Confessions of a Gossip Girl
(Writer's Name Withheld by Request)The following is a true story. Only the names have been changed.
We all love our nightly dose of soaps and reality television shows, but what if it becomes a bit ... well ... obsessive? Melinda, 16, knows all too well about this; she used to be an avid fan of the hit television and book series Gossip Girl until her overriding fansession (fan obsession) took her a bit too far.
Described by her peers and high school teachers, Melinda was always known at Rosewood High School as a polite, well-mannered, and friendly student, so who would have ever expected such an academic young girl to start an online gossip column and have run it for two consecutive years?
It all started in the summer of 2007 when the academic year was drawing to a close. Melinda recalled sitting outside waiting for her mother to pick her up after her last examination. As with any other day, Melinda logged into her IM account to check her messages. Not far behind her stood two girls talking in hushed tones; Melinda could vaguely make out what was being said. Apparently a friend of a friend had been caught drinking alcohol at school. Melinda relayed what she had heard to her friend Anna:
Melinda: Guess what?
Melinda: Tracey was caught drinking at school.
Anna: How do you know?
Melinda: I heard it ...
Anna: From who?
Melinda: ... Gossip Girl.
"This is what started everything," Melinda told me. "It was never intentional to start a gossip column, but the thought of there being an unknown person knowing everything that happened around the school was fascinating!"
And so it began. Melinda led a double life; on one side she was sweet and lovable Melinda, and on the other she was the 'it' girl, Gossip Girl. "At the time I did not see any problem doing what I was doing. I would not mention names and would not mention the exact whereabouts of my subjects either." Her near-daily column, "Dishing The Dirt", was structured in such a way that left her readers wishing for more. It started off with a well-written introduction summing up 'GiGi's' day, and then it moved on to who was doing what, where, and when.
"I'd get questioned daily on who I was, whether I was really a student, or actually a teacher at the school," Melinda explained. "I'd get bribed and begged by countless students - it was quite funny, to tell you the truth. The same people who questioned my existence were the ones I would hang out with during class and break."
Even though Melinda may have not mentioned the names of those she talked about, she did use their initials. "I saw it as a win-win situation. I had an alias to work under so as to protect myself, and I got my point across without directly exposing anyone."
Topics ranged from upcoming events to who was dating who, even to the goings-on of the faculty. "I think I may have gone a little too far by using my teachers as topics to write on. I knew things very few others did. I think it was this which sent off warning bells and got suspicions rising."
"Natalie Hartfield (29), Samantha Gordon (27), and Clarissa Martins (25) - I will never forget them!" Hartfield, Gordon, and Martins were three of Melinda's teachers at Rosewood. She explained that there were many young teachers employed at the school, so there was a good teacher-student relationship - maybe a bit too good.
In 2008 Melinda altered her column structure and introduced information on teachers. The above mentioned teachers were mainly focused on by the 'infamous' Gossip Girl. "I commented on how one teacher had 'too much make-up and needed make-up remover,'" chuckled Melinda, "It's the truth - she did!" Though, with that said, Melinda's expression suddenly turned grim, she hesitated, but continued on to say, "I went too far though. I published excerpts of one teacher's weight diary." The excerpts of the diary read, "I feel like a beached whale" and "I am amazed that Werner [her boyfriend] is still with me when there are such prettier girls out there!" This was a teacher Melinda enjoyed talking to about fashion and their shared handbag obsession.
Melinda described her relationship with gossip as a constant high. "Just like a dealer with his drugs, I could not get enough!"
"I was in my own little world, I was in charge - if I did not like something, I could change it. It seemed as if my keyboard was mightier than the sword ... but for how long would I be able to play out this double life?" Her concerns would soon come true. The day she was called down to the office, she knew at that moment it was the end. "I remembered how I had been trying to 'help' Miss Martins find out the true identity of Gossip Girl."
"My 'help' was not what led to my downfall. It turns out that the school had had enough and tracked down the cell phone connection. Obviously it led to me. There were also printouts of every single conversation I had as Gossip Girl, as well as every single column I had ever written.
"On my 15th birthday I was given an ultimatum - either face criminal charges of slander and defamation or get a 3 day suspension and seek professional help from a therapist ... which the school was more than happy to pay for. What a birthday present!
"I was lucky, because a few months after my ordeal a similar incident took place, but this time it was 'slut lists' (these are self-explanatory), and had taken over the entire region! The culprits were not as lucky as I was; minors were given community service and those of age were treated to a few days in jail, as well as charges drawn up against them."
After her suspension, Melinda was instructed to write letters of apology to each of the three teachers she had written about. It was hard. I was in two of the three's classes and it was horrible having to hand the letters to them!"
Going back to school was tough, but Melinda knew that she was the one who had brought everything on herself. People would whisper behind her back. "People were not certain if I was Gossip Girl." They'd heard Gossip Girl had been caught, and it just seemed a coincidence that Melinda had been gone for three days with the 'flu'. Even though the teachers did not approve of her behavior, they did try to expose Melinda.
Slowly things went back to normal. "The friendship between myself and Miss Martins remained. I changed English classes, as Miss Hartfield and I had unresolved issues which arose after the gossip column. I was accused by her of indescribable actions, and to this day she has yet to prove I am guilty of any of them. Miss Gordon and I, well, she tried to make an effort at reconciling with me, but the tension was just too much."
Then, after it seemed everyone had put everything behind them and moved on, Melinda had to face another battle - a second Gossip Girl column.
"I had been away from school to attend a family function, and when I got back, plastered on all the walls were posters screaming 'GOSSIP GIRL RETURNS', and there were columns pinned up to every corner." Melinda describes that day as "worse than my getting caught". As she walked around school, the teachers acted like nothing had happened. "Only students had something to say ... though there was one exception," Melinda said. "I overheard Miss Gordon [the teacher with the weight diary] say, "I see this idiot girl wants to be heard again. Wonder what she'll say this time'. Her words were directly for my ears to hear."
When Melinda returned home that day she was confronted by her mother. Her mother believed her when she explained how she could have not been behind those newly published columns ... believed her to an extent anyway. "I can understand why she had doubts - I would have had them too if I were her."
Melinda was given only one option this time, to transfer to a new school, but with a clean slate - no records, complaints, nothing. Once Melinda left, the columns continued. "To my knowledge, all I know is that the second Gossip Girl was caught and expelled. Before I left I wrote out a list of possible people behind the column."
As I made steps in writing this article, Melinda urged for me to either cut out or edit certain parts of the story, as she felt that by reporting the entire truth both her identity as well as those of others involved would be revealed. Melinda's story is unique in the sense that she had an online column via an instant messaging application, but gossip and rumors have been around for some time. There is no real reason as to why people gossip or find pleasure in talking about others. It may be human nature, but there is a limit, right? Melinda crossed the line by publically broadcasting what she had heard, regardless of whether it was fact or truth. She may have gotten off lightly, but she paid the consequences by eventually being forced to leave her school and friends behind.
Today Melinda is in her final year of high school. She is not proud of what she has done, but believes she has learned from the experience and has grown into a better person. "I still see those teachers. I understand what I did was wrong, but they still make side comments when passing me, which is unfair considering I have been gone for nearly a year and a half."
"I never got the chance to explain my side of the story to them properly - I doubt I ever will ... but I don't really care. I am enjoying my life right now and this is all that matters to me!"