For some inexplicable reason, the tiniest of ears can be completely oblivious to intentional and direct comments, delivered in firm tones at elevated volumes, while at the same time demonstrating the uncanny ability to hear whispers spoken behind closed doors.
Grown-ups respond to any resulting inquiries about said whispers in a variety of ways: ignoring them, changing the subject, assuming the Mom-look, or making a quick exit. But quite often, it is simply, “That’s none of your business,” a statement that has been family-ized a couple of different ways. Some adopt the slang Nunya beeswax and others, a simple nunya.
Our family opted for beeswax.
It comes in handy, especially when there’s an audience or things are moving quickly. Even if an explanation for the “Why” question is reasonable, sometimes it’s just as efficient in the long run to nip it in the bud.
“Mom, why does Uncle Harry have hair all of a sudden?” Beeswax
“Dad, where do you and mom keep your adult toys?” Beeswax
“Wow, she’s really sweaty.” Beeswax
Now, I’m a firm believer that a child’s authentic curiosity is worthy of intelligent, honest, and complete answers – most of the time. But sometimes family business is just that. There’s no reason we have to explain why we are thinking about moving or why we can’t go on vacation this year or what it means to make decisions for a family member in dire medical straits. Some things are just not for kids.
But resorting to nunya simply for purposes of expediency can be righteous and justified, if only to spare the embarrassment of a loved one or even avoid spoiling a surprise. Age-appropriate answers are preferred when possible; however, a well-placed beeswax is sufficient when required.
But I’ve taken to self-talking beeswax. It’s not that I should or shouldn’t know something. It’s that there is not a single reason to make it my business.
For example. I’ve known this young woman for years. She and I have an abundance of mutual friends as we shared years of church together. We’ve kept in touch very loosely on social media, but now our relationship is only reinforced by a “like” here or there or a chance meeting every year or two. So, we are connected, but not close.
Not long ago, I realized her social media page looked different – you know, those blasted analytics that show us random posts at irregular times, making it impossible to keep up unless you really pay attention. To say the least, I hadn’t been paying attention.
Anyway, I – of course – looked back and saw, based on her timeline, she’d gotten divorced and remarried – and it looked like a few other things had changed. No judgment, just new. Different.
Of course, my first response was
I gotta tell so-and-so.
And her, too.
And oh I’ll bet they don’t know either.
(Although why I thought my lame social media presence was stronger than anyone else’s on the planet is laughable, at best.)
Thankfully, my second response was that I absolutely do not need to tell so-and-so or her or them.
It was absolutely none of my business. Absolutely. NONE OF MY BUSINESS.
I had no inherent obligation to spread the “news” that wasn’t news at all. I had written my own version of the break-up, but it had no basis in fact and, even if it did, still absolutely none of my business.
But for some reason I felt a little puffed up, knowing something maybe she or he or they didn’t. I saw myself as possessor of the inside scoop (really, Nancy? after more than a year? Whatever). And, as such, I needed to spread the word far and wide. Just as a courtesy so that others wouldn’t be caught off guard, you know, as an act of kindness. Or humanity.
Truth be told, I do know real the reason I felt like that.
I felt puffed up, a little proud, and a little richer because there’s a part of me that’s always wanted to be more included, closer to the center of the in-crowd, the Leader. And I saw her personal information as a kind of currency. It seemed knowing something others didn’t know gave me a kind of social power.
A mildly scandalous tidbit revealed so others would see me somehow bigger, more “in”, less isolated.
Unfortunately, this strategy often backfires because everyone else does know all about it, and I end up looking even less than I feel.
If not, this ill-fated feeling of power usually leads us into pretty murky waters. It hijacks any good we could do because we mask our true reactions of shock or envy to their misfortune or missteps with a gratuitous and pious offer to “share, so, you know, we can all pray for her.”
Oh, good golly, Miss Molly. Who’s fooling who? We know exactly what we are doing. We make her news our business because, sad but true, the thrill of knowing something juicy can be almost intoxicating.
I’m not saying that every confidential request for prayer is the adult version of “I know something you don’t know…”
But too often, it is. And I better beware. Because someday, I’ll be the hot topic. I’ll be the one to cringe because my private and probably unattractive news story is the currency of the day.
Now, this cautionary tale about beeswax, nunya‘s, and a friend whose life probably didn’t go as planned, as well as my response and involvement, is not any kind of novel idea. I’m not the first to warn against hiding gossip behind false concern or empathy.
But although we currently have too much access to too much information, we never have and never will have the whole story. All too often we respond as if we do.
I respond as if I do.
It could be the all-too-public interaction between two high-profile personalities who share a more complicated history together than is reported. Or the uncovered shame of someone’s past – someone we know only by selected and incendiary facts plastered for all to see while scrolling through life on a hand-held screen.
It could be a 140-character message for which I have absolutely no frame of reference – but from which I are happy to form and retweet our own “take”. Or it could be what I overhear at the coffee-shop while two close friends struggle through their tears, working out Life.
Beeswax. I don’t have all the information.
And, besides, even if I did… beeswax!
My lovelies, as I said, every single one of these words is self-talk… all too often Did you know…? can be heard in the hushed tones of my own voice… I find myself carefully pocketing what I hear or read, waiting for the right moment to spend it and negotiate my position in the group.
And, unfortunately, for all of us who ignore the wisdom of beeswax, there is usually a good audience, ready to pile on. Irish playwright, George Bernard Shaw, said it simply:
“The things most people want to know about are usually none of their business.”
By way of an encouragement, however, I’d like to also contribute a positive note…
Whenever I have a tidbit or newsflash and choose NOT to drop it even when given the perfect opening, the feeling of relief and peace I experience is oddly overwhelming. I am amazed, knowing that I kept my mouth shut and nothing bad happened! The people who matter the most don’t abandon me or turn away because I decided to ignore the beeswax. Because I knew it was nunya.
Honestly, it’s a bit of all right (thanks, Mary Berry).
Editor, publisher, and late-19th-century governor of Kansas, Edward Wallis Hoch, offered some pretty wise words that apply directly to this very topic:
“There is so much good in the worst of us,
and so much bad in the best of us,
that it hardly becomes any of us
to talk about the rest of us.”
Amen and amen.
And with little else of value to say about this, I pray for you…