“Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” Will Rogers
I’ve written about Mabel* before but can’t remember the pseudonym I gave her at that time. She directs a small choir with a very specific repertoire in a community with several other larger choruses. Her choir meets on a day that does not conflict with those larger choruses’ rehearsals and makes sure there are no concert conflicts. Several of her singers sing with one or two of the other organizations. Everyone seems to be a big, happy choral-music family, and if you had told Mabel it was anything BUT that way, she would have told you that you were mistaken. And until the last week of August, this year, that’s what she believed. Mabel contacted me last week because she found out she’s been the subject of gossip, apparently for a long time, and is livid.
This summer there has been almost no interest in her choir’s auditions and with COVID, she wasn’t sure there was anything to be concerned about. One of her singers offered to bring audition materials and “talk up” their group at one of his other chorus’s rehearsals and she quickly agreed. The director of that other group, who is new, had no problem with him passing out flyers or mentioning auditions. And so, he did. Some folks were interested, and some were not, or had questions, which her singer quickly answered.
But Mabel’s singer wasn’t prepared for the stinger at the end of rehearsal, aimed at him and at MABEL by a Smug Soprano. He was gathering his music, and this lady approached him, wanting to talk about Mabel. He thought she was interested in auditioning, but that wasn’t the case AT ALL. She wanted to know if he knew, because he must not have sung with Mabel for very long, that she was FLIGHTY and MEAN. He was taken aback and asked what she meant. The Smug Sop said everyone knew Mabel was flighty and mean and hoped he wasn’t too disgusted by her behavior. Mabel’s singer told Smug Sop that he had sung with Mabel for over ten years, and she was NOT flighty OR mean. And he walked away.
Mabel tells me he agonized over telling her but felt it was only right she know what people were saying about her. I agree; Mabel has a right to know what people are saying about her.
She tells me she has always felt one of the other organizations was undermining her but never had proof. She knows it isn’t the new director of her singer’s group since she knows him slightly and he’s new to the choral scene in their community. She wonders if it is the other organization who is spreading gossip because that Smug Sop used to sing with them. Smug Sop had been on the other organization’s Board for quite a while, including the time Mabel auditioned for an associate director’s position. I know I’ve written about Mabel’s audition experience with them because it was miserable. After Mabel did not get that associate director’s position, she moved on with her life, but it had an impact on how she behaved professionally from then on.
Mabel tells me Smug Sop could also be labeled “flighty” because it takes one to know one, and wonders if she should say something the next time she sees her. I advised ABSOLUTELY NOT; she should say nothing of the kind and behave just the way she has always behaved. If she does or says ANYTHING, not only will it make her look bad, but it will re-enforce what is being said about her being mean. Smile, wave, nod but don’t engage, other than the very bare minimum you can get away with. And walk away.
I advised Mabel to live her best and most authentic life, behave professionally and let the gossip die down or be extinguished by your behavior. And don’t give it another thought.
What would you advise Mabel to do? Should she say something? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.