I'D be lying if I said that I didn't enjoy a side of gossip with my coffee and girlfriends. It's like white bread – you shouldn't, but you do. And the more you think you won't anymore, the more you jolly well will.
With the exception of one man I met and sadly befriended once, talking behind other people's backs is women's business. We do it so well; some of us better than others.
I'm not very good at gossip. I have a conscience and I blush, whether I'm guilty or not. Just being at the same table with a bunch of Sheilas slagging off so-and-so makes me feel like a thick-brained member of a jury, about to sentence an innocent street sweeper to death. And even though I may disagree or feel uncomfortable about what's being said, I'll join in sometimes, with a wry comment here or a complicit nod at the right moment.
That said, if I intensely dislike, resent, am jealous of, or feel superior to the poor idiot who's being blindsided by her so-called pals, I feel an urge of victory. They're talking about her, not me. I'm okay, Jack – someone's got my back. And nobody's putting a knife in it. So I, like you, am a hypocrite.
Gossip is akin to being an accessory to murder. You didn't pull the trigger, but you could have stuck out a heel to trip up the gunwoman.
Why I care, this week more than most, about the spectre of horror that gossip brings? Someone I admire and like has been the unwitting target of a smear campaign that may actually do her more damage than a few dirty looks and a hurt heart.
See, for absolutely no reason, she has been triple whammied. She's not only "loose", but also dabbles in "illegal" stuff and doesn't go to bed before dawn which – at her age – is sacrilege.
None of it is true. It's absolute bollocks, bluntly, but they're jealous (with good reason) and bored (with better reason). So as night follows day, the girl pack closed in for a damage fest.
I was so cross that I decided to psychoanalyse the lot of them – and myself, really – to find out exactly why we're such a bunch of cows.
Linguistics professor John L Locke, who wrote a book about women and gossip called Duels and Duets, said we shouldn't blame ourselves as it was purely biological.
We have a basic evolutionary need to "protect the community" we live in. We do this by pointing out the baddies among us – primarily if we consider them promiscuous, bad mothers or bad housekeepers.
Bad housekeepers? Is Jane Austen really dead? Perhaps I'm waltzing through a Downton Abbey parallel universe where women wore corsets, married rich, knew their place and lived for the perfect place setting.
I've tried to use science to apply my mind to the gossip conundrum and I appreciate Locke's insight, but I can't buy any of it.
My wisest friend, Podge, who doesn't gossip but rather spits in your face quite openly when necessary, says female cow-ness is the one area where women are less evolved than men.
If she knew what was good for her, my victimised friend would do a Bruce Lee classic: punch the ringleader, say something wise in Chinese and walk into the sunset.
She'd be the talk of the town.