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The Normal Gossip Summer Guide To Eavesdropping

A young woman in a swimsuit and sun hat poses with a drink at the edge of a pool

Francesco Carta fotografo/Getty Images

Did you know Normal Gossip now has a newsletter? It's true! Expect unsolicited advice, recommendations and messy adventures twice a month from Kelsey and Alex. Plus, life lessons from your pals at Defector and other special guests. It's all available for free—sign up here! Enjoy this excerpt from the latest newsletter.

The weather is warming up. People are emerging from their cocooned apartments and into the heat. Shorts are donned. Drinks are in hand. Voices are being raised. Gossip is everywhere: drifting between blades of grass as two friends whisper in the park, hurling through the crowded, sweaty subway, lilting across the bar between laughs, promising to follow up with more information later. For anyone with a keen ear or a big enough desire, this gossip can be harvested, gathered from the big wide open world and carried back to your loved ones and lovers as a little treat.

But how is one to find these stories? How are you supposed to get all the beautiful details to blow into the wind like dandelion seeds if you never hear the gossip in the first place? Do not worry. We, the professional gossipers of Normal Gossip, have created this beautiful GUIDE TO SUMMER EAVESDROPPING:

Go alone. Unless you’re hanging with um, us, your dinner date probably won’t want to spend the meal listening to the conversation of the table next to you. Solo adventures yield the best gossip harvests. 

Cover your face. When people don’t see your face, they often think you can’t hear them. Consider the impractically huge Baggu Packable Sun Hat, which is not the most subtle hat in the world, but which covers your entire head when you’re sunbathing and basically makes you disappear to the people talking shit on the towels next to you. 

Choose your campsite strategically. Nestle yourself in the middle of the campground so you can fall asleep to the dulcet tones of increasingly drunken campers. The next morning, you’ll be able to pair voices to faces and piece the storylines together. 

Unplug. Gossip is all around us, but you must listen in order to hear it. Pause your music or podcasts when you’re walking around so you can catch snippets of nearby conversations. Bonus points: Leave your disconnected headphones on for plausible deniability. 

Always sit in the middle of the bar. Usually, you scan the bar for seats with empty room around them. This is wrong. What you want is to sit right by wherever the bartender is working. Bartenders have a lot of gossip, but this also allows you to eavesdrop on everyone who is talking to their friend while they wait for the bartender to finish making their drink or closing their tab! You’re sitting in a fountain of gossip!

Illustration by James Mahoney/Getty Images

Pretend to nap. Parks are a great place to close your eyes but not your ears. Lie down, put your beautiful hat over your face (see above) and listen. Better: get into a hammock near a main walkway, and your information gathering will reach a peak. 

Do not go in the ocean. The ocean is loud. There is no gossip out there. The fish do not speak! Not to me, at least! Stay on the beach, where the gossip resides! Do not bring a speaker! Trust that your fellow beach-goers will have enough mess to sustain you. If you get too hot, hurry back from the ocean. There is nothing for you there. 

Take public transit. All hotties take public transit because we love the earth and want it to thrive. But there’s a side benefit to sitting on the bus and it is access to other people’s drama. Being in your car? Boring. Loser behavior. Selfish. Being on the bus/train/boat? Magical. Filled with intrigue. Sexy!

Bring a book! No one (except a dummy) wants to disturb someone engrossed in a book. If you have a book open in front of you, people assume you are paying attention to it. Bring an actual book! If you're reading on your phone people always assume you're only half paying attention. The book is but a prop for you to hide your intentions (evil eavesdropping!). Just make sure to keep track of the page you started on so you can return your bookmark to that spot when you leave. 

Learn another language. Summer is a great time to pick up a hobby like a language. I’m not talking about the apps with the mascot who negs you. That owl will not help you! Find a class! Not only will the language class put you in proximity to strangers who will have things to say that you can listen to, it expands your ability to eavesdrop in the wild. The more languages you know, the more you can hear. What’s the point in fluency if not to learn the secrets of other languages? (Editor’s note: I think this is technically espionage? Did we learn nothing from The Americans?)

Do your research. If you’re at a restaurant, coffee shop, or bar, you can look it up on your city’s subreddit page. If there’s lore on the business, or the people who work in it, you’ll find all the good stuff there. 

- Kelsey & Alex

Watcharawit Phudork/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Log Off And Be Gay!

It’s Pride Month, aka the annual dump of some of the rankest, most boring discourse that keeps floating back up on the timeline of terminally online queers like a too-big shit you’ve already thrice tried to flush. Does kink belong at pride? God forbid my nonbinary child Eureka sees a twink doing puppy play! Can bisexual girls bring their straight, cis boyfriends to pride? Perish the thought of my sapphic friend Fern being forced to stand next to Susie’s boyfriend Carl at a Chappell Roan concert when Carl only started listening to Chappell because Susie told him to!

Although the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes, the biggest question I have is this: Who decided that discourse was the official way to ring in what is perhaps the corniest, most joyful months of the year for those who celebrate? Pride is about dancing with your friends, making out, and going to protests—or whatever offline activities float your boat. If you or someone you know feels the urge to publish a hot take online questioning whether a certain group belongs at Pride—unless that group is cops, who decidedly do NOT belong at Pride—I urge you to reconsider! Think about everything in your life that is lovely and queer and deserving of your attention, and spend your precious moments with them instead. We are too fun to be inside doing discourse.

And if your fingers are still waggling above your keyboard, itching to post, consider dunking on the people and institutions that actually mean us harm. It’s always a good day to roast Pamela Paul’s latest horseshit column or yell at whatever local politician is banning books or threatening queer spaces. Otherwise, log off and be gay, or, as I like to say, go outside and touch ass. Happy Pride!

- Sabrina

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