DEAR AMY: I may be accused of being sexist, but after spending more than 20 years around nursing stations and hospital break rooms, I continue to be mystified and appalled by the way my female colleagues routinely violate the confidentiality of others. I'm referring to personal information regarding friends and co-workers, not patients. Gossip about extramarital affairs, financial woes and substance abuse -- there seems to be no subject off limits. And frequently the statements I hear make it clear that the so-called facts are no more than secondhand innuendo. Away from work, I spend lots of time with male friends, but I simply don't experience the same cavalier treatment of others' personal information. Is this a gender-based phenomenon?
-- Puzzled in the Pacific NW
DEAR PUZZLED: I'll probably be accused of being sexist for agreeing with you, but I do. I'm not necessarily appalled by this, however.
One explanation of this stereotypical gender behavior is that women tend to use intimacies and personal information as a way of pulling the group together (that's why women call it "sharing"), while men trade in impersonal problem solving as a way to attain and maintain status (which women think of as "withholding").
DEAR AMY: You wrote that a husband who cheated on his wife should apologize to the wife's family out of compassion for her, because she is missing family gatherings now that her husband is a "persona non grata" among her relatives. In Italy we have a saying: "tra moglie e marito non mettere il dito," which basically translates to "you don't snoop into the private matters of husband and wife." If the wife chose to forgive him, then nobody else is entitled to hold a grudge.
DEAR VALENTINA: Other readers made this very wise observation, but you're the only one to do it in Italian.