to feel like a nightmare

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so sad to hear this is happening to you. I hope you were able to take some useful information and coping tools from my article that might give you some peace in your new home.

      My first suggestion is to take a swift and clean exit from anyone that has shared the “nobody wants you here” pontificate. If they are attempting to do this as a “friend”, I assure you this is not friendly at all. Instead of ever telling my friend something so heinous, I would be fighting the person that told me and never speak a word to my friend. That is the mark of friendship and the difference between them and a gossip.

      Let me know how you’re doing there and if I can give any other good advice I will gladly share it with you. Sending you love and light.


  8. Amy says:

    Wow! Its as if you tore a page out of my life’s journal. Brilliant article. I definitely feel less alone. Thank you. Also sending you light and love.


  9. Kathrin Darling says:

    oh so grateful to read this as I have been literally brought to tears of exasperation today with all the negative gossip about me…three weeks into living in a small town in rural Ontario after a lifetime in Toronto… not an easy gig but I am trying to keep the faith and battle on:)!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What I have learned is to keep my circle of friends small and to choose those priceless few carefully. I find that the older I get, the less I need the drama of big groups of so-called friends that really don’t like each other.

      I hope things get better out there and until they improve use your library card and catch up on the best selling novels, take long walks alone and spend time with the best friend you’ll ever have. That’s you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Cath says:

    I’ve had some not so nice gossip aimed at me over the years, too. It made me feel like a crummy cheap person inside. Still getting over those bad memories even though some around me had forgotten about it.


    • I had to learn not to take malicious gossip personally. That kind of gossip is more about how that person feels about themselves than it is about anything to do with you. I know it can be difficult to see this kind of logic when you’re in the throes of receiving this kind of bad news, but it’s always been true. The person that gossips in order to hurt someone else is a horrible rotten person on the inside.They have nothing worth living for and so take delight in trying to tear down those of us that actually do have great lives. Have empathy for them and then walk away from them. They will never change and you don’t deserve the bullshit that goes along with knowing them.


  11. Cath says:

    I found out it was hard to recover after bad gossip. I’ve never felt the same. I have felt wary just going into a store slightly further away. I thought it seemed kind of odd that I was given a paper towel by a little kid the other day and it seemed the mother was avoiding me. The message seemed to be that I was bottom rung. Also that months before I went to the same place and I would go to any section and all of a sudden I would smell strong underarm odor. I got the creepy feeling that there were some who joined in on this type of behavior.


  12. TJ GILMOUR says:

    I live on an isolated Island popupation 400 in the South Pacific, I bought land and moved to a beautiful small farm that was very desirable but the locals were only pepared to pay bottom dollar. I put noses out of joint immediately as one of the biggest families on the Island expected they would have it and missed out. I am also single and attractive so a percieved threat to the island women who’s men are less than trustworthy and are a fairly basic bunch. Alcohol is a huge problem here. Anyway I do most of my own farm work and survive very well in quite hard conditions but I get the feeling the buzzards are circling just waiting for me to give up. I have given up on having decent friends here, they are nearly all related in some way or other and will crucify each other and then gang up as a pack if necessary, it’s sort of intimidating when the stirrers and gossip-mongers don’t care what they inflict on others. I stay out of the way mostly so I don’t even know what gets said about me anymore. Otherwise I am lucky to be a happy introvert and I understand now that all small places are the same so I will live in my little piece of paradise and enjoy the lovliness of the experience because it is a special place.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love this! It gives me hope that I can truly enjoy my surroundings without needing to engage too many people.


      • TJ GILMOUR says:

        Thank you for answering and for writing such a great article. There is nothing I would like more than some lovely friends here, it would be the icing on the cake really. I have tended to be a bit insular the last couple of years and not really helping myself in that department. Thanks:)

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Giddy up says:

    June 15, 2019; I’m going thru the same in a small town & horse club. So destructive and isolating. I’m single retired person and quite a shy introvert. I’m not confrontative. I’ve lived here for 17 years and it hasn’t changed. The ever growing group of bullies take pleasure and seek out ways to make my life miserable. I would love to package up my beautiful property and take it away with me. I’ll never b able to buy anything close to what I have now. Thank u for writing this article and your readers comments. It helped me understand that it’s not me who is at fault. I know counseling would help but the nearest is 80 miles of mountain curvy roads away.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do not despair Giddy Up! I’ve written several good articles about how to deal with bullying. I hope you will use the Search function to locate more assistance. As for me I am happy to spend time alone these days. I am my own best company, or with the love of my life, my husband. Hugs to you!


  14. Emma Williams says:

    This is so spot on, It is almost as though these people follow a blueprint. I ended up having to leave the place i loved the most in the world because of a just short of a year of this behaviour. I still feel lost at how it could have been handled. One by one my “friends” gradually turned their backs on me but in a way that I should know what I had done wrong. All the weird looks and being called crazy and weird and odd. I would try to reason but i was either screamed at that i was lying or met with eye rolls-these were people I had spent a good enough amount of time with as close friends before rumours started. Do you think it is ever “safe” to return after a period of time away, Or do you think it is likely the same will just start up again? Dealing with it is so hard when you don’t know who the root of it is, You no longer know who you can trust and you feel like you have 20 people none of whom have even considered gossip might not be true its so frustrating!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It really does feel like they all follow the same plan, doesn’t it? I wish I had more answers to that, but what I can tell you is to move on and find other friends. These jerks that behave like this will never change.
      I went through something very similar a couple of years ago. I could not figure out why this couple was kind of rude to me at a party so I said something about it to someone I thought was a very close friend. This close friend comes back to me a few days later and proceeds to tell me they had all been gossiping about me and about my family, and it was all happening among my husband’s work colleagues. So it was a trifecta! She said the couple didn’t like me and wondered why she and her friends liked me. I asked what she said and she told me that “it wasn’t her story to tell”. Um, really? I dumped all of them right then and never looked back. I do not miss them or the drama they cause, not one bit.
      Once you realize they like to gossip it’s best to keep them on the fringe and never share anything precious or meaningful about your life with them. Use them just for fun outings or when you’re desperate for a Plus One, but nothing more than that. Or simply dump them altogether. There are millions of people in the world and many of them would love to be your good friend.


  15. Ellen Hawley says:

    I’ve never lived in a small town, but I have moved to a small village in Britain. Gossip here may be different. I’m sure my partner and I get talked about–why wouldn’t we? We’re a same-sex American couple in a British village. We’d have to work hard to stick out more. But people seem to accept us anyway. That’s good enough for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope that by different gossip than here you mean it’s not as malicious. People that gossip in America do so to hurt people. There’s none of this catching up on the news across the neighbor’s fence here. It’s character assassination, isolating and debilitating and it cuts to the bone. It ends friendships and destroys families. Americans are the definition of “mean girl”. If you feel accepted you have found a home. Hugs to you and great joy that lovely British villages still exist with welcome mats.


      • Ellen Hawley says:

        What I’ve heard, at least, tends not to be malicious. Emphasis on tends. We do have 50-year-old tensions that occasionally break into open warfare, however, and I’ve learned that although there are no secrets there’s a hell of a lot of misinformation.

        An intercultural study of gossip would be fascinating, wouldn’t it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • That would be a very interesting study! I wonder how honest the subjects would end up being. Lol!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Riana says:

    Thank goodness for this wonderful article! I am from a big city and married a farmer in a small town, and this has been a huge adaption of life for me. It feels asif I could’ve written this whole article as well and I feel so much better now! Two years since you published this, and more than halfway around the world…and still the SAME nonsense! Thank you soooo much, and I agree also with Paula and social media “newspapering” and that mutual friend list. This is a whole new species of people to get used to. It feels to me as if Friendships in “the city” feel& are much more valued than these here, filled with jealousy and contentment. Never in my life have I come across such a nature of false living to the core, and frankly I dont have time for this. I wasn’t born a small town girl, and I am definitely not going to become one. Stand your ground and fend for real friends & friendships. The loyalty to each other are hugely overrated and abused in small towns. #thisISNOTNormal!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life is good when you realize you don’t need a lot of friends to be happy. You just need a few people in your life that you can connect with occasionally or share a laugh with and that doesn’t mean they have to live down the street from you. Spend your time with the person that will always be there for you. That person is you.


  17. Beth says:

    This article is so spot on. I’m in recovery from having lived in a small town for seven years. I’ve never met more unfriendly people , per capita, in my life. The gossip was so destructive, and they loved to passive aggressively isolate. I’ve bookmarked your blog post, as it helps me feel less crazy. It brings me a good dose of confirmation, comfort and healing. Thank you.


    • Thank you, Beth! Your comments validate my feelings about living in a small town. You tend to start feeling isolated and almost like “maybe they’re right and I am a screw-up?!” But they aren’t right about you or anyone. It’s too many years living in the seclusion of a small town that’s turned rotten and bitter. Hang in there! People like me are your tribe.


  18. Victoria Petros says:

    What a great article! Describes Fort Mill, SC perfectly! This article should be handed to new homebuyers by their real estate agents at closing.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Persephone says:

    Glad to read that this is a regularly occurring phenomenon and its “not just me”. Sorry though that we all have to do with this primitive, destructive crap! I moved from a major world city to a town with not even that crazy small of a population. I thought people would be more progressive, all loving the big city I moved from, but couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m quitting my current job in large part over the abundance of malicious gossip imbued upon me. The irony is I came to my boss about one rumor only to see she was just as bad at dishing gossip as the rest!

    When I submitted my resignation, she asked if it was anything “they did” (her and coworkers). And I told her honestly that I didn’t feel respected. She said she was sorry I felt that way. The very next day, what do I hear her doing but walking outside with her town pal is spreading a rumor about me – again – . Then the same people that slam me behind my back have a facade of “aww we’re sad you’re leaving”. Why lie? Beause you dont have a human pinata to beat down anymore? I’m working on moving back to a city. I thought country life would give me space and serenity, but its just anxiety and depression from the idiot locals who poke their heads in my private life and try to make it miserable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your boss should be fired.

      I’ve seen this myself. I volunteered at a nursing home and realized too late the director and her HR person were two of the biggest gossips in the place. I stood up for myself when I became the target and ended up being the villain there while they both came out unscathed and smelling like a rose. Both of them had it in for several employees and said the most heinous things about their colleagues. I was so happy to leave that place and grateful I never had to rely on them for a paycheck. Felt sorry for the residents though.


      • Persephone says:

        I considered going to HR, but upon doing some research, the reality of me going against a corporate team of lawyers, with no physical evidence and my word against everyone else’s, with no money, wouldn’t have gotten me anywhere.

        Ironically, I had forgotten I had commented here and had returned to the page again as I’m fairly certain my next door neighbors who are supposedly “friends” were out in the backyard tonight dishing rumors about me. With friends like that, who needs enemies? This quarantine has really put a hamper on my efforts to get the hell out of here. I thought at least that group would have better things to do than spread rumors within hearing range in my home. Living here has definitely become a source of trauma. You shouldn’t care, but when everyone around you is ready to put a knife in your back, you cant help but feel bad.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. Kairenn says:

    As I prepare to move, hiding the details from the insane, gossiping neighbors below me in the old house I live in, I found this article. I’ve been tiptoeing for days as the conflict with them escalated and this pandemic we’re dealing with has only made things worse. May we all be peaceful until I get out of here. Drugs, alcohol, cronyism, and small town minds are not my thing.

    Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for this immensely valuable moment. I’ve been here for four years and became the target of the town narcissist. Anyone responding knows the type – the smile to your face good time girl pumping you for information so they have the ‘dirt’. I had become friendly with a lovely Christian lady down the hall only to hear her go into the laundry room (audible from my apartment) and hear her asking for the ‘dirt’ from this person. It broke my heart, but I wrote this tiny little note and dropped it on the stairs where she would find it: ‘gossip is a sin as you bear false witness’. I’m not Christian, but she came to my door and asked me if it was mine. I said yes, but the point was made and the guilt in her eyes was my proof. I’m sure she became upset, but I no longer had any patience with the nonsense. I isolated, spoke to few people, and maintained a cordial distance whenever I had to be out and about.

    It was a struggle, but I focused on those people I enjoyed (too few) and kept to myself. One bit of advice I haven’t seen here: NEVER make friends with a townie (lifelong resident) in this situation. No matter how lovely, they will take sides if necessary and it won’t be yours. Again, I focused on those folks who were like me – outsiders – and tried to tread water until I found a better situation. That situation is upon me and I am glad to be going. It’s not the big city I was born in, but it’s a college town in a progressive state and I’m dancing with joy at the prospects of a new life and the chance to make friends again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so happy you found a new opportunity and I am proud of you for standing your ground with that woman. Thank you so much for sharing. This is definitely a spirit lifting comment. Best of everything to you with your move! Peace, harmony and better days are yours for sure.


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