An Open Letter To The Young Women Gossiping On The Subway

Dear Young Women On My Subway Car Yesterday,

I remember high school, a small world in which everyone feels like a character in an epic drama.  A place where peers pass judgement and share hearsay as entertainment. Where few consider the appropriateness or repercussions of their conversations. Yesterday, the two of you stood in a New York City subway car and gossiped loudly about a classmate, making the entire subway car uncomfortable, especially as the story was about a teenage girl having sex in a public place. You laughed at her confusion about a possible pregnancy even though a condom was used. You proceeded to tell the intimate details of what she and her partner had done. I won’t share those details because my intention is not to shame the subject of your conversation. And besides, I have no right.

But as one of the many adults in that subway car, you truly made me uncomfortable. A loud detailed discussion of sex acts, let alone underage sex acts, is never appropriate on a subway car. For some, this type of uninvited and inescapable sexual language can feel like harassment. If you would feel uncomfortable having this conversation in front of your parents, teachers, priest, rabbi, or younger relatives, you should not discuss this on the subway.

As for the gossiping itself, deep down you know it’s wrong. We all make poor decisions that we are forced to live with. This young girl’s confusion about sex is no laughing matter. I’m glad you two apparently have a better understanding of how sex works, but obviously this young woman was tangled up in something she was unprepared for. Imagine how she must have felt dealing with a pregnancy scare and limited resources or support. If she was confused about the basics, imagine where her imagination had taken her once things got more complicated.

Now, what if a peer from school had heard you? What if someone else overheard, recognized the subject, and proceeded to share this story? Whether you are the source or a messenger, you are responsible for the backlash. Consider the shame this girl may feel and the ridicule she may unnecessarily suffer.

I ask you from the bottom of my heart, not to gossip this way again. The few moments of laughter you shared is hardly worth her pain and suffering.


A Grown Woman

[Photo of teen girls via Shutterstock]