Have you heard? This week’s Stiff Questions Panel addresses everything you wanted to know about GOSSIP: the good, the bad and the unbecoming. To spice up a spicy topic of conversation, the ladies have selected a cocktail with a bit of heat: the P.M.S. (pear meets salsa) martini.

The contributors for this week’s column are Miss Lucy Lippes, Miss Lia Bell and guests Miss Bea Yotch and Mr. Neville Tell Jr.

Ms. Lippes: I cannot help but start every conversation with some ground rules. And indeed, gossip has its categories: the good, the bad and the unbecoming. Good gossip for example, might sound like…

Ms. Bell: “HAVE YOU HEARD that Harold and Cynthia are engaged and have you SEEN the ring? It’s practically the size of a lemon tartlet!”

Ms. L: Quite right. Now bad gossip is the purely informative humdrum.

Ms. Yotch: (under her breath) Did you know that the dining room at the club has changed its supper hours from 6 to 8 to 6 to 7:30!

Mr. Tell Jr.: No! It cannot be!

Ms. L: And finally, we have the unbecoming.

Ms. B: A lady should never gossip unbecomingly.

Ms. L: Unless she comes across a particularly burning piece of information such as a view through one’s kitchen window of Mr. Kent trying on … Mrs. Kent’s lingerie!

Ms. Y: But are you sure it was … Mrs. Kent’s?

Mr. T: Hush!

Ms. Y: Now how should one convey gossip, be it good or bad or unbecoming?

Ms. L: One shouldn’t underestimate the power of the hushed, excited whisper — which allows you both discretion and a means of drawing in your audience.

Ms. B: I like it yelled. Into my hearing aid!

Mr. T: Keep in mind, ladies, that gossip should ideally be received with a grain of salt!

Ms. Y: But only if it’s the finest, pinkest fleur de sel from the coasts of Brittany.

Ms. L: HAVE YOU HEARD that Bertha uses … my, I can barely utter it aloud … Morton’s salt for her scones!

Mr. T: No!

Ms. Y: Scandalous! What’s the juiciest piece of gossip your ears have ever been privy to?

Ms. L: Surely that constitutes gossiping?! And is it becoming to gossip in print? Oh, I’m sorry, there’s already a publication for that, isn’t there?

Ms. B: Gossip journalism aside, what are the most favorable arenas for partaking in gossip? The locker room at the country club? Public transportation? A café? The boudoir?

Ms. L: Well, I certainly never take public transportation, nor do I use any kind of public laundromat, but I would imagine that both of those locales would be ideal.

Mr. T: I would like to bring up an important issue: that is, spreading gossip about oneself. The person whom you select to tell your piece of information to, with the hope or intention of their relaying it on to someone else, can be vital.

Ms. Y: Could this be information of a personal, even romantic nature?

Mr. T: It could. Romantic gossip — more than any other kind — spreads like wildfire (particularly under the influence of spicy alcoholic beverages).

Ms. Y: I fail to see how talking about oneself is gossip at all!

Ms. L: Perhaps not in its germinating stages — at this point, one is merely confiding in a friend — but one has definitively sowed the seed of gossip. One has thrown the lighted cigarette out the car window into the dried, summer landscape of society.

Ms. B: But one needs the wind to blow.

Ms. L: Indeed. One must be aware of which direction the wind is blowing.

Ms. Y: And any blowing in general.

Mr. T: On the nose Ms. Yotch! Male gossip is of particular interest, because gentlemen have the tendency to not think themselves capable of gossip, which adds another layer of insincerity and deceit to what is said to other men in the locker rooms of the world. Now, for instance, if out shooting quail on the estate with Gilbert, I should say something casually to him, perhaps of a romantic nature, say, an interest in a married lady.

Ms. B: Well I think the only true confidante a lady has is her terrier.

Mr. T: And a man, his gun.

Ms. Y: Only her hairdresser knows for sure. To that, I would add: gossip is like a cocktail — the spicier, the better.

Ms. L: I would say: gossip is like a cocktail, in that it is best when shared.

Mr T: I would say: Life is gossip. That is all.

You can look forward to Stiff Questions on December 2 with a new and similarly scintillating topic of conversation.