In 6th grade, I was climbing the stairwell at school and heard D’Aisy* a half flight up, talking loudly to her BFF Giselle*.
D’Aisy said, “I’m not inviting her.” Giselle said, “Good, she bugs me so much.”
I started jogging up the steps to catch up. “Who’s this about?” I asked them. “Who bugs you?”
They looked at me like I’d said, “Will you write my report on Mesopotamia for me?”
We weren’t friends.
“No offense, Laura,” D’Aisy said, “But that’s none of your business.”
My face burned with that tingle you get when you trip. I probably did trip.
“Oh. Sorry,” I shouted up to them, and slowed down so I wouldn’t catch up after all.
Maybe that’s when I learned you don’t get to butt into random people’s conversations and ask “Wait, what’s this?”
It’s like going up to a stranger who’s eating a sandwich and saying, “Can I have a bite of your sandwich? Wait, let me bite the part with all the cheese and stuff.”
(I’ve never figured out why you are allowed to ask for a cigarette. For another day.)
Problem is, I’m not subtle. My ears have the notion that they’ll hear better if I stare really hard.
That’s why my husband always catches me doing it.
In late October, we were walking down the street in Hudson, NY – a town where, despite a cute main drag featuring shop after shop for weekenders to buy vintage Knoll credenzas or hand-churned ice cream, the streets one block over are a showcase of sagging porches with motorcycle parts, threadbare strollers, and wet furniture stripped down to the yellow foam rubber.
There’s a high population of residents wearing dingy pajama bottoms with puffy coats and yelling at each other.
Steven caught me staring at one such scene, trying to figure out why the lady with stringy hair and cloud-printed flannel PJs was yelling at the woman in the rusty SUV. He said, “Cut it out. I see what you’re doing.”
“What am I doing?”
“I’m not nosy, I’m curious.”
No, he told me. I was nosy. I asked the difference.
“Curious is when you want to learn something. Nosy is when you’re looking for some shit.”
Fine. Nosy as charged.
I like conflicts and secrets. Dirt. Some shit.
Why’d she get fired?
Who’s he cheating with?
She had collagen injected where?
Who’s this person you “don’t want to call out by name” in the Facebook group? DM me and spill!
When I hear someone crying on the phone outside my window, I open the window.
I guess that’s why I love Real Housewives. If world history were all fights had over text messages, group trips to Morocco and private lunch “sitdowns,” and then negotiated on tufted sofas with Andy Cohen in the center, I’d be a history professor.
Is curious better than nosy?
Curiosity gets all the TED Talks (“The Power of Curiosity,” “The Case For Curiosity,” “7 TED Talks to Stir Your Curiosity”) and all the quotes (“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning” — William Arthur Ward).
Look for quotes on nosiness and you won’t find much more than a mug that says “NOSY PEOPLE MAKE ME SICK.” (Powerful stuff! You enjoy your Lemon Zinger tea there, I won’t ask you anything.)
I say curious is the easy way out.
Look what a breeze it is to satisfy. You can go to the bookstore, watch documentaries, take a continuing ed class. But God forbid you should say to someone at the coffee shop, “Can you please speak louder? It sounds like you’re really pissed at someone you work with, who’s taking credit for your idea? Is that it? I couldn’t tell, you’re speaking so low that I’m missing half of it. ”
Plus, when you’re nosy, you often have to choose between the podcast you’re in the middle of and taking out your headphones to hear what people are saying. You have to prioritize.
Nosy takes real work and bravery.
So, I’m raising a big glass of Nunya Bizness to my fellow nosy people. Here’s to you. (What were you just talking about?)
I’m curious – do you think curiosity is better than nosy?
Which are you?
TELL ME IN THE COMMENTS.
*Names changed but apostrophe kept for veracity and texture.