DEAR ABBY: I live in a medium-sized community where a lot of people know one another. I often hear them discuss such private matters as the state of someone's marriage, their finances, etc. Even if they don't know if what they're saying is true, they still repeat it.
Whenever someone starts talking to me about a person who isn't there, I remind her that she wouldn't appreciate having her business discussed behind her back. One neighbor even asked me about my own marriage in front of a group of people. When I politely asked why she would ask about such an intimate matter, she became angry and told me I was being rude to her. I may have embarrassed her, but not as much as she did me.
I think gossiping is a low form of entertainment at someone else's expense. What do you think? -- MINDING MY OWN BUSINESS IN NEVADA
DEAR MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS: Gossip is, indeed, a low form of entertainment -- and if we're honest, it's something most of us have indulged in at one time or another. Everybody wants to know other people's business. One need only look at readers with their noses buried in the scandal rags at the supermarket checkout counter for verification.
Why we have this compulsion is anybody's guess. Perhaps it's because gossip requires little intellectual effort, distracts us from concentrating on important tasks in our lives that might be painful or difficult to confront, or makes us feel superior.
P.S. You did not embarrass your neighbor by rebuffing her inappropriate question. She embarrassed herself by asking.