The Curse of Small Town Living

To hear others expound on the merits of small town living, you’d be convinced of the perils of living in either bucolic isolation or city anonymity. If you and your family are off-the-grid, homesteading in Idaho you could be eaten by a pack of rabid wolves months before anyone might happen upon your compound. Choose to reside in some metropolitan block apartment in Queens, and your corpse could be well into being devoured by Mr. Whiskers before anyone thought to come looking for you.

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Such is not the case in a small town. If you are a proud Smallvillager and you die, the authorities know within twenty-four hours.


And once the word gets out you’ve died, everyone knows — unlike in Idaho, where you didn’t have any neighbors or in Queens, where people are too busy to notice.*

Now, let’s say you didn’t die. Let’s say you’re having a hard time dealing with something serious in your life. Again, no one pays attention because in Idaho, no one is there; in Queens, no one stays put long enough to listen.

But how is this handled in Smallville?

People talk about the hard time you’re having.

But curiously — or perhaps more accurately, sadly — not with you.

They’ll talk about the crisis/depression/risk-taking behavior/withdrawal with anyone who will listen — and there’s no dearth of these in Smallville — but not with the very person who is in need of help.

This is the curse of Smallville: gossip over compassion.

And it’s awful.

What might you ask brings this to the fore?

I happened to bump into someone today who I know indulged herself in scurrilous gossip about me. Had she not been with her children and I’d not been with mine, I might have confronted her about it. You know, been direct — made a point about her speculations and ill-founded conclusions. This woman once called me “friend.”

But it seemed that instead of asking me what was happening for me when I was having my “hard time,” it was simply easier — or maybe even more exciting — to sit around with others and weave a tale of which she had no knowledge.

It’s hard to say why Smallvillagers do this.

It’s even harder to feel like being eaten by a pack of wild dogs or enucleation by a domesticated short-hair is preferable to being the subject of vicious and unconstrained reports involving details that were never confirmed as being true.

*Idaho and Queens are merely placeholders for rural and urban settings. My apologies to any Idahoans or Queenians. My further apologies for the odd-sounding titles bestowed on you all based on your locales.)

7 thoughts on “The Curse of Small Town Living

  1. I, too, live in a town small enough where people notice you and your doings. Oddly enough, despite my dream of being an author, I don’t want anyone in my town to know of this. I want to simply remain the woman with the notebook in the corner of the café. I want to be left alone while I write, while the rest of the world enjoys my books. Weird.

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  2. Those who’s verminous gossip permeates the small town are a lot like the pack of wolves you refer to. Singularly they must quietly move in the shadows. It is not until the pack forms that the howling starts and the prey is run down. Yes this is what happens in the small town but fortunately there are others who will stand and show that there is something more than just wolves here. This is a small town trait too.

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  3. That stuff happens in Idaho too! There’s not much to explain this behavior, but I think it stems from the primacy that our earilest social experiences are marked by. It seems that gossip is the first stage, but I remember so many arguments that happened in the space BEFORE the first raised voice. Those who gossip most may in fact be hurt that they weren’t approached by the person in need. We also don’t really accept relationships that wax and wane, trusting that they will wax again. Our timeline is pretty short as well. People forced to be in a place tend to get that stuff out in the commons before long, telling their own version backwards through a ripple in the SmallTown. This back and forth game of ‘telephone’ also allows the input of wisdom and trusted advice (hopefully).

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