We’ve probably all participated in at least one game of Chinese Whispers at some point, when a group sits in a circle to listen to a buzzword or phrase become increasingly warped as it passes from ear to ear. In a carefree, social context like that it can be good fun, but Chinese Whispers are of course present in real life too, mainly in the form of upsetting and potentially damaging rumours. Some are today’s news and tomorrow’s chip paper, whilst others linger like bad smells for prolonged periods of time – with each assumed form being even worse than the last. They are constantly evolving monsters, and there can be no guessing what might happen next or when they might end. With that in mind, I asked some of my friends what the best and worst rumours they had ever heard about themselves were, and in one particular case I was pleasantly surprised to find a more positive way of looking at them.
The idea for this post originated with Emily, when one of our recent conversations drifted towards the aforementioned rumours. I promised not to mention any of them here, but I feel like I must say how uplifting it was to see the way in which she reacted to them. She would have had every right to spout pure bile and vitriol towards those responsible for spinning all of this, but instead chooses to look back on it almost as though it forms a fond teenage memory. “If you’re not laughing,” she told me, “it’s just sad. And no-one wants that.” I suppose that in refusing to be put down by what others are saying about her, Emily is depriving any given rumour of the oxygen it needs to thrive, and is therefore killing a parasite before it can breed and snowball into something more devastating. What’s more, she’s doing so with equal doses of humour and a thick and resilient (but never cold) skin.
Maybe the fact that Emily has had to deal with a certain number of these rumours means that her character has developed to some extent. I don’t know how she felt the very first time she heard something about herself, but perhaps she’s now better equipped to deal with the harsher aspects of life than she was, say, seven years ago, when we first met. She seemed to prove me right in her end summary, quite bluntly closing the matter with: “I’ve just learned to get on with shit.” Right. Can’t get much clearer than that. I then asked her if I could quote that to close this post – and, like the pussycat she really is, she said it was fine, followed by a smiley face. See? Hardened resilience, and then the more typical soft warmth that you can find under almost any set of circumstances. Good old Em!