Anna-Leena Harkonen



I Heard a Rumor

If you get caught talking about someone behind their back, there are two things you can say: “Listen, I wouldn’t say anything behind your back that I couldn’t say to your face” and “I have enough problems of my own. I don’t have the time or interest to talk about yours.”

These are lies, of course.

We often talk about others in a completely different tone behind their back. And everyone has time for a little gossip, no matter how much they have on their plate.

SOME PEOPLE are careful not to say anything about themselves that could be used against them later. Their silence tends to make others nervous and blabber about things they haven’t admitted even to themselves.

The silent types are secretive, but only about themselves. They are happy to share anything they have heard about others. Beware.

BACKHANDED compliments are devious. They tend to reveal what someone really thinks about you.

“We’re so happy that you are back to being yourself,” a friend once shared with me. “My wife and I have been talking about how you have changed. It was as though you were pretending to be someone else, putting on a persona.”

Great? Thanks? I felt horrible and humiliated.

“I have always been the same person,” I tried to explain, overcome with confusion. “I have not been trying to pretend anything, at least not consciously.”

I should have asked them to never share with me anything they have said behind my back.

ONLINE discussion forums are a relatively new form of talking about someone behind their back. And you can check what people are saying about you and even join the discussion.

I haven’t read online discussions about myself for years. They make me feel paranoid and unhappy.

I remember reading a discussion about my appearance. I learned that “she’s not really that pretty” and that “she has a washboard forehead.”

A washboard forehead?

That was a fault I had not yet obsessed about. The word “washboard” still occurs to me occasionally when I look in the mirror while brushing my teeth or fixing my hair.

Anna-Leena Harkonen

Adapted from a collection published by the Booksellers Association of Finland

Published with permission from the author

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