Why is it, I wonder, that even among our closest friends, we’re more willing to share bad news than good news?
You’re more like to hear low-grade good news, like kids graduating from high school or getting a new car or going on a cruise. But why don’t people share the really, really good news, like the fact that someone had really hot sex the night before (even – or especially – with their spouse). When you walk into the office in the morning, wouldn’t that be the first thing you’d like to share? Friends are more likely to share the bad news that they caught their kid having hot sex in the new car.
You’ll even hear bad news like someone getting fired or started seeing a therapist. But you never hear about someone has becoming so masterful at their work that their salary is going to double this year – and oh, by the way, the amount it’s going to double to. No, that’s just considered gauche. It’s more acceptable to tell someone you’re undergoing cancer treatments than it is to reveal that you’re paying off your mortgage.
Or the fact that someone just won the lottery and will never ever, ever, ever have to work again. Think about that. If you won the lottery, wouldn’t your first inclination be to throw a party … in Tahiti? But no. Again, because gauche.
Of course, there is also the strong possibility that, if you tell your friends you’ve won the lottery, some of them will think they’re entitled to share in your good fortune. The one friend of mine who won the lottery wanted to entitle her memoirs, “I Heard You Won The Lottery – Will You Give Me $80,000?”
Of course, there are gradations of bad news, most of which people keep to themselves. They don’t go around talking about how much they lust after the babysitter or their secretary, or the six ways they’ve figured out to cheat on your taxes. That’s just prudent.
Or is it? Maybe it’s friends that people should share the really bad stuff with, if only to keep them from acting on their feelings toward the babysitter or the Internal Revenue Service. Why is it a joke when someone says, “A friend will help you move. A really good friend will help you move a body.” That should be part of the policies and procedures manual.
Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy. Well, not maybe – I am. Maybe younger generations haven’t slathered themselves with varying amounts of political correctness and politesse. Last week, I thought about telling the joke about the dying Irishman who wanted his friend to pour a bottle of fine Irish whiskey over his grave. The punchline: “Do ya mind if I strain it through my kidneys first?” I refrained because I was in what used to be known as “mixed company.” Having seen Bette Midler in concert last week doing bawdy Sophie Tucker vaudeville jokes, I probably shouldn’t have been so genteel about what the opposite gender’s ears hear.
It seems to come down to this, I guess: we can be gauche about bodily functions but not about money. That’s kind of a strange rule, but I guess it makes sense: after all, not everyone has money … or babysitters … but everyone pees.