Fair Warning: moderate use of language herein
I’ve developed a huge appreciation for the laws of Loshon Hara.
In my youth, etc, I never felt like people discussed me behind my back, nor wondered if someone was being nice to me when really they couldn’t stand me. Between having it pounded into our heads that gossip is wrong and two-facedness just as bad, I always knew that the worst case would be that someone was being nice to me as a chesed, because she thought I was friendless nerd. And you can usually spot those, because they’re a bit saccharine. And as for loshon hara… well, most of us have it down to the nitty gritties like “Oops, I made a face when her name was mentioned.”
So it was a cold slap in the face when I first partnered with Joe for a project and was introduced to many of his friends and associates. He’d smile, slap them on the back, ask how they were doing, talk about a movie, promise to see them later, and then say, “That was Rolf. He’s a bastard, but good for a game of football,” or “God I hate her. Such a selfish bitch.” Or, “He’s so goddamn annoying. He kept hanging around me yesterday talking about how he didn’t have any lunch, until I gave him 20 bucks and told him to treat himself. I paid him to leave me alone.”
“What do you say about me behind my back?” I asked one day. He looked at me blankly. “Why would I do that?” I don’t think it even occured to him that he was talking about people behind their backs.
Which could explain my minor paranoia. If I say something, and there’s a slightly longer than necessary pause after, I wonder “Oops, did I just say something stupid?” If there’s an exchange of looks that I don’t understand I think, “Time to fade out…” I never feel like I really know my position in things. I don’t need to have friends in college – I have plenty elsewhere, and my self-esteem is healthy enough. It just makes me uncomfortable to not know where I stand. This keeps me on my best behavior, and it keeps me aloof. The nice thing of which is that when you’re aloof people have to seek you out, which is a sure proof that they’re not just being nice. But it also reminds me that these are not my people, and these are not my real friends. And it helps me appreciate those who are my people and my real friends – the ones who might make faces behind my back, but nothing worse.
I sometimes joke, “The farther I get from Jews, the more I like them.” When you’re immersed in a community, it’s easier to see its faults. But from a distance, it’s easier to see the positive traits. One thing I have definitely gained from my college experience is an increased appreciation for Jews and Judaism.