Girls and their “Gupshup”
Article by Jessica R. Gera of Toronto offers some life coaching to girls and women
Jessica R. Gera
Jessica R. Gera
What is it?
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines an “addiction” as a: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance...”
Pay attention women. We are all guilty of the same addiction. Gupshup is our addiction. Gossip is our compulsive need. Engaging in gossip with our female counterparts everywhere is our habit forming substance.
As an East Indian female growing up with East Indian parents and grandparents, I have heard the term “gupshup” just as frequently as I have been privy to “go clean your room” “put a coat on, it’s cold outside” “finish everything on your plate” and my personal favorite, “The answer is no, and the reason is because I said so.”
In my childhood, Gupshup (Hindi) and Guppa (Punjabi) were staple household terms.
For those who are foreign to ‘gupshup,’ I’ll do my very best to explain this cultural slang. Gupshup is useless chatter; gossip; heard it through the grapevine type of conversation that we all, as women, are completely addicted to. Please, I implore you, save your breath; don’t deny it. It truly is an excuse to speak, an excuse to be nosy, an excuse to be social.
And just like the definition above, we all have an uncontrollable compulsion for it – the gossip. We seek it out; engage in it; become dependent on it and eventually the tangle of gossip and gupshup that we weave takes its toll on our friendships, our lives, our loved ones, and really, our mental health.
Regardless of your background, your race, your religion, or your sexual orientation, the bottom line is very simple; a part of being a woman is participating in gupshup. It, quite frankly, goes hand in hand; like cheese and crackers, milk and cookies, Aishwariya Rai and Abisheikh Bachan….it’s a pair.
Sounds simple enough right? Wrong.
I warn you now, gupshup is anything but simpe. It’s complex. It’s powerful. It’s inherent in all women. It’s in our blood. And it’s dangerous!
In fact, gupshup is actually no different than the fictional character, Sandman, from the Marvel Comics Universe.
Sandman has the remarkable ability to “transmute his molecules into a sand like substance,”(http://comics.ign.com/articles/685/685662p1.html/), transforming himself into a gargeantous, powerful sand being - The Sandman. The more sand he unites with, the more harm he can cause, the more damage he can do and the more powerful he becomes. Likewise, the more women that participate in this gupshup; the more it breathes, lives, grows and strengthens!
The Evolution of Gupshup
Gupshup is anything but new. It’s as ancient as the Egyptian pyramids. It’s as old as Estelle Getty. It’s as popular as Oprah Winfrey.
While it’s always been around; gupshup has indeed evolved.
My Nani Ma (meaning grandmother, specifically referring to your mother’s mother) smiles as she reminisces on her days growing up in Chaubara, Punjab before the partition in 1947. The village women; maybe 10 to 12 of them; nestle together on the cracked cement front porch of one of their modest homes.
The invite to gupshup, or “guppa maro,” was very simple, Nani ma explains. She would open her window and bellow to the neighbouring home, “Asha, hune a jao, cha sha peeyange te gappa marange!”
Translation – “Asha, come on over now so we can have some tea and ‘chit chat!”
Less than two minutes later, Asha appeared.
While one of the ladies prepared the chai (tea), the others would serve it to one another while my Nani ma would carefully hang each freshly washed piece of clothing from her tiny basin on a small deteriorating line of rope to dry.
On the finest piece of flatware they owned, sweets are served and tea is sipped.
Then…it begins. It starts innocently. The weather. The village meat markets. The fruit stands.
Now we get to embroidered silk sari’s; who has them and perhaps who even owns the most beautiful one. Innocent enough so far, until one woman…and it only takes that one woman who pipes up and says “I heard….she didn’t get that embroidered sari from her husband Shankar….it acttttualy came from Vimal.”
And then there is silence…but not for long. Pulses are racing, excitement is growing and the anticipation of the gupshup to come for these women is just as exciting as a kid in an ice cream parlour; mouth watering, just anticipating that first lick of that double chocolate fudge ice cream cone.
Now everyone wants a piece and there’s no stopping it. One is speaking, now the other is speaking and now they are all speaking at the same time; all wanting to be heard, all wanting to take part, all engaging in pure, unadulterated, hard core, gupshup.
Today, in 2007, my girlfriend says to me, “times have changed Jess, we’re not thaaaat bad.” Sigh - I beg to differ. Remember that expression, the more things change, the more they truly do stay the same? Let’s be brutally honest, what really has changed?
Nani ma’s modest home in the village of Punjab, in a then third world country, has now been replaced by much larger and wealthier suburban homes in a first world country. Rickshaws are replaced by BMW’s, and the menu on the eve of a gupshup indoor ceremony is replaced from roti and daal to 967-11-11 while we gather at a fellow gupshup club member’s home. (And kick the husband’s out for the evening. Oh, and newsflash ladies, the men actually never really mind leaving….)
Our outdoor gatherings no longer take place on cracked concrete or sand filled walkways while we wash our husbands’ clothes with the utmost care. Now, they often take place at the neighbourhood bar where we all meet for “a” drink after work. Opening the window and bellowing the invitation to gupshup has been replaced by our new gupshup technology – the cell phone. We either make the call or send the text, “Hey you free tonight? Meet you at 7pm to catch up.” Catch up? Eeesh, that’s one way to put it.
Gupshup – How does it come to life?
Hmmm. This one is tough. How is gupshup created? Well, it’s almost like it’s born. It’s almost like we actually give birth to it – just like a baby.
It’s really no different than the 4 stages of pregnancy.
First, the fertilization process. As I mentioned this to a friend, he comments, “Jessica, when you mention fertilization I do think of women, but not them - er - speaking to one another.”
I explained, “Once the sperm and egg meet, you have fertilization, correct? Likewise, all you need is that one “thought” to simply enter a woman’s mind and voila - gupshup fertilization!
As women, we truly have this remarkable ability to give “ life” to this random notion of “something” and we then allow it to sit in our minds….and grow. (i.e.) Priti and Akshay came to Satinder Uncle’s party late on Saturday night and they kind of looked annoyed. Hmmm, perhaps they’re having some problems?
Second, is the development of the blastocyst. Between 5 and 8 days after fertilization in pregnancy, the blastocyst attaches to the lining of the uterus. This process, called implantation, is completed by day 9 or 10. And of course, once we as women develop our “thought” and while it could be abandoned, let go, or discarded, it rarely is. After 5 -8 days of mulling around our gupshup notions in our minds, the thought is now firmly implanted in our brains until miraculously (and yes we do this) this idea just transformed itself from a random thought to now…a fact!
What was once a “possibility” that Priti and Akshay were having some problems is now, “okay, they are defffffinitely having some marital problems. I just know it!”
Third, the development of the embryo. This is the phase in which the embryo is now first recognizable as having some form of human shape. It’s an entity and it’s growing. Likewise, once just a trivial notion of “something” in our minds is now a full concept – with meaning. We mull this baby embryo gupshup in our minds until we’re ready to give birth to it; on that one fine day when we are surrounded by our female counterparts at the next club meeting. (i.e.) “I wonder if my best friend Tina noticed Priti and Akshay’s obvious marital problems at Saturday’s function? Hmmmm. It must be about his new job. I just know it’s about his new job.”
By about 16 to 20 weeks in the fourth stage, you can actually feel the fetus moving and growing. The fetus and the gupshup in our minds; every week they both take shape, they move, they kick and they get stronger.
The baby, the gupshup, the time is nearing – and they both want out…..
Finally, your water breaks.
Your patience breaks.
With our fists clenched tightly we tell ourselves “don’t say it!” and “you can do it, just keep it to yourself!” But the contractions….er…temptations to keep this juicy gupshup to yourself is as probable as ignoring a full tub of Haagen-Dazs staring at you head on as you open the freezer. Eventually you succumb.
The gupshup is born.
“Did you guys notice how odd Priti and Akshay were on Saturday? I totttttaly knew they were having problems.”
The Different Types of Gupshup
Yes, there are different types.
1) Growing up/Maturity Gupshup
2) Heart to Heart Gupshup
3) Lifetime Membership to the entire Gupshup Organization
Growing Up/Maturity Gupshup:
Let’s not make this complicated shall we? It’s actually quite simple.
Baby girl is born.
Baby girl is growing up.
Little girl undergoes growing up/maturity gupshup.
Elementary school and High School are the ultimate gupshup hot spots. Let’s examine Elementary School first.
As all young children are learning subjects ranging from Mathematics, Science, Geography and Arts and Crafts, be aware that the young girls are also learning the subject of gupshup. It’s called “Introduction to Amateur Gupshup” and the teachings begin right from the first day of school. Who are the teachers you ask? Well, their little gupshup friends who sit beside them in Science class!
All young girls spend their elementary school life being exposed to amateur gupshup ranging from “I’m not gonna be her partner ‘cuz she smelllllls” to “Guess what, I saw Aarti picking her nooooose.” Then of course there is the bus ride to the Friday afternoon field trip where Neelam refuses to sit beside Archana because she is convinced that Archana is “talking about her.” And of course Neelam heard this from Pinky so it just has to be true.
The rumor mill starts and spreads like fire until some poor little girl goes running into the washroom in the middle of gym class bawling her little eyes out. She’s been a gupshup victim for the first time, and it doesn’t feel very good.
Then comes High School. Ugh, I shudder.
These girls are older now, ranging from 14 years of age to 18 years of age. They have all on some level been victims of amateur gupshup and they have all acted as the perpetrators of amateur gupshup in their elementary school years. They have all now made the transition from amateur gupshup to intermediate gupshup, which means – yup - they’re getting better and better and better at it.
The gupshup now is actually more hurtful. These teenage girls are planning sleepover parties and movie nights and they will always, and I mean always, exclude a member of the friends circle due to a ‘he said she said’ tail of events. These high school girls are poking fun at someone’s appearance, someone’s intelligence, someone’s so called flirtatiousness. They’re participating in group name calling and group discussions on why so and so is just “so annoying,” and how Meena likes Rakesh and how he’ll never give her the time of day. They’re engaging in discussions on how they “heard” that Rahul is actually gay but he just won’t admit it, and how Divya is “so scandalous” because they can “just tell” that she is.
Why are they doing this? Several reasons ranging from immaturity, ignorance, and perhaps even lack of guidance.
I’d like to remind you to please, do not use the excuse that “I’m still in my growing up stage” when you are now 35 years old and are still an active gupshupper! If that’s the case, then please know that your ‘growth’ was indeed halted a long time ago.
Heart to Heart Gupshup:
Can you look at yourself dead straight in the mirror and say that you will never, and I mean NEVER, gupshup again for as long as you live?
If your answer is yes, you’re lying. Stop reading this article; you’re wasting your time. If your answer is no – please - read on.
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, gupshup is inherent in all women. You may want it to vanish from life as you know it, but this is as likely to happen, as Paris Hilton one day being recognized for her “talent” or Paula Abdul actually contributing something of worth to American Idol.
Barbara Walters explains it perfectly when she says, “Show me someone who never gossips, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t interested in people.”
You and I will both gupshup with our mothers, our sisters, our best friends of the last twenty years, there’s no stopping that. But ladies, please, is there really a reason for subscribing to lifetime membership to the entire gupshup organization?
This brings me to the third type of gupshup; the dangerous gupshup; the gupshup to be avoided at all costs; the mother of all gupshup; the type of gupshup that this entire article is truly focused on – lifetime membership to the entire gupshup club.
Lifetime Membership to the entire Gupshup Organization:
Imagine forming a club. You recruit more and more women until you develop one large organization of gupshup participants. Are we in denial again? Come on ladies, we have all been voluntary members of this club at some point in our lives; every last one of us.
And let’s face it. This club exists! It’s like this “secret” club that no one really advertises but all of us women know it’s out there; everywhere; in every geographic domain; all over the globe.
And when we find ourselves bored on a Wednesday night, Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning, what do we do? We attend the club meetings or call a gupshup member and engage in all kinds of conversations that quite frankly, are none of our business!
Now don’t feel badly because, remember, being a member of this club at some point throughout your life is actually expected of you. Remember, gupshup is as much a part of our “growing up” process for girls as dirty magazines are for boys! (Yes, I know – your son never looked at dirty magazines right? Sure…whatever makes you feel better Auntie. We’ll have to explore that one in another article all together.)
Gupshup is a part of our maturity and our learning curve. Subscribing to the club, and being this participating gupshup member throughout your time of maturity and growth is actually okay; this is acceptable and sometimes, it’s even innocent. What is not innocent, and what is not acceptable, are those participants who prefer to subscribe for lifetime membership. In simplest terms, they just refuse to leave the club.
Eventually, they climb the corporate gupshup ladder and at 40 or 50 something, they become President.
Consider yourself warned.
Just like every organization; the Government, a business or organized sports, you need committed members to keep the organization thriving. The lifetime gupshup club members are truly the epitome of the term “committed.” In fact, these are the same women who deem themselves as far too ill to go to work but will most definitely attend a gupshup meeting with a runny nose, a sore throat, and a 102 degree fever.
These women are the real members of the group and the only reason that the club never disintegrates. They’re the heart of the organization, the ones who pump the gupshup blood to the rest of the members keeping the group alive and healthy. (And I use the term “healthy” extremely loosely here)
We’ve established that we all strive to come, and, eventually go, from the gupshup club in our ‘growing up’ years. But who exactly are these lifetime members? Who are these women that so adamantly refuse to leave the club?
Below, I have identified the top four most prominent female ‘gupshupper’s.’ I am sure; no, I am positive that we all know someone in our families or our social circles that fits each and every one of these descriptions to a tee. As you read each description and you recall that one friend or that one auntie; and as you reach a state of “ahhhh, I have one of those,” remember, be very cautious. These are the gupshup club members that you must always steer clear from – always.
The Instigator Gupshupper
Do you recall the example earlier in this article about that one woman who pipes up about that beautiful embroidered sari and where it really came from? This is the instigator gupshupper; the woman who breaks the ice for the rest of the group. She wants to get this show on the road and she’s just itching to instigate the first gupshup topic of the night. But remember, she’s a patient woman. She’s a patient, well timed and meticulous woman who never acts without a well thought out game plan:
Wait for the the drinks to be poured…..(she’s thought of the first gupshup topic)…
Wait for the snacks to be served……(she’s ready to plant the gossip seed to her gupshup club members)…
The women now take their first sip, everyone begins to indulge in the snacks, small talk has been exchanged; how are the kids? How are you enjoying that new job? The small talk is slowly ending. She’s been watching and waiting for a while now….
….BAM! She swoops in like a ferocious yet well trained animal who’s spent the last few hours cautiously tracking her prey. She goes in for the kill and the next thing you know…… “It’s too bad Tina couldn’t make it tonight. I heard she’s still dealing with that same – er – problem.”
The night of gupshup has begun.
The instigator, now, quite pleased with herself, sits back, and for the remainder of the evening soaks it all in; listening and smiling all the while. Her job is now done.
The instigator is usually the same person who collects this information and then shares it with gupshuppers who belong to a different gupshup group. No! You have absolutely no right to be angry at her for this, as the poor judgment in revealing your thoughts to the instigator is ultimately your own fault. As Kahlil Gibran once said, “If you reveal your secrets to the wind, you should not blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.” (Sand and Foam)
The “I wish for world peace” Gupshupper
There’s always that one girl – she’s innocent, she’s cute, she’s sweet, and she’s utterly annoying. You know she has a heart of gold, you realize she’s probably the most genuine of the bunch, but you just don’t know if you want to hug her or slap her. You feel guilty because sometimes she’s so equally sweet and stupid that you just find yourself wanting to scream. You know that the second you raise your voice, she’ll do it; she’ll cry. You compose yourself, you smile at her, you try and appreciate her perkiness; her innocence, and you try and ignore the fact that her voice is unusually high and squeaky. It’s tough though, because when she gets excited her voice gets higher and Higher and HIGHER, and you’re immediately reminded of that torturous feeling of fingernails scraping down a chalkboard…..
You just need it to stop.
This gupshupper’s only desire is for all her loved one’s to get along like one-big-happy family. She envisions a world with everyone living ‘happily ever after’ with their own respective nuclear families, a white picket fence, two kids, and a dog. She’s usually overcome with guilt to even participate in the gupshup as she feels she is doing something wrong. The “I wish for world peace gupshupper” is anything but a leader and she is completely deficient of any form of will power. As the club speaks of different gupshup business, her face reddens like a woman on a diet taking that forbidden bite out of a chocolate bar. She knows she shouldn’t indulge, but she just can’t help it.
She is quite easily influence able and will spend the rest of her gupshupping life being bossed around by the President of the club.
The “Angry at the world” Gupshupper
The eternal pessimist.
This gupshupper firmly believes that everyone in the world is in existence simply to make their lives more difficult. There is no goodness in the world, there is no love, and there is certainly no such thing as a happy ending. The “Angry at the world” Gupshupper is usually the first person to make the “I wish for world peace” gupshupper cry. She terrorizes her and sometimes even enjoys it.
This gupshupper also ‘watches her back’ at all times because she is wholeheartedly convinced that someone is just about to pull a fast one on her. No one is trustworthy. This is the woman who unfortunately wasn’t dealt a happy fate. She’s now an active participating gupshup member, usually, in her mid 50’s. She has seen quite a bit of anguish, pain and heartache in her own personal life and was just never able to move forward past this negativity. As much as you just want to shout out “life isn’t that bad woman!” you can’t help but take pity on her current state. She’s just unable to be positive – ever.
She also has absolutely no tact whatsoever. She’s the woman who blatantly asks the most personal questions to other club or non club members without any feelings of embarrassment or hesitation. “Beautiful car Puja, sooooo how much does your husband make exactly?”
The Politically Correct Gupshupper
The most dangerous gupshupper of them all. The most revered gupshupper of them all. The Godmother of all gupshuppers!
The Politically Correct Gupshupper is not your everyday gupshup club member; on the contrary. She’s usually one of, if not the, brightest woman in the club. She’s quick, she’s witty, and more often then not, she’s the President.
She has some of the same feelings that the “angry at the world gupshupper” has but she’s far too intelligent to actually let them show. She is usually somewhat scarred from life’s events but she smiles. She’s always smiling. She knows what to say, when to say it, and whom to say it to.
She’s usually an older woman who is experienced and practiced in life. She’s spent the majority of her life being gupshupped against by her mother in law, her husband’s ‘evil sisters’, and so on. The Politically Correct Gupshupper has a very lethal combination; these women are equally intelligent as they are scarred. And sometimes – just sometimes – they take pleasure at other people’s misfortunes. Are they evil people? No, but they are most definitely cunning, and they often don’t realize how scarred and how bitter they truly are. Hearing about other people’s misfortunes reminds them that they are not alone; they are not the only one’s who have ever endured back luck or an unfortunate kismet. Knowing this provides them with a sense of comfort.
They’re also the most observant of the bunch. These women’s eyeballs move faster than the speed of lighting as they are consistently watching every move you make. Their back is to you and they appear to be occupied, but don’t be fooled, they’re watching. They’re always watching.
Before you even had a chance to show off your brand new bracelet you got at the store the other day; before the instigator ever had an opportunity to initiate her first gupshup topic; before you have even took your first sip of wine; the politically correct gupshupper has already noticed this beautiful bracelet gleaming around your wrist and has already began computing its worth in her mind - all before you even got your shoes off at the front door.
And there you have it – the liftetimer’s.
The women who will never EVER leave the club.
Gupshup is Immortal
Life has certain realities that you can try your very hardest to wish away; you can close your eyes and simply pretend they don’t exist and you can even choose to live in denial. However, as surely as we know the sun will rise in the east and set in the west everyday for all of eternity; we also know that gossip will never completely go away.
Why? Because of four simple truths:
Recall the 3 different types of gupshup:
1) Young girls will always be born and then ultimately grow into women. As they do, they will go through the gupshup process in their growing up/maturity years.
2) Gupshup is inherent in all women. We will heart to heart gupshup for all of eternity.
3) The world will always have “the lifetimers.” These are the same women who will never pass the growing up/maturity phase of Gupshup. These women will never vanish into gupshup oblivion.
And, of course,
4) Human beings are imperfect creatures
The first 3 points have been made; let’s not beat them with a bat shall we? Direct your attention to point number 4. Human beings are imperfect creatures.
It would be brilliant to live in a world of perfection comprised of perfect people, perfect friends, perfect parental skills and perfect decision making skills. All of this however, is perfectly impossible.
To put it bluntly, people screw up. This will never change. Human beings are far from perfect. We err, and we do it often.
So now what? What does that mean?
Does it mean gossip is acceptable? Does it mean it’s okay to speak ill of others? Does it mean we should not be held accountable for the words that often come flying out of our mouths? No, it absolutely does not mean any of those things and I am not insinuating that it does so please refrain from the hate mail. It simply means, gupshup is immortal.
The Thought Before My Final Thought (Note to Men: This will be quick, I promise)
A couple of my male friends read this article and say, “Well, I don’t get it. Different types of gupshup, it’s inherent in you, and blah blah blah, just stop it, even the heart to heart to heart gupshup, stop it all. Why can’t you girls just stop it?”
So men, I ask you, why can’t you just remember to put the toilet seat down when you’re done? Why can’t you just see the ketchup staring at you head on from the refrigerator before asking your significant other where it is? Why can’t you just appreciate a good tear jerking, emotional driven, Kleenex -box -needed –by- your -side -type -of - romantic movie starring Julia Roberts or Drew Barrymore? Because, you just can’t! That’s why! So, when you can successfully do all of the above indefinitely – we’ll stop gossiping forever. Deal?
The purpose of this article was multifold: a) to understand what ‘gupshup’ means b)to understand that gossip has evolved and is anything but new c) to understand how we as women bring gupshup to life d) to understand the different types of gupshup e) to be able to identify the real key players of the gupshup organization; the lifetimers d) to understand that gupshup is immortal and ,of course, e) to give you a good chuckle as we, as women, view our own behaviour.
At the risk of sounding like a completely predictable after school special, please remember – words hurt. In fact, first they bite, and then they sting. Choose them carefully. A night of gupshup with the entire gupshup organization is just not worth the pain it may cause someone else. Ultimately, we lose. We lose our friendships. We lose our credibility. We lose our integrity.
At 8 years of age you’re innocent and learning.
At 13 years of age you’re still innocent and you’re still learning.
At 16 years of age you should be understanding the difference between right and wrong. You’re still inexperienced and immature, but you begin to have a clue.
At 18, you’re an adult. It’s time to start acting like one. You’ve grown and you’ve matured. No more excuses.
I’m not presenting myself as a ‘holier than thou’ gupshup guru. On the contrary, I’ve gupshupped with the best of them. I’ve said things I should have never said, I’ve hurt people with my gupshup tendencies, and I’ve allowed other gupshuppers to gupshup to me when I should have simply stopped them. However, with all that being said, I can say wholeheartedly, honestly and proudly, I grew up. I matured. I know that I am accountable for the words that come out of my mouth. I pay attention to my tendencies and I know that my words have the power to hurt another person and remember, your words carry the same weight.
Yes, I do gupshup with my mother. I do gupshup with my sister. I do gupshup with my best friend. This will more than likely never change. (It’s inherent in us remember?) However, with that being said, I did make a decision that I am very proud of. I made a decision that I plan to stand by. I made a decision to avert lifetime membership. I made the decision to never, ever, and I mean EVER, become a lifetime gupshupper.
I left the ‘club’ a long time ago.
Copyright Jessica R. Gera 2008
Also by Jessica R. Gera:
Touchdown Therapy, a story about relationships
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