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What I Really Know About Gossip: An Affair to Remember

Before we retired, my husband and I worked at the same university. As is often the case at small state institutions, we thought everyone knew everyone’s business. But something happened to change our opinion.

I was a professor overloaded with large classes; he was an administrator overloaded with new programs and academic concerns. Still, we sometimes managed to take a break at a little coffee shop on the edge of the campus. When things became too hectic, we would take our sandwiches to the park and eat lunch.

One day my student secretary came into my office. She was howling with laughter. I asked her what was funny. She related a conversation she overheard in the ladies’ room.

“What about that Professor Isom?” one student asked.

“She’s a fox,” another replied. (At this point my secretary had to assure me that “fox” was a good term.)

“What do you mean?” the first student asked.

“Oh, haven’t you heard? She’s having an affair with a tall, distinguished-looking man. They meet for coffee sometimes, and they’ve been seen in the park eating lunch.”

My secretary, who had met my husband and seen us out together, knew the truth.

“I didn’t set the record straight,” she confessed. “I thought it was hilarious.”

That evening over dinner, I told my husband I knew he was having an affair with a fox. When he heard the entire story, he laughed uproariously. After that, he would call my office and whisper, “I have to see you. Can you meet me at the usual place?”

And we would take our coffee break together, laughing to ourselves at having turned the tables on the gossips.

The AARP Bulletin’s What I Really Know column comes from our readers. Each month we solicit personal essays on a selected topic and post some of our favorites in print and online. Joan Shaddox Isom is a reader from Tahlequah, Okla.

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